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Defensive Analysis: Chiefs at Chargers

Chargers defensive lineman Antonio Garay's helmet registered a QB pressure, and this tackle assist.
Chargers defensive lineman Antonio Garay's helmet registered a QB pressure, and this tackle assist.

5 Consecutive 3 and outs. Cinco. The Chiefs couldn't get a first down all first half last Sunday. Not. One. This is the Charger defense everyone expected to see all game. Unfortunately, adjustments and 2 critical penalties gave the Chiefs an offense in the second half. While Philip Rivers was trying to give the Chiefs a chance in the first half with 2 picks, bad special teams play at the start of the 3rd quarter and a near 10 minute drive from the middle of the 3rd quarter to the 4th gave the Chiefs a chance to make a game out of this match. At the beginning of the 4th quarter, Cassel had only thrown 13 passes, completing 11 for 62 yards. It took a goofy pass from Matt Cassel to Eric Weddle to seal the game, and 15 point favorites never even had a 15 point lead.

First, some interesting stats:

  • 24 Net first half yards
  • Longest first half play of any kind allowed: 4 yards
  • Beautiful 67° game-time weather.
  • Despite just 18 yards on 7 throws, Cassel had a better QB rating than Rivers. (Halftime)

Here's the final grading for the game, first half then second half:

51 52 54 56 58 71 74 76 91 92 95 98 99
Run Average .63 na na 1.33 na .67 1.13 na .50 .60 1.0 na .25
Pass Average 1.0 na na 1.0 na .50 .60 .50 0 .17 .30 .88 0

51 52 54 56 58 71 74 76 91 92 95 98 99
Run Average .30 .17 .50 .50 .50 .21 1.00 .80 .67 .67 1.13 na .60
Pass Average 0 1.00 na 1.00 na .64 1.5 1.0 .25 .61 .50 .63 1.0

Click here for the full analysis

A few interesting items: Antonio Garay struggled a lot this game, and it might have to do with playing a few more snaps than he's used to, and certainly because of the loss of Luis Castillo, and other injuries to the line. However, the other players stepped up, especially Cam Thomas, Jacques Cesaire and Donald Butler, who were amazing in the first half, if you look at their scores. I don't know what got into Jacques, but he was fantastic when he was in. A regular run stopping beast. He consistently powered his way around the line of scrimmage, and closed lanes and holes where the runningbacks wanted to get to. If he's capable of this every week, I'd love to see it.

To start the second half, either the Kansas City offensive line improved, or fatigue began to hurt the Charger front 7. Almost everyone's grades were lower, and the Chiefs were practically playing Martyball all game, running on almost every single first down. Stephen Cooper and Na'il Diggs actually got some reps, though they weren't involved too much. They performed fine when they did need to make a stop. This leaves a positive note on linebacker depth should the 3-4 have to change into a 2-5 because of injury sometime in the next 10 weeks.

I'm still very impressed by Donald Butler. Enough that he gets this week's Defensive player of the game award. Great in coverage and blitzing, and even though he slowed down against the run in the second half, the first half was excellent. I'm very excited about Donald Butler. If he stays on his current pace, he'll develop the same way Patrick Willis did under Takeo Spikes. Speaking of Spikes, I still don't trust him much in coverage, but he's a big upgrade over Cooper in the run game and he's even better in pass coverage, though that's not saying much. With Kevin Burnett and Brandon Siler gone, I suspect some youth will be brought in to learn under the current veterans next season and that could make the Chargers have a great defense in the middle of the field. Tight end coverage needs to improve, yes, but the 3-4 usually relys on safeties for man coverage and the ILB's in zone.

Not having Bob Sanders made a noticable difference in this game. He's faster and more capable than Steve Gregory, and would have come up with a pick and a TFL if he had been playing. He should play next week and maybe we'll see him play against KC the second time (it's only 5 weeks away) and take advantage where Gregory couldn't. The loss of Luis Castillo continues to hurt the pass rush and run defense, but thanks to Takeo Spikes playing behind where Castillo would be, he's helped make up for his loss. Shaun Phillips and Antonio Garay are clearly struggling on some plays because they were beneficiaries of Castillo's play, but I don't think that loss will hurt until the Bolts face some elite teams later on, like the Jets, Packers and Bears(?). By then, Manusky may have found ways to work around his absence and we'll see new looks and playcalls.

Thanks to Orz for setting up the Video. Rec if you think he's awesome.