Bolts & Dolts: San Diego Chargers lose to Houston Texans, 31-28

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

Bolts & Dolts is a morning-after recap of the San Diego Chargers game, handing out cheers and jeers for those Chargers players that performed above or below expectations. Let's see how the team did against the Texans on Monday Night Football.

Bolts

Jarret Johnson - 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defended, 2 QB hits

The man who made the first play of the season, swatting down a Matt Schaub pass and creating a turnover, gets the first Bolt of the season. Johnson has looked like a different man this year, playing at a high level in all facets of the game in the preseason and carrying that over into this game. He looked great all night, and there was a noticeable drop-off when he was subbed out for Larry English.

Dwight Freeney - 1 tackles, 0.5 sack

The stats may not show it, but Freeney was nearly dominant last night. The only way Houston could slow him down was to occasionally throw triple-teams at him (two blockers and someone to chip him at the line). It's amazing how often he can get into opposing backfields when the offense is paying so much attention to him. Stay healthy, Dwight.

Fozzy Whittaker - 42.0 yds kick return average

Small sample size (he only returned one kick), but Fozzy already looks like he can be a special kick returner this season. Let's call it an upgrade over Richard Goodman.



Dolts

Bront Bird - 14 tackles

Hoooooo boy. Want to know why Bront Bird led the Chargers in tackles last night? It's because Gary Kubiak's gigantic playsheet had written "Throw/run at Bront Bird" in every box.

Bird is terrible. He was good last year, he was bad in 2011, he obviously does some things well....but he can not be a starter. Not for another game. Not ever.

Derek Cox - 7 tackles, 1 pass defended

So much for Cox having Andre Johnson's number. Johnson finished with 12 catches for 146 yards and most of those were against a very confused Derek Cox. Except for when they were against a very confused.....

Richard Marshall - 5 tackles, 1 pass defended

Richard Marshall looked like a guy that was cut before the final cut day by a team that's not particularly deep at cornerback. It appeared, at one point, that he actually got pulled for Johnny Patrick. Not a career highlight for Marshall.



Uncategorizable

(These are players that played both above and below expectations for a certain period of time in the game)

Cam Thomas - 3 tackles, 2 passes defended, 1 interception

He's mostly here for the interception. I like what I saw from Cam most of the time, but I also saw him get lost on a couple of run plays and he seems to run out of gas quickly. As good as Cam can be when he's in the game, this team already misses Aubrayo Franklin.

Eddie Royal - 3 catches, 24 rec yds, 2 TDs

Royal's three catches were really great, but he was targeted six times and dropped a crucial pass late in the game that just about sealed San Diego's fate. That might be better than what we got from him last season, but he needs to be better than that if he's going to be the team's starting wide receiver.

Philip Rivers - 14/29, 195 pass yds, 4 TDs, 1 INT

Four touchdowns and only one turnover is above expectations, at this point. 50% completion and less than 200 passing yards is below expectations. Let's break it down further.

  • First three quarters: 13/22, 187 pass yds, 4 TDs
  • Fourth quarter: 1/7, 8 pass yds, 1 INT

So, above expectations for three quarters and below for the most important quarter? How does one rank that?

Ryan Mathews - 13 carries, 33 rush yds, 2 catch, 22 rec yds, 1 rec TD

Because it worked so well for Rivers, let's do another "Jekyll and Hyde" breakdown, this time for Mathews.

  • First half: 11 touches, 47 yds, 1 TD
  • Second half: 4 touches, 8 yds

A perfect game for the 2013 Chargers and Ryan Mathews is just doubling what he did in the first half. 20+ touches, 100 or so total yards, 1-2 TDs.

Those second half stats look like the Chargers were trailing by multiple touchdowns, when in fact their run blocking just disappeared. The Texans blitzed to keep San Diego from double-teaming J.J. Watt, and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year did the rest. They also seemed to move Watt over to the right side of the defense every so often to try and keep the Chargers off-balance, and it worked.

Even with that, this running game is becoming a little...predictable.

  • Mathews runs to right side: 3 carries, 18 rush yds
  • Mathews runs up the middle: 5 carries, 3 rush yds
  • Mathews run to the left side: 4 carries, 8 rush yds
  • Mathews run to the left sideline: 1 carry, 4 yds

I get that they were trying to avoid J.J. Watt, but the Chargers are going to have to come to grips with the fact that running behind D.J. Fluker and Jeromey Clary is their best (and maybe only) option. Three carries in that direction won't cut it.



Meeting Expectations

All of the other players essentially played to the level we expected them to play to. For some (Eric Weddle, Donald Butler, Malcom Floyd), that's a compliment. Those players played well and continue to do so consistently. For others (Larry English, John Phillips, Le'Ron McClain), it's not so much of a compliment.


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