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5 Good Things: Chargers at Texans

1. Road Win

The win on the road is a bigtime symbol for anyone who like symbols. It's a sign that the team is overcoming obstacles. It's a result of hard work and preparation to avoid all the stumbling blocks that have been a part of being on the road with a loud opposing crowd (false starts, delays of game, miscommunication, etc.) . And most importantly, it's a win when the team needed one to help catch up with the Chiefs, not lose ground on the Raiders and send a message to all those other wild card teams that it'll take a lot of work to stay ahead of the Bolts.

2. Clutch Defense

The defense came through when the team needed them most. The Chargers have a bad habit of making enough mistakes in the first half such that there is little room for error in the second half. That's a huge challenge for the defense, and they stepped up. Here's how it went down:

Start of the 3rd quarter
Drive lasted 6:05. Texans were 2 for 3 passing for 40 yards. Texans ran 7 times for 26 yards. Stuffed Derrick Ward for 2 yard loss on 3rd and 2 on the 5 yard line. Held Texans to a field goal.  
Houston Texans at 05:48 (3rd quarter)
Drive lasted 5:54. Texans were 5 for 5 passing for 53 yards and a sack (Antonio Garay). Texans ran 4 times for 7 yards (zero "successful" runs). Held Texans to 5 yards on a 3rd and 6 and 0 yards on a 4th and 1 play.
Houston Texans at 11:50 (4th quarter)
This followed a big interception by Houston when Chargers were down by 2 . Drive lasted 2:29. Texans were 1 for 1 passing for 5 yards. There was also a 5 yard illegal contact penalty and a sack with a forced fumbled (Donald Strickland) that resulted in loss of 12 yards on 3rd down. Texans also only ran for a 2 yard loss (Antonio Garay with the stuff). Texans forced to punt.
Houston Texans at 05:17(4th quarter)
Chargers just took a 6 point lead. Drive lasted 1:46. Texans were 4 for 4 passing for 47 yards, but were forced to intentionally ground the ball once that led to a loss of down and a 3rd and 15. Final pass was for only 13 yards when the Texans needed 15. Chargers stuffed Matt Schaub's quick snap QB sneak on 4th and 2.
Houston Texans at 3:06
Texans still able to go ahead with a TD. Drive lasted 1:47. Don't need to really cover the stats. Drive ended in an interception by Paul Oliver.


3. This space reserved for: El Capitan

If Philip Rivers doesn't show up on 5 Good Things, then something has gone terribly wrong in my opinion. He's the best thing the Chargers have. He's the best thing Southern California has. Actually, he's the best thing the state of California has (take that, San Francisco Giants). Screw it, he's the best thing the Western United States have (take that Charlie Whitehurst). He's just too awesome. John Gennaro said to me in the offseason, when the Vincent Jackson situation was just beginning and he wanted VJ traded, that the WRs don't make the QB, the QB makes the WRs. That's absolutely right (and for some reason I have to keep reminding him of that these days). And for anyone who thinks that Rivers is all Gates, they are dead wrong. And for all those that seem to think that just because most of his receiving options are hurt that Norv will switch the playcalling to favor the less effective running game, they are also wrong.

vs HOU / 11.7.10 Passing Rushing
Comp Att Pct Yds TD Rush Yds Avg TD
Philip Rivers 17 23 70.0 295 4 4 -7 -1.8 0

4. Aggressive Playcalling Early

Norv took the game to the Texans early on (with the exception of the first 3 and out drive) and it resulted in big plays. It also meant relying on guys that either hadn't proved their worth as Chargers or hadn't even proved their worth in the NFL. Three plays stand out.

  • 1-10-SD 45  (9:36) 17-P.Rivers pass deep right to 89-S.Ajirotutu for 55 yards, TOUCHDOWN. - This play relied on Seyi Ajirotutu running a deceptive route in order to beat CB Kareem Jackson and get open for the deep ball.
  • 1-10-SD 41 (2:50) 17-P.Rivers pass short left to 88-K.Wilson to HST 22 for 37 yards (31-B.Pollard). flea-flicker - We haven't seen a play call like this all year. We also last saw Wilson on the receiving end of a catch when he fumbled against New England. The play went for 37 yards and it may have soften things up for the running game since Ryan Mathews ran for 11 yards on the next play.
  • 1-10-HOU 11 (1:14) (Shotgun) 17-P.Rivers pass short middle to 81-R.McMichael for 11 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Penalty on HST-29-G.Quin, Defensive Holding, declined. - This gave the Chargers their first lead and relied on Randy McMichael who hadn't wowed many since he got here and was filling in for All-World TE Antonio Gates. This was also a great throw by Philips Rivers.

This set the tone for the rest of the game as Seyi Ajirotutu and Randy McMichael would go on to each catch TD passes in the second half as well.

5. Tackling by the Secondary (Weddle, Oliver, Cason, Jammer, Gregory and Carter)

I'm sure more than one of you are thinking, "WHAT?!?!?" Let me explain. Take a look at Arian Foster's previous four 100+ yard games.

vs IND / 9.12.10 Rushing
Rush Yards Avg Long TD
Arian Foster 33 231 7 42 3

vs DAL / 9.26.10 Rushing
Rush Yards Avg Long TD
Arian Foster 17 106 6.2 26 0

vs OAK / 10.3.10 Rushing
Rush Yards Avg Long TD
Arian Foster 17 133 7.8 71t 1

vs IND / 11.1.10 Rushing
Rush Yards Avg Long TD
Arian Foster 15 102 6.8 33 1bi

And now our game:

vs SDC / 11.7.10 Rushing
Rush Yards Avg Long TD
Arian Foster 27 127 4.7 15 2

Notice that's the lowest average yards per carry and the lowest longest run of any of those performances. When Arian Foster is running well, he's going to get his yards. The key to Ron Rivera's defense has always been to make the other team earn those yards. Don't let them get the big gains that lead to easy scores and pad the stat lines. In his strategy each set of downs is another chess match that anyone can win and when the offense loses the high power Charger offense gets to take command. The secondary combined for 28 solo tackles and 7 assisted tackles. They were the main reason those big plays, especially in the running game, didn't happen.