Week 16 Grades: Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers

Ryan Mathews looks for Pat Sims - Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

The Chargers overcome another shaky 1st half against their rivals from the north, and manage to remain alive for a playoff berth thanks to some help from Buffalo and New England.

Quarterback: C plus

Philip Rivers had one of his most pedestrian games of the season. Rivers completed 19 of his 29 (65.5%) pass attempts for 201 yards (6.93 YPA), one TD and one INT.  First things first, the INT was probably the worst decision Rivers has made in the last 2 months, forcing a deep ball to WR Vincent Brown into double coverage, and then under throwing it as well. In other cases, Rivers was bothered by pressure around his feet - he missed an otherwise sure TD pass to WR Keenan Allen early in the 4th quarter. There was also a snap count mix-up between Rivers and C Nick Hardwick, which resulted in a lost fumble. Rivers also missed some 3rd down throws, but was bailed out by Raiders' penalties. All that said, Rivers was very good overall at taking the short throws the Raiders gave him, and was especially good at drawing Raiders penalties by changing the snap count, as well as using the hard count.

Running Backs: A minus

Ryan Mathews continues building on his excellent season. Mathews finished with 99 yards on 25 carries (3.96 YPC), which included a terrific 7 yard TD run in the 2nd quarter, where he bounced off DT Pat Sims and then ran right into the end zone. Mathews also showed some good lateral quickness in evading tackles at the line of scrimmage and turning runs into positive gains. In the passing game, Mathews finished with 3 catches for 20 yards (5 targets) - the misses wee a screen pass which Rivers threw away, and a dropped pass.

Danny Woodhead was terrific as the change of pace back, weaseling his way through creases for 52 yards on 8 carries (6.5. YPC). Woodhead also finished with 3 catches for 16 yards, on three total targets.

Receivers: B

WR Keenan Allen didn't have his best game, but his good game was still solid overall. Allen finished with 3 receptions (7 targets) for 26 yards and 1 TD (on another shallow cross). Allen did miss a 4 quarter opportunity to make a tough TD catch on a fade, but his 1st reception was a marvelous 18 yard catch and run. WR Vincent Brown unfortunately reverted to his struggling form, with only 2 receptions for 38 yards on 5 targets. WR Eddie Royal had a very good game from the slot, finishing with 4 catches for 54 yards on 4 targets.

At TE, Antonio Gates was very good early in the game, and finished with 3 catches for 42 yards on 3 targets. TE John Phillips had 1 catch for 5 yards, and was regrettably injured on the play. TE Ladarius Green again struggled to contribute, though he was targeted only once, but did manage to draw a Defensive Holding penalty. This week, the TEs as a group were better in run blocking - see One Play I Really Liked below.

Offensive Line: C plus

Starting with LT, King Dunlap had a strong overall game, although OLB Lamarr Houston did get a couple of pressures during the game. LG Chad Rinehart was solid, except when matched up against DT Pat Sims (more on this in a moment), and did a good job when asked to pull right on running plays. C Nick Hardwick (or Rivers) had one major mistake, snapping the ball to Rivers early in the snap count. Otherwise, he was generally solid in both pass and run blocking.

Back to Raiders' DT Pat Sims, who absolutely gave RG Jeromey Clary fits all game long. Clary struggled in both pass and run blocking, as Sims' strength and speed combination allowed him to repeatedly move Clary off the line and limit both the Chargers running and passing attack. Sims combined with DE Jason Hunter for the Raiders only sack. Speaking of Hunter, he was consistently moved all game by RT D.J. Fluker, who was very good all game, save for a pair of false start penalties.

Defensive Line: C plus

Playing DT Sean Lissemore in the middle continues to pay dividends for the Chargers defense, as he had another solid game occupying the opposing C and allowing the defense to attack the ball. DE Corey Liuget had a couple of plays where he generated pressure, and was solid against LT Khalif Barnes in the running game. DE Kendall Reyes had a n OK game against RG Mike Brisiel, not getting pushed off his spot, but also not making any major contributions. In substitute situations,  DE Lawrence Guy also continues to make a good impression, with 3 combined tackles.

Linebackers: B minus

OLB Melvin Ingram flashed some more big play ability this week, beating RT Tony Pashos for a sack of McGloin and forcing a fumble. Ingram was also very quick chasing plays down from across the formation and showed good strength in fighting off blockers. OLB Jarret Johnson was good again setting the edge on running plays, but was beaten a couple of times on play passes.

ILB Donald Butler had another strong performance in the middle, finishing with 4 combined tackles and doing a nice job in run support. ILB Manti Te'o continues to perform well in pass coverage, and while he still struggles to locate the correct gap on running plays, he did a better job this week of shedding blockers, taking good angles to the ball, and chasing down running plays from behind.

