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San Diego Chargers Grades: Week 16 at New York Jets

Rex Ryan tries to embarrass Norv Turner further by playing Greg McElroy at QB... and embarrasses himself in the process

You couldn't catch Tebow last year, and you're not catching me today.
You couldn't catch Tebow last year, and you're not catching me today.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Actually, there are a few other reasons that the Chargers were able to handle the Jets without much difficulty.

The Jets are equally bad, and even more dysfunctional than the Chargers. Plaxico Burress isn't going against Antoine Cason in the red zone. Tony Sparano isn't Brian Schottenheimer, John Pagano isn't Greg Manusky, and Tim Tebow didn't see the field.

Otherwise, the statistics show a pair of offensively inept football teams. The net yardage for the Chargers was nearly the same as the Jets (223 to 225). The time of possession was virtually even (30:09 to 29:51).

The big differences were: the Chargers got another solid contribution from WR Micheal Spurlock, this time with a 63 yard Punt Return TD, and an utterly dominant performance from the Defensive Line, with racked up 11 sacks and a forced fumble.

Without further ado, here are the grades...

Quarterback: B

For the second time in 3 weeks, Philip Rivers avoided turnovers (i.e. a couple of bad throws were made that the Jets couldn't cash in). Better, it seems that there was some emphasis this week on protecting the ball in traffic, as Rivers was better about securing the ball with both hands, as well as holding the ball higher up. As has been the case often this season, Rivers missed a big play opportunity early on by not stepping into the throw to WR Danario Alexander. Later in the game, however he made 2 solid throws down the filed, both of which resulted in long TD passes. Rivers' final numbers were slightly better than last couple of weeks, completing 11 of 22 for 165 yards and a much-healthier 7.5 yards per attempt. Rivers also "ran" his way out of trouble a few times, gaining 4 yards on 5 carries.

Running Backs: C-

I don't understand the fascination with RB Jackie Battle. He's Ok as a short-yardage option (except the other team knows he's getting the ball in every 2nd and 3rd down short yardage situation). He has a slow accelerator, no burst, and no elusiveness, as his 54 yards on 20 touches attests (19 rushes for 2.6 yards per carry, and 1 reception for 5 yards). I'd tend to think that an offensive line struggling this badly could use the best option available? Maybe? Possibly? In limited use (i.e. draw plays), RB Ronnie Brown added 39 yards on 7 touches (5 carries, 2 receptions), and showed much better speed and vision. Unfortunately, the Chargers didn't really attempt to find out if RB Curtis Brinkley had more to offer than a roster spot, as he got only 1 carry for 3 yards. Battle also missed on a blitz pick-up and allowed a sack to Jets' ILB Bart Scott.

Receivers: B-

Danario Alexander rebounded from a horrible outing against the Panthers with a better outing on Sunday. He only caught 3 of the 6 throws he was targeted on, but those missed throws were bad passes by Rivers or throw aways. Otherwise, he finished with 69 yards on 3 catches, including a 37 yard TD. WR Eddie Royal returned after missing a few weeks and was Eddie Royal - a guy who gives the appearance of being open more than he actually is. Royal was targeted 7 times, and only reeled in 3 for 39 yards. TE Antonio Gates came up with 2 nice receptions on 3 targets, one of which went for a 34 yard TD and broke the Chargers' team record for career receiving TDs with 81. 80 was the previous record, held by Hall-of-Fame WR Lance Alworth.

Offensive Line: C+

The four sacks are deceiving. 2 of the four sacks occurred because a) a poor shotgun snap by C Nick Hardwick didn't allow Rivers to evade Harris' blitz, and b) Rivers gave himself up on the sack credited to Jets' DE Muhammad Wilkerson. Otherwise, the worst day belonged to LT Mike Harris, who gave up a sack to DE/OLB Quinton Coples and allowed several other hurries, plus a pair of drive killing Holding penalties. He was replaced in the 2nd half by T Kevin Haslam, who played slightly better. LG Tyronne Green struggled both on pulls to the right side, and handling stunts on pass plays - one such combination led to a shared sack against Haslam by Coples and LB Guy McIntyre. Otherwise, the rest of the line played solid in pass protection, including T Jeromey Clary. One again, the best run plays were zone runs to the right (where Green didn't have to pull), and draws (where Green has enough time to pull).

Defensive Line: A+

Traditionally, 3-4 DLs are not supposed to get sacks (excepting J.J. Watt). In this game, the DEs absolutley feasted on McElroy's indecision and poor overall play from the Jets' O Line. DE Kendall Reyes played a monster game and continues his late season, coming out party with 3.5 sacks. DE Corey Liuget also continued his very good 2nd season with another 2 sacks. DT Cam Thomas continues his solid play, holding the middle and opening spaces for the ILBs to attack, plus a tackle for loss. DT Antonio Garay was also good in relief, holding the middle and making some nice tackles on run plays up the middle. Just a sensational, all-around effort.

Linebackers: B+

Shaun Phillips had another Jekyll and Hyde game, but on Sunday there was more Jekyll and less Hyde. He's become a real liability in zone coverage, and should now be relegated to situational pass rushing. That said, he was very good rushing the passer, notching 2.5 sacks and forcing a fumble from McElroy. OLB Larry English also managed to get a sack, and OLB Melvin Ingram contributed a half-sack. Inside, it was a welcome return for ILB Donald Butler, who got better as the game went on, notching a sack and making a few tackles in space. Whether due to McElroy's indecision, or a lack of playmakers for the Jets, coverage was generally pretty solid.

