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Chargers Playbook Confidential: Wasting Turnovers

The San Diego offense wasn't as great as you think it was against the Chiefs, and Ryan Mathews got a lot more playing time and carries than you might have remembered.

Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Chargers milked 24 points off of the much discussed six turnovers, but the offense only pulled 17 points because the defense scored a touchdown of their own. There was really only one sustained drive for the San Diego offense, and that was the opening drive. Other than that eleven play tone setter, and game icing final drives, the offense only averaged roughly four plays per possession. A clicking offense would have turned those turnovers into something north of 20 points.

Drive Run Pass Total Starting Position Yards Result
1 4 7 11 23 77 TD
2 1 3 4 72 21 FG
3 2 0 2 95 5 TD
4 3 4 7 6 33 Punt
5 2 3 5 29 42 FG
6 0 3 3 72 4 Interception
7 1 3 4 18 2 Punt
8 1 2 3 20 -7 Punt
9 1 2 3 13 -6 Punt
10 2 1 3 13 9 Punt
11 6 3 9 51 49 TD
12 8 0 8 20 53 Punt

There was one bit of unconventional fun by Norv this week. It would have been a huge gain except for Tamba Hali getting the better of a pulling Louis Vasquez. This play featured Antonio Gates at left tackle, and Jared Gaither at right tight end. The entire Chiefs front eight was swallowed up and walled off for what could have been an easy touchdown for Mathews. The KC inside linebackers simply weren't sure what to make of it pre snap. The whole offense on Sunday felt like this kind of a missed opportunity.


Good Rivers and Bad Rivers are the Same Guy

We had a brief appearance of vintage 2011 and Week 3 "Bad Rivers" early in the first half. With nothing going, Ronnie Brown trying to block down field, and two defenders about to swallow him whole, Rivers decided to throw across his body off his back foot into double coverage. This ball could very easily have been an interception and an open door to a comeback.


But here's the thing: this supreme confidence in himself is what makes Philip Rivers Philip Rivers. Rivers occasionally make those terrible plays above because he regularly pulls off plays like the one below. In this case he wasn't exactly under pressure, but his pocket was beginning to collapse and no one was really open. What does he do? He chucks it up to Ronnie Brown and hopes the linebacker covering him doesn't turn around. If he didn't have that moxy, he wouldn't be an NFL quarterback. He's kind of like Kobe Bryant with a helmet and cleats.


Last Week's Science Experiment

I swear someone in the Charger organization reads this column. During the pre-season, I pointed out a huge tendency to run from base receiver formation. That tendency promptly disappeared the week after I pointed it out. Last week I discovered a monstrous 80% pass tendency with TE power on the left side. This week, that melted away to a roughly 45% pass chance with TE power on the left. It's totally because Norv Turner reads playbook confidential. It couldn't possibly be that Jared Gaither's presence impacts play calling. No way. We'll revisit this one at the bye for sure.

This Week's Science Experiment

In week 4: Runs to the left came primarliy on 1st down, with Mathews. Runs to the middle came primarily on 2nd down, with Battle. Runs to the right came primarily with receivers on the right. Mathews is much quicker to the edge while Battle sometimes seems like he's stuck to rails. 1st down is a much more anticipated run down so mixing it up to the outside makes more sense in that situation. Running at all on 2nd down is kind of a surprise for this offense when the score is close, so running up the middle might fit better with passing personnel and formations.

The Rest

The offense had a perfect 50/50 run pass balance, with stronger than usual run showings on both 1st and 2nd downs. This is what playing with a lead for an entire 2nd half looks like in Turner's offense.

Down Run Pass Total
1st 16 12 28
2nd 13 8 21
3rd 2 11 13
Total 31 31 62

The running back details show a big spike in passing game opportunities for Battle, and a really healthy YPC for Mathews in his limited opportunities. If you had been asked Sunday night how many more carries did Battle have than Mathews, would you have guessed a lot more than only two? At this point Brown is turning out to be less of a Mike Tolbert replacement and more of a pure 3rd down, obvious passing back.

Halfback Snaps Running Plays Passing Plays Run % YPC
Battle 27 16 11 59% 2.3
Mathews 20 14 6 70% 4.4
Brown 14 0 14 0% n/a
Mcclain 1 1 0 100 4

Next Opponent

The New Orleans defense is statistically terribad. They are the absolute worst team in the league in rush yardage and overall yardage through four weeks. Their DVOA tells an identical story with the #27 ranked overall defense DVOA.

San Diego's offense is not as good as you may think it is. Their passing game looks better than the run game in DVOA terms, but are solidly in the bottom third of the league. A lot of garbage time between the Titans and Chiefs contests makes the San Diego rushing yardage higher ranked than passing yardage. In any case, this points to a steady diet of Battle and Mathews against the Saints this week. The only real question is who will start and who will get the lion's share of carries.

NO Defense DVOA Rank Yards/Game Rank
Run 3.90% #28 187 #32
Pass 38.70% #29 277 #24
Overall 20.20% #27 463 #32

SD Offense DVOA Rank Yards/Game Rank
Run -19.90% #26 100 #17
Pass 4.10% #20 212 #23
Overall -11.00% #20 312 #24

Keep in mind that for defense DVOA, negative is good, while negative is bad for offense DVOA. All VOA, DVOA, YAR and DYAR statistical values are developed, calculated and reported by Football Outsiders. Their explanation can be found here.

A Playbook Confidential intro can be found here.

The cumulative 2012 Chargers play calling log can be found here.