Week 17 Grades: Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers

At long last, back to the postseason - Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

I'm still somewhere between euphoric and exhausted. Yes, the Chargers didn't play a great game, yet somehow managed to win their most important regular season game in about 5 years and are headed to the postseason.

Quarterback: B plus

Kansas City's 2nd string defense dared Philip Rivers to beat their man coverage all day long. Aside from his one interception, he threw the ball really well. Rivers finished with 22 completion on 33 attempts (66.7%) for 229 yards (6.93 YPA), and 3 TDs. Generally speaking Rivers did a nice job stepping up into the pocket and buying extra time. And although he didn't generate big plays down the field, I think it's important to point out how good Rivers was throwing touch passes. 2 long passes to WR Eddie Royal beat double coverage, and his TDs to TEs Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green were beautifully thrown.

Running Backs: A

RB Ryan Mathews had a phenomenal game, rushing for 144 yards on 24 carries (6 YPC). Mathews continued to excel at making yards after contact, and he's also getting better at showing patience on outside zone runs, waiting for the crease to appear, then accelerating through it. Mathews also had 2 catches on 3 attempts for 11 yards. The 1st sack in the game came on a blitz by LB James-Micahel Johnson, but Mathews did a good job picking up the initial rusher - the coverage caused the sack. RB Danny Woodhead finished with 18 yards on 5 carries (3.6 YPC), but also finished with 7 receptions on 7 targets for 42 yards.

Receivers: B

WR Keenan Allen overcame an early mishap - slipping on the route leading to Rivers' INT, but redeemed himself nicely, finishing with 5 receptions for 89 yards (8 targets). His 38 yard catch and run in the 4th quarter was critical to set up the tying FG attempt. WR Eddie Royal was strong on 3 short reception for 34 yards and a TD, but missed 2 opportunities for big plays on good throws by Rivers. Unfortunately, the Chiefs man coverage took WR Vincent brown completely out of the game, as he could not make the (difficult) catch on his one attempt. WR Seyi Ajirotutu also was targeted once, with no receptions.

At TE, Ladarius Green picked up a 22 yard TD catch on a terrific corner route, but was only targeted one other time. Antonio Gates finished with 4 catches on 5 targets for 31 yards, including a 4 yard TD catch. Unfortunately, the strong blocking from last week did not fully carry over for the TEs, as Gates, Green, and newcomer Jake Byrne were erratic in their run blocking.

Offensive Line: B minus

At the tackle position, LT King Dunlap had a strong game facing reserve Chiefs' OLB Josh Martin, not allowing a sack and getting good movement in the running game. On the opposite side, RT D.J. Fluker also had a strong game, doing a nice job of handling OLB Frank Zombo, whose sack came when Rivers scrambled out of the pocket for no gain. Fluker was also very good in the run game, getting through to the second level on multiple occasions. At C, Nick Hardwick was solid.

Unfortunately, the interior offensive line struggled with their consistency. LG Chad Rinehart got pushed backward into the pocket on a couple of occasions by DE Jaye Howard, and Howard also shot through some gaps to disrupt running plays. The same could be said for Rt Jeromey Clary, who allowed a sack to DL Jerrell Powe, and was beaten several times when Powe shot through the gap. Clary's holding penalty in OT was also almost a season killer for the Chargers.

Defensive Line: C

This unit was really a mix of some nice plays and some horrendous plays, and not a lot of in-between. In a welcome development, reserve DT Cam Thomas played his best game in several weeks, finishing with 4 solo tackles and 2 tackles for losses. DT Sean Lissemore really was ineffective against reserve C Eric Kush. DE Kendall Reyes was better in pass defense than run defense, finishing with a QB sack and another tackles for loss, and got better as the game went along. DE Corey Liuget collected the Chargers other sack early, and generated the most pressure with 3 QB hits. All that said, the tackling was not strong, which allowed backup QB Chase Daniel multiple opportunities to run and/or extend plays.

Linebackers: D plus

ILB Donald Butler had the best overall game, finishing with 9 tackles, including 3 for losses, but also missed a golden chance to put the Chargers up early by dropping a sure INT for TD. ILB Manti Te'o had another good game in pass coverage, and did a nice job shedding blockers to help clean up on running plays, but had a killer early mistake jumping offsides on a blitz, giving the Chiefs an extra red zone opportunity which they converted for a TD.

OLB Melvin Ingram curiously was not used very much at the line of scrimmage, and was more often deployed into coverage, where he appeared lost at times. He did, however have a tackle for loss and a QB hit. Surprisingly, OLB Jarret Johnson was not great in this game setting the edge, and also struggled to make tackles. OLBs Thomas Keiser and Reggie Walker combined for 1 tackle and 1 QB hit, but had no real impact on the game.