Secondary: B-

CB Quentin Jammer had a solid overall game, but the 2 mistakes were big mistakes. First, he and rookie SS Brandon Taylor didn't communicate well and allowed a 42 yard pass play to set up the Jets' 1st TD. Second, there was the DPI in the endzone against WR Braylon Edwards that set-up the 2nd Jets' TD. CB Antoine Cason wasn't really tested in this game, but did allow a couple receptions to WR Braylon Edwards. Following his early error, Taylor played fairly well, notching a sack on a blitz, but was also severly injured and his status for next season is up in the air. S Corey Lynch continued his poor-man's Steve Gregory impression, and pulled in a INT. FS Eric Weddle did a nice job cleaning up on runs and short passes, and was the Chargers' leading tackler with 7 solo tackles.

Special Teams: A

As mentioned above, we have Spurlock's punt returnTD. We also had PK Nick Novak hit a 51 yard FG attempt, after a 46 yarder was wiped out by penalty. He also added a 27 yard FG in the 4th quarter. P Mike Scifres punted 6 times for a 42 yard average, and dropped 2 inside the Jets' 20 with no touchbacks. Coverage teams were very good, not allowing any big returns and keeping the Jets inside their own 40 yard line on 9 of 12 possessions.

Coaching: B+

I don't understand the decision to bench some of the kids (Ladarius Green, Jonas Mouton), or why others are still playing for no reason (Philip Rivers). Beyond that, Norv Turner did a nice job of making personnel substitutions in this game. He subbed out a struggling Mike Harris with a slightly less struggling Kevin Haslam. He abandoned the off-tackle and slow play-fakes and went with zone runs and draws. His decision to go for the 4th and 2 in the 2nd quarter was absolutely the right call, although Novak's FG later in the drive would have come from about the same point on the field.

I'm really becoming a fan of Pagano's kitchen-sink approach. Every week there's something different (this week, there was a zone blitz with Cam Thomas dropping into coverage). If Pagano could just find some OLBs who can consistently apply pressure, the Chargers would be fielding a very good defense. The wrinkle this week of seeing Jets' WR Jeremy Kerley run the Wildcat only lasted for about 2 series before Pagano took it away.

Hidden Plays (Non-scoring, non-turnover plays that affected the outcome):

  • 1st and 10 from the Jets' 47, 12:20 left in the 1st Quarter. The Jets' run the Wildcat and Jeremy Kerley heaves a bomb to WR Clyde Gates for 42 yards and a 1st down at the Chargers' 11.
  • 3rd and 7 from the Chargers' 23, 4:56 left in the 1st Quarter. Jammer's DPI against Braylon Edwards gives the Jets' 1st and Goal from the 1, leading to a TD and 14-7 Jets' lead.
  • 1st and 10 from the Jets' 16, 10:41 in the 2nd Quarter. Back to back Holding calls against LT Mike Harris kill a potential TD drive and forces a long FG conversion by Novak, making the score 14-10.
  • 3rd and 6 from the 50, 12:45 left in the 3rd Quarter. Rivers completes a nice pass to Gates for 10 yards and a 1st down. Alexander's TD and a 17-14 Chargers' lead comes 3 plays later.
  • 3rd and 17 from the Jets' 45, 2:33 left in the 3rd Quarter. Rivers throws incomplete to WR Robert Meachem, but DB Darrin Walls is flagged for Defensive Holding and a Chargers' 1st down. Rivers' TD to Gates follows 2 plays later.

One Big Play: Gates' Record Breaker...


2nd and 4 from the Jets 34. The Chargers are in 22 formation, with Royal outside and Alexander in the slot. On the other side, TE Randy McMichael is outside, with Gates in the slot. Brown is standing to the right of Rivers. Notice the group of Jets' defenders loading on the left side.


Rivers moves McMichael over to his left side, and ILB Bart Scott moves with him: showing man-to-man. The Jets' have 8 defenders in the box. and a single-high safety (Yeremiah Bell). The call is something like an 884 H block F block. In this case, the 2 receivers are running the post routes, while Gates has a crossing route the other direction (Note: The pass routes are compressed to fit inside the image. The breaks are closer to the 20 yard line).


At the Snap: The Jets send 5 (the 5th man is S LaRon Landry #30). The 2 corners below (Cromartie inside on Alexander, Kyle Wilson outside on Royal) are man-to-man, and ILBs David Harris and Bart Scott are playing the short middle zone, looking for a quick pass to beat the blitz because their man assignments (Brown, McMichael) have stayed in to block. S Eric Smith is covering Gates man-to-man.


Rivers play fakes the draw to Brown, who stays in to block. McMicahel slides right to pick up the blitz, while the OLine slides left to pick up Landry. It turns into a 3 man pass route vs. 4 Jets defenders in the secondary, and 7 blockers for 5 rushers, and 2 ILBs caught in no man's land. Meanwhile, Gates has already beaten Smith inside, just as Alexander and Royal have beaten their men inside. Rivers should have his choice here.


Bart Scott comes late on a blitz once he realizes McMichael is staying in to block., but it's way, way too late. Rivers a has a clean look downfield, and steps into the throw...


Let's just say Gates (and Alexander) are wide open. For a welcome change... too easy.

Things I Liked:

  • Watching Tim Tebow sulk in his helmet on the sideline. Knowing now he asked out of playing is even better.
  • Watching Alexander burn former Chargers' CB and serial reproducer Antonio Cromartie for a TD.
  • Gates scoring the record-breaking TD.
  • Kendall Reyes and Corey Liuget dominating the Jets' O Line.
  • Norv not hesitating to replace struggling or ineffective players.
  • Watching the Chargers play a stronger 2nd half than the opponent and closing out a win.

Things I Didn't LIke:

  • Not seeing more of the kids.
  • Rivers playing meaningless football.
  • Brandon Taylor's infortunate injury.

Looking Forward To:

Hopefully a season sweep of Oakland. Hope everyone has a great Christmas.