Secondary: B

CB Shareece Wright had an up and down game. His run support was very good, and he made several strong tackles. he also finished with 1 pass defensed, but was beaten for solid gains on the outside by WR Andre Holmes, and one big pass to TE Mychal Rivera (in fairness this was a bad matchup and nice catch). CB Richard Marshall avoided any big mistakes this week, and also played solid in run support. He and Wright combined for 11 solo tackles.

Aside from one major blown coverage (see Hidden Plays), the Safeties played a very strong game. SS Marcus Gilchrist was very good again this week playing near the line of scrimmage, getting a couple of hurries on McGloin and making several nice tackles in run support. FS Eric Weddle finished with 2 solo tackles, 1 QB hit on a blitz, and sensational tip-drill INT to set up the Chargers' first TD.

Special Teams: B

This would have been the best overall game for the Special Teams this season, had PR Keenan Allen not muffed a punt, which led to a Raiders' FG before halftime. Otherwise, the work was terrific. Punt blocking continues to improve, as shown with Allen's long return of 28 yards. P Mike Scifres was called on only once, producing a 37 yard kick which went out of bounds. PK Nick Novak had another strong game, converting FGs of 27, 28, 33, and 48 yards with no misses. Novak did produce 1 touchback to open the game, but kickoff coverage was responsible for slowing down KR Greg Jenkins, with Seyi Ajirotutu forcing a fumble in the 3rd quarter.

Coaching: B

Head Coach Mike McCoy was not confronted with any major 4th down decisions, and made only one choice I'd argue with - kicking a FG on 4th and 3 from the OAK 30 - but Novak's performance this season, and the Raiders' refusal to play competently made it a non-issue.

Offensively, I think Whisenhunt did a very nice job moderating the usage of both Mathews and Woodhead. That said, I'm surprised that he didn't attack Oakland's man under, 2 deep scheme with more post and seam routes to Gates and Green? I'm wondering how much longer Ken Whisenhunt and Joe D'Alessandris are going to wait before putting Johnnie Troutman back at LG, and moving Rinehart to RG, as Clary has not played particularly well the last 2 weeks.

Defensively, more credit to John Pagano. I like how he's using his safeties to manufacture pressure and force quick throws from opposing QBs.

Hidden Plays (Non scoring, non turnover plays which affected the outcome):

  • 7:26 1st Qtr. SD 3rd and 10 at OAK 39. Rivers throws complete to Gates for 13 yards and a 1st down, extending a Chargers drive which consumes 9:13 total and produces a FG.
  • 1:10 1st Qtr. OAK 3rd and 1 at OAK 29. McGloin misses FB Jamize Olawale, who is 5 yards behind the defense and could have scored a TD.
  • 11:31 2nd Qtr. OAK 3rd and 5 at SD 42. McGloin throws deep to TE Mychal Rivera who makes a nice contested catch for a 37 yard gain and 1st and Goal. Raiders' score a TD on the next play.
  • 9:30 2nd Qtr. SD 3rd and 8 at SD 14. Rivers throws incomplete to gates, but Raiders' CB Tracy Porter is flagged for defensive holding. The raiders eventually get the ball on a Rivers INT, but at their own 10 yard line and 3 minutes later.
  • 0:52 2nd Qtr. OAK 1st and Goal at SD 2. McGloin runs a nice play fake, and throws to an open Andre Holmes in the end zone. Holmes bobbles the ball, resulting in an incompletion. Raiders end up kicking a FG for a 10-10 halftime tie.
  • 8:18 3rd Qtr. SD 1st and 10 at OAK 47. Mathews is pushed out of bounds by CB Mike Jenkins, who is then flagged 15 yards for taunting. Chargers get the ball 1st and 10 at the OAK 32.
  • 4:46 4th Qtr. OAK 2nd and 2 at SD 39. McGloin throws deep to wide open WR Rod Streater for an apparent TD catch, but the ball is stripped out by S Darrell Stuckey and ruled incomplete. The ruling is upheld following an OAK challenge.

One Play I Really Liked: Ryan Mathews 34 yard run

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I figure it's time to give the pass plays a break and look at a really nice running play. Especially as this play works because the Chargers' TEs do a great blocking job.

  1. 2nd and 9 Chargers from the Oakland 34. 3:04 left in the 3rd quarter. Chargers come out in 12 personnel. From left to right, WR Eddie Royal, TEs Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green, and WR Keenan Allen.
  2. RB Ryan Mathews is flanking Rivers' right.
  3. At the snap, it's an inside run, with everyone blocking man to man.
  4. First key block is Ladarius Green. Green crashes inside and takes LB Kevin Burnett out of the hole, allowing Mathews to reach the 2nd level.
  5. Second key block is Antonio Gates, who wins his mismatch against CB Tracy Porter and shoves him out of the way.

Looking Ahead To:

The final home game against Kansas City, and the best possible outcome for the Chargers. I hope everyone stays safe and has a wonderful Christmas!

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