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Game Preview: Patriots at Chargers, Chargers on Offense

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Chargers Running the Ball

  • 13th in Yards/Game (116.5), down from 12th last week.
  • 12th in Yards/Carry (4.3), up from 13th last week.
  • 5th in Rush TDs (6), same as last week.
  • 14th in Runs for 1st downs (22.4%), up from 19th last week.
  • 8th in Runs for 20+ Yards (5), down from 6th last week.
  • 29th in Fumbles (5), up from 30th last week.

A overwhelmingly-average running game thusfar, Ryan Mathews is still waiting to have a break out game (career high: 78 rushing yards). Actually, he's still waiting to have a break out run (longest run: 17 20 yards). For not having any only having one 20+ runs and not having many chances to get into a rhythm, Mathews has put up some very good numbers and looks comfortable running at this level.

His break out game is going to come eventually, probably when we (and he) least expect it. That means it could be this week, next week, or not until week 10. When the Chargers are able to get a decent lead in the second half of a game, Mathews should find himself with plenty of chances to put up big numbers and make big plays.

 

Patriots Stopping the Run

  • 17th in Yards/Game allowed (109.6)
  • 12th in Yards/Carry allowed (4.0)
  • 1st in Rush TDs allowed (1)
  • 14th in Runs for 1st downs against (21.3%)
  • 2nd in Runs for 20+ Yards allowed (1)
  • 20th in Fumbles recovered (2)

In typical Patriots style, the boys from New England seems terrible at stopping the run (much worse than the Rams) and yet have only given up 1 TD run and 2 runs for more than 20 yards. That's not a coincidence. The Chargers will most likely be able to move the ball against the Patriots on the ground, but forcing their way into the end zone or making big plays will be difficult against this team.

Advantage: Tie.

 

Chargers Throwing the Ball

  • 1st in Yards/Game (316.2), same as last week (even though they dropped 20 yards in their average!).
  • 1st in Yards/Attempt (9.1), same as last week (2nd highest team gets 8.0 yards/attempt!).
  • 2nd in TDs (12), down from 1st last week.
  • 1st in Passes for 1st down (44.8%), same as last week.
  • 1st in Passes for 20+ yards (35), same as last week. 
  • 28th in Sacks taken (18), down from 20th last week.
  • 11th in Interceptions thrown (5), same as last week.

This is going to sound like I'm an ultra-fan-boy, but take away Marcus McNeill's rust, Jeromey Clary (who will soon be replaced by Brandyn Dombrowski) and Philip Rivers having to force passes at the end of games and this passing attack is flawless. The 9.1 yards per attempt comes with good news and bad. The good news is that it's ridiculously high and the team did it without Vincent Jackson. The bad news is that it means the Chargers are throwing deep a lot, which wasn't really how they wanted this offense to run this season.

Still, it's a mind-blowing stat. The only QBs to pull off a 9.1 yard per attempt average or higher for an entire season in the last two decades are Peyton Manning (2004), Kurt Warner (2000) and...somehow.... Chris Chandler (1998). It would not surprise me to see Philip Rivers added to that group soon.

 

Patriots Defending the Pass

  • 29th in Yards/Game allowed (273.4)
  • 27th in Yards/Attempt (7.6)
  • 27th in TDs allowed (11)
  • 29th in Passes for 1st downs allowed (40.1%)
  • 7th in Passes for 20+ yards allowed (14)
  • 22nd in Sacks (10)
  • 7th in Interceptions (7)

The TDs given up through the air certainly helps to explain the lack of TDs on the ground, at least. Again, it's just like the Patriots to have one of the worst passing defenses in the league and still manage to rank highly for turnovers and in stopping big plays. This is the recipe for how the New England Patriots will beat you: They will let you do whatever you want to do except make big plays, then they will take advantage of any mistakes you make.

It looks as though Antonio Gates will play on Sunday, as will Buster Davis. Kevin Acee seems to think the team will activate Seyi Ajirotutu as well. This game is lining up to be an awful lot like the 2007 AFC Championship Game, with the Chargers being the more talented team but coming into the game beaten up and undisciplined. The big difference this time is that El Capitan is not playing on two bad knees, as the Bolts will need a great game from him to win. This is the type of game that legends are born from.

Advantage: Chargers.