That first 15 seconds really was the highlight of the game. It's awfully difficult to top Jarret Johnson batting a pass to Cam Thomas on the first defensive play being followed by Philip Rivers hitting Ryan Mathews in the end zone on the first offensive play. Did that play look familiar to everyone? Danny Woodhead was wide open on that same route in the preseason. It was nice to see them trust Mathews' hands enough to go to him in that situation.
A lot of people are complaining about how many snaps Ronnie Brown got compared to 24 and 39 last night. I don't disagree that it's probably not in the Chargers' best interest to have him lead the running back committee in snaps, but a fair portion of his game action came on that long, no-huddle scoring drive in the second half and you have to admit that it's difficult to find fault with that drive.
I haven't been able to rewatch this game yet, so if my recollections of the offensive and defensive line play turn out not to be as accurate as watching every play over and over, you'll have to forgive me. That said, I thought the offensive line handled a very difficult first assignment pretty damn well. D.J. Fluker had at least one excellent blitz pickup on the Vincent Brown touchdown, and he managed not to get abused by J.J. Watt. Not getting abused sounds like a low standard until you remember that Watt is the best defensive lineman in football.
Jeromey Clary does not look good at right guard. I think Jerome will cover Clary better later than I could ever hope to, so I'll leave it at that. Chad Rinehart stood out to me, and I was also pleasantly surprised by how little pressure King Dunlap allowed, but that might just be a result of watching too much Mike Harris last year.
I love the front seven on defense. I can't express in words how much fun it is to watch Dwight Freeney rush the passer for the Chargers. He absolutely abused Duane Brown. He ran by him, he ran over him, he just embarrassed him. And Duane Brown is awesome. Think about that. Anyone saying Freeney has fallen off is lying or stupid or both. I really might have to invest in a 93 jersey, and I don't even wear jerseys.
Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes are both still getting better. That's amazing to me because they were already very good. Cam Thomas looked excellent when he wasn't giving the game away with that incredibly stupid and pointless penalty late in the game. Donald Butler is still Donald Butler. Jarret Johnson looks like a different human being than he did last year. He looks faster. Maybe he's just more decisive, but whatever it is, I'm thrilled about it.
Kwame Geathers is a hulking monster, but he plays without any leverage. A man that big and strong shouldn't be getting pushed around like a child. The potential is there because of his physical skills, but the man needs to improve on his technique, or he won't be a Charger next season.
Bront Bird is not good. Manti Te'o will be starting as soon as he's healthy. There's no way he's not better than 97 already. If by some chance he isn't, then he shouldn't have been drafted. I don't think that's the case. Get healthy soon, T'eo!
Marcus Gilchrist doesn't look like someone that knows how to play safety. This is probably because he doesn't. 38 was lost, just completely lost multiple times. So was Jahleel Addae, but he's an undrafted free agent. What do you expect? Oh, and if you had Addae as the starting Dime safety, you win the pool. Brandon Taylor needs to get healthy faster, too.
I had high hopes for Derek Cox. Well, high hopes is probably overstating it, but I was really hoping he wouldn't suck. Andre Johnson is one of the best in the league, but he's not the only one that made Cox look bad repeatedly. He couldn't cover the backup tight end either. Shareece Wright at least looks like a player, though. I don't even want to talk about Richard Marshall.
Eddie Royal had such a good first half that I was getting ready to believe in him. Then he made that game-killing drop on 3rd down late in the 4th quarter. They don't have a lead to blow without him, though. Overall, I was still happy to see signs of life from 11.
Vincent Brown is great. That touchdown catch and run was a thing of beauty. When I look back at this game, that's the only image that I'm going to retain. Antonio Gates is still the man, but that late drop was a killer.
Philip Rivers had his best game in years as far as how he looked in the pocket. He was confident. He stepped up into the pocket. He stepped into his throws. He was decisive. He was everything we love about El Capitan. He also threw a terrible pick 6. I put a lot of that on poor play design, though. You have to be encouraged by what you saw from 17, and if you think that game was an example of why he has to go, I don't know what to tell you.
Ken Whisenhunt makes some late game play calls that I don't entirely understand. He called a brilliant first half, though. Mike McCoy's game management was exceptional. I can't remember seeing a Chargers head coach do that in the last decade-plus. I'm excited to see what he can do.
A.J. Smith's legacy was on display last night. Tom Telesco couldn't fix the lack of depth in one off season. The starters are good, but the backups are bad. I think we're in for a lot of ugly second halves if the starters stay healthy, and a lot of ugly complete games if they don't. I've been saying 5-11 for months. I didn't see anything to change my mind last night, but I'm oddly okay with it.