Welcome back to the snap report, a weekly feature where we look at the Chargers players involved in each offensive and defensive snap and track how players earn and lose playing time as the year continues. As always, these snap counts come from the NFL and the numbers are rounded to the nearest percent.
What a win! The Bolts are through to the divisional round after dispatching the Bengals in last week's wild card matchup, combining a strong rushing effort with timely defense against a poor offensive gameplan that somehow got Jay Gruden a head coaching job. Seriously.
The Bengals gained 4.5 yards per carry against the Chargers last week, yet inexplicably asked Andy Dalton to throw the ball 51 times. The Bengals' 81 offensive snaps were the most that the Chargers' defense faced all year, and they held firm while forcing three turnovers. Well, two turnovers plus Dalton's unforced fumble but hey the Chargers still had to pick it up! If this Chargers team wins the turnover battle, they can beat any team in the league.
Here are the offensive snap counts from the first playoff win since 2008:
I don't think enough can be said about the outstanding job Rich Ohrnberger did against the Bengals. Throughout all the offensive line shuffling over the past couple of years, Nick Hardwick has been the constant, Philip Rivers's rock in this life like weeds. I'm not going to lie; when I saw Hardwick exit the game I thought the Chargers were doomed. But Ohrnberger stepped right up and delivered a great performance. According to PFF, he was the Chargers' best run blocking offensive lineman and second best overall, behind Chad Rinehart. Chalk up another stud offseason free agent find for Kid Dynamite.
In my opinion, the most impressive characteristic about the 2013 Chargers has been the readiness of every player on the depth chart. Whether it's Seyi Ajirotutu coming off the sideline to catch a game-winning touchdown pass, or Ronnie Brown taking it to the house to ice a playoff game when he hasn't played a meaningful snap in five weeks, I think this coaching staff has done an incredible job preparing the players and getting the most out of the talent on this roster. I mean, this team won a playoff game this year! I don't think the majority of us fans expected anything close to that. Sure it's been a rocky road, but it always is, and always will be.
Now let's look at the snap counts for the hottest defense in football:
As mentioned above, the Chargers defense faced their highest workload of the season last week and didn't bat an eye. I'd like to specifically mention Darrell Stuckey, who played a season high 43 defensive snaps against the Bengals. Aside from that absolutely crucial pass breakup on A.J. Green (!), Stuckey was a force to be reckoned with on special teams as always. It took some time for Stuckey to earn defensive reps this year, but he's making the most of them when they count.
The defensive backs got a lot of work against the Bengals due to the aforementioned Andy Dalton Spectacular, with five DB's getting over 60 snaps. This left less snaps for linebackers like Manti Te'o and Jarret Johnson, but Donald Butler didn't miss a play while making 11 tackles and five stops behind the line. While he may get overshadowed in light of Melvin Ingram's return to the lineup, Butler is an important player for this defense who also happens to be playing for a contract this summer.
Cam Thomas, another contract year player, wasn't able to build on his recent strong performances and struggled a little bit against the Bengals, though he was able to make a sack and a couple stops. However with Sean Lissemore missing out due to injury, Thomas was asked to play 40 snaps, his most since Week 9. It's possible that both Lissemore and Thomas benefit from each other's presence, being able to rotate often and maintain fresh legs. Lissemore is back at practice this week and will hopefully suit up against the Broncos. Speaking of suiting up, congrats to Kwame Geathers who got his first snaps since Week 10, and most since Week 1!
Now let's all do the Pagano rain dance and pray for more inspired defense.