Secondary: C minus

This was an incredible game from FS Eric Weddle, who literally was everywhere trying to make plays. Weddle finished with 9 tackles, including 2 tackles for losses. SS Marcus Gilchrist was not as good in coverage as he'd been the last few weeks, was was good in run support and was disruptive on his multiple blitzes. S Jahleel Addae had a crucial pass defense on the final series of the game. On the outside, it wasn't pretty. CB Shareece Wright had a tough game, finishing without any passes defensed, and allowing 4 catches. CB Richard Marshall was a bit better, although his shoddy tackling allowed a TD reception.

Special Teams: B

PK Nick Novak finished off an outstanding regular season by converting FGs of 22 and 36 yards in critical situations to both tie the game and then take the lead in OT. On kickoffs, he was better than he'd been, getting a pair of touchbacks on his 6 kickoffs. P Mike Scifres was nearly flawless, but his one poor punt led to a 32 yard return for Dexter McCluster, and set up a Chiefs FG. Scifres' other 4 punts resulted in 3 kicks inside the 20, and 1 fair catch. KR and PR teams continued to struggle creating space for Keenan Allen, or Ronnie Brown. On the other hand, kick and punt coverage was solid again.

Of course, there was also Eric Weddle's decision to run the fake punt on the 1st possession of overtime. I'm not convinced it was the best decision, but I certainly admire Weddle's guts to put the season on his shoulders.

Coaching: C

It seems to me that Mike McCoy had a tougher task than we first thought. He has to keep the players ready to play, but not too amped if everything broke their way, but also make sure they don't flatline in the event either Baltimore or Miami had won. McCoy wasn't entirely successful, as the ragged performance shows.

Click here for BFTB's review of McCoy's 4th down decisions.

Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt had the right idea early, and then late by mixing runs with short passes. There was a stretch in the middle of the game where it seemed Whisenhunt wanted to take big plays that weren't necessarily there. I'm also a bit surprised there weren't as many shallow crossing routes designed to get Allen the ball at space. Although, we did finally see Whisenhunt deploy a trick play, with the end around in the 4th quarter, whichI liked.

Defensive Coordinator John Pagano made the decision not to allow Ingram to attack the passer, and instead deployed him in coverage, which I also do not understand. At this point, with Ingram's limited practice time, I feel his best possible use is along the line of scrimmage, attacking the passer. That said, Pagano was not helped by his unit's generally poor tackling effort.

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

  • 13:51 1st Qtr. 1st and 10 KC at KC 35. Daniel throws underneath to TE Sean McGrath, who is undercut by ILB Donald Butler. Butler has a clear pick 6, but can't hold on to the ball.
  • 5:34 1st Qtr. 3rd and 4 KC at SD 5. Daniel scrambles for a 4 yard gain to the 1 yard line, bringing up a 4th down, except ILBManti Te'o jumps offsides, giving KC another 3rd and Goal. TD pass to Dexter McCluster happens on the next play.
  • 5:41 2nd Qtr. 3rd and 5 KC at KC 19. Daniel escapes the blitz and runs 29 yards for 1st down at the KC 48.
  • 9:55 3rd Qtr. 4th and 3 SD at SD 28. P Mike Scifres kick a line-drive punt to McCluster, who returns it 32 yards to the SD 35. setting up a FG.
  • 0:05 3rd Qtr. 3rd and 3 SD at SD 38. Rivers keeps the drive alive with an 8 yard pass to Danny Woodhead. The drive ends in a TD to Eddie Royal.
  • 5:43 4th Qtr. 3rd and 2 SD at KC 46. Rivers throws complete to Keenan Allen, who runs for a 38 yard gain to the KC 8, setting up the trying FG attempt.
  • 12:58 OT. 4th and 2 SD at SD 28. Eric Weddle. Fake Punt. Barely converts the 1st down, Barely avoids a season-killing fumble. Instead, it leads to an 8:25 drive and results in Novak's go-ahead FG.
  • 4:22 OT. 1st and 10 KC at SD 36. Donald Butler and Kendall Reyes combine for a 5 yard tackle for loss on Knile Davis, pushing the Chiefs back to 2nd and 15.

One Play I Really Liked:

Ryan Succop's second season saving miss against San Diego.

Looking Ahead To:

Having an excuse to fire up the grill early Sunday morning… because I have a Chargers playoff game to watch for the first time in 4 years!!!

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