When I got home from the Giants game last week (at about 10pm), I was still wearing my white LT jersey. As I mentioned last week, my jersey of choice is the powder-blue 17 but I had let my bodyguard/friend wear it during the game since it's much bigger and the 21 wouldn't have even fit him. Usually the 21 sits in the closet or my wife throws it on.
Anyways, I got home and, pumped off a dramatic and unlikely day, decided that the jersey was lucky. I declared that, until proven otherwise, the jersey was not to be washed and was going to be worn during all Chargers games. Based off of the jersey's performance yesterday (win vs. Eagles, loss for Broncos), I'd say it still has some good juju in it. An honorary Bolt goes to my lucky Tomlinson jersey for yesterday's victory.
Now, onto the real Bolts & Dolts....
Philip Rivers - 20/25, 231 yds, 2 TDs. This may have been Philip's most efficient game all season. There was no inaccurate passes and even the 5 incomplete balls were either thrown out of bounds or catchable balls. He was feeling it yesterday and it's a big reason why the offense was able to put up 31 points.
LaDainian Tomlinson - 24 carries, 96 yds, 2 TDs. Welcome to the party, LT! A really strong game from him. The play call certainly helped. He was put behind the defense with draw plays when they were selling out, and the secondary couldn't focus on him because of their lack of talent at CB. It was a perfect scenario and LT came through in a big way. I wish he could've gotten over 100 yds, but I'm sure any game where he ends up with a 4.0 YPC is a good one in his book.
Antonio Gates - 7 catches, 78 yds. Think Antonio Gates worked on catching the ball after his 2 big drops last week? He was targeted 8 times and came up with the ball 7 of those times. The other time it was knocked away by a defender. This is a case of the coaching staff identifying a weakness (Eagles struggle covering TEs) and attacking it.
Legedu Naanee - 3 catches, 42 yds, 1 TD. I was worried about this. The Eagles had 2 good CBs to defend Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd, but nobody after that. Most teams would say "okay, the slot WR is going to have a big game", but Naanee had been almost invisible in this offense since the early part of the season up until last week against the Giants. Hopefully, with two big weeks in a row, he's turned a corner and will be a weekly weapon for Rivers. We know his upside (speed, size, hands, strength) and he put it to use in getting the TD catch and also with a clutch catch to extend the Chargers final offensive drive.
Mike Tolbert - 2 catches, 25 yds, 1 TD. Tolbert is really turning into a hell of a FB, and the player we all hoped he would become when he came burst on the scene last season. Not only was his TD grab awesome (he looks like Sproles when he gets the ball in his hands!), but his run-blocking was near-perfect all night.
Kevin Burnett - 9 tackles, 1 tackle-for-loss, 1 QB hit, 1 defended pass. Welcome back in a big way, KB. I was wondering how Burnett would react when I saw the e-mail that said Brandon Siler was getting the start. To be fair, Burnett led the team in tackles mostly because the Eagles targeted the MLBs in zone with their WRs. However, when he wasn't chasing 150-pound WRs, Burnett was making goal-line stands and defending TEs on big plays. Just another good all-around game from the new guy. Let's hope he can stay healthy now.
Paul Oliver - 6 tackles, 1 sack. Dare I say it? I think the SS-by-committee approach is working. Oliver plays very well in coverage, but doesn't offer much in run support. Kevin Ellison is a beast in run-support, but doesn't offer much in the way of coverage. You'd think this would make it easy for the offense, but Ron Rivera has been pressing the right buttons at this spot and it's working. Against the Eagles' pass-happy offense, Oliver played significantly more than Ellison and played well. Next week, against the Broncos team that is struggling to pass the ball and may be missing their starting QB, he may not see much of the field.
Quentin Jammer - 6 tackles. Not Q's best game in terms of coverage, but to be fair DeSean Jackson is probably twice as fast as him. However, Jammer's tackling was a game-changer. Especially when it was him on Brent Celek, one-on-one and Jammer won the battle (this happened at least twice). Huge game for him and I just hope there's no residual effects from that hit on his leg by Weddle.
Mike Scifres - 4 punts, 50 yd average, 2 inside opp. 20. Scifres is slowly, but surely, working his way back up the punting charts after playing for a few weeks with a tweaked groin. He's 8th in punting average, 10th in net punting average and 10th in the number on punts that have landed inside the opponents' 20 yard line. A lot of people are quick to hold every game he has against the one he played in Indy last season, but that's really unfair. That was a once-in-a-lifetime game for a guy that is still putting on great punting displays week-in and week-out.
Darren Sproles/Norv Turner - 2 carries, 14 rush yds, 4 catches, 31 rec yds. The reason this is Darren/Norv is because Darren's bad game is half Norv's fault. Look at Norv's playcall on 3rd & short for the entire game:
- (Shotgun) P.Rivers pass incomplete short right to V.Jackson.
- D.Sproles left end to SD 33 for no gain (M.Fokou).
- D.Sproles right tackle to PHI 25 for no gain (Q.Mikell, W.Witherspoon). PENALTY on PHI-R.Robinson, Defensive Offside, 5 yards, enforced at PHI 25 - No Play.
- (Shotgun) P.Rivers pass short middle to L.Naanee to PHI 15 for 18 yards (V.Harris, W.Witherspoon).
If you disregard the penalty that kept that drive alive, that's a 25% conversion rate on 3rd & short. There's not a single run by LT, Jacob Hester or Mike Tolbert in that situation. I understand Sproles is quick/strong enough that he can usually get that last yard, but only when it's a surprise and it just isn't anymore. It's time to start trusting LT on 3rd & short again.
Pass-Rush - 2 sacks, 4 QB hits. It took 4 quarters, but I understand what the defensive gameplan was. The Chargers prevented the Eagles from throwing deep (for the most part) and then locked down when they got near to goal line. The gameplan was to try FGs for TDs, and it worked. Because they were often playing zone, this meant a lot less CB and Safety blitzes than we've become accustomed to lately. This meant less creativity on the defensive side of the football. Essentially the Chargers were rushing 4 or 5 guys on every play, and just about everyone knew who was coming and from where. The couple of times things got creative, it worked (Oliver's sack, Gregory blowing up the double-reverse).
I'm not saying there should've been more blitzes. I agree with the gameplan. However, I think Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips and Larry English were pretty easily handled and I did not like to see that. I don't want to believe that the only reason those guys were having success was because of all of the blitzing from elsewhere. I'll instead choose to believe that Merriman and Phillips injuries were the culprit.
Steve Gregory - 4 tackles. A lot of people were afraid that this game would eventually come, and it did. Gregory has shown himself to be an excellent player within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. He's great supporting the run, can stop the short pass and can even bump a WR when given the opportunity. He's tough. However, against the team like the Eagles that prefers to play downfield instead of near the line, he was exposed for his lack of footspeed. If you thought you saw more of Antoine Cason late in the game, you did.
SG will be fine. He'll continue to be an improvement over Cason in the short-passing game and in run support, so he'll keep his job for now. However, against a team like the Cowboys you'll probably see more of Cason covering downfield. This is just a matter of the coaches coaching according to their personnel.