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Week 14 Grades: New York Giants at San Diego Chargers

With fan disfavorite Eli Manning and the New York Giants serving as the piñata, the Chargers put their biggest beating on an opponent this season, and kept themselves on the playoff respirator for at least another week.

Keenan Allen. Just freaking awesome!
Keenan Allen. Just freaking awesome!
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Quarterback: A minus

Another strong game from Philip Rivers, who completed 21 of his 28 attempts (75%) for 249 yards (8.89 YPA) with 3 TDs and no INTs. Rivers was really good in again in this game at giving his receivers an opportunity to run after the catch, and was really good stepping up into the pocket. His first TD pass to WR Keenan Allen was a gorgeous touch pass down the right sideline. He was also terrific with the snap count, drawing multiple Giants offsides penalties.

The only real negative play from Rivers was the strip-fumble at the opening of the 3rd quarter which lead to a Giants' TD. While I love Rivers' moxie in diving into the pile after a fumble, the Chargers were very lucky to avoid a major injury to their most irreplaceable player.

On a side note: hooray for Charlie Whitehurst! Finally, the Chargers build a big enough lead to allow the coaches to get Rivers off the field, and allow Clipboard Jesus the opportunity to finish off the game.

Running Backs: A minus

RB Ryan Mathews continues his career best season with another strong running performance, with 103 tough yards on 29 carries (a modest 3.6 YPC), and a TD from a 1 yard run. Mathews continues to run strong and fight off contact, while also doing a nice job of protecting the football. Mathews also continues to grow in the passing game, with 3 catches (4 targets) for another 30 yards. The only negative in Mathews' performance was a missed pass block which helped contribute to a QB sack.

RB Danny Woodhead contributed 42 yards rushing on 7 carries (6 YPC), along with another 52 yards receiving on 4 catches (5 targets), including a 6 yard TD and a sensational 39 yard jump ball reception against CB Jayron Hosley. RB Ronnie Brown added 1 reception for 13 yards on 3rd down, and FB Le'Ron McClain covered a 3rd and 1 with his 1 carry for 1 yard.

Receivers: A minus

Before and after a shoulder injury that caused him to miss part of the game, WR Keenan Allen did serious damage to the Giants secondary. Allen caught all 3 of his targets for 59 yards and 2 TDs. The first was a 43 yard catch and run where Allen ran right past CB Terrell Thomas, then was athletic enough to reach the pylon by tiptoeing along the sideline and diving for the pylon. His second TD was a veteran's TD - splitting the zone between two defenders in the corner of the endzone (see One Play I really Liked below).

WR Vincent Brown rebounded a little bit after struggling for several weeks, with 3 catches for 30 yards (4 targets). His only miss was when he didn't come back hard for the ball on a curl route, but he rectified this error on his other receptions. WR Eddie Royal contributed 3 catches for 13 yards (4 targets). TE Antonio Gates rebounded from the worst game of his career, posting 4 catches for 50 yards (6 targets), and two 3rd down catches to extend scoring drives. The biggest disappointment was TE Ladarius Green being targeted only once, and being held without a catch.

Offensive Line: B

In his first game back from injury, LT King Dunlap had a solid game in pass protection against RDE Mathias Kiwanuka, not yielding a sack and only a couple of pressures. Dunlap was also solid in run blocking, although he didn't quite have the dominance he showed earlier in the season. Back at LG for the first time in a couple months, LG Chad Rinehart was solid again in pass and run blocking, although he was a little slow on some pulls to the right. C Nick Hardwick struggled a bit in this game - he had a few bad shotgun snaps to Rivers, and had some issues blocking LDT Linval Joseph.

RG Jeromey Clary was decent on runs up the middle, but was a bit slow on pulls to the left and also got beat a couple of times by Joseph on stretch runs. RT DJ Fluker had a tough game, going against LDE Justin Tuck. Tuck beat Fluker for the strip-sack of Rivers to start the 3rd quarter, which briefly gave the Giants life. Surprisingly, the Chargers really didn't run right behind Clary and Fluker in this game, but Fluker was really good again at finishing blocks and finishing plays, especially when pulling left.

Defensive Line: C plus

A very solid effort from LDE Kendall Reyes, who got the better of RG David Diehl for much of the game. He was good at using his speed to slow down plays in the backfield, and forced the Giants to run away from him later in the game. He also beat Diehl for a sack with a terrific bull rush. DT Cam Thomas played better in limited action this week, getting good push on pass plays against C Kevin Boothe.

RDE Corey Liuget got washed out a couple of times by LG James Brewer early in the game, but got stronger as the game went on and was able to combine for a half sack. In limited action, DE Lawrence Guy had another near big play, hitting QB Eli Manning from behind and forcing an incompletion which was very nearly a sack and forced fumble. He also batted another pass at the line of scrimmage.

Linebackers: B minus

For the 2nd straight week, ILB Manti Te'o was good in pass coverage. He had another pass defensed which was very nearly an INT, and was also good covering RB Andre Brown out of the backfield. His tackling is also continuing to improve, although this week he guessed wrong on more than a couple running plays by shooting the wrong gap. ILB Donald Butler also had a solid game in pass coverage, although he gave up a garbage time TD to TE Brandon Myers. Butler's big contribution was collecting a tip drill INT after hustling downfield on a pass play to snuff out a Giants drive in the 1st quarter. He also narrowly missed a second INT when he couldn't hold a diving attempt.

On the outside, OLB Jarret Johnson was a welcome sight, as he did his usual solid job of setting the edge and preventing runs to the outside. When he was replaced, his loss was noticeable, as returning OLB Melvin Ingram struggled to hold the edge in his first game of the season. Ingram was good in attacking the ball carrier - he and LB Reggie Williams combined on the tackle which resulted in a fumble by Andre Brown - and he did get some nice push when attacking the passer. OLB Thomas Keiser was generally a negligible presence, although he did combine with Liuget for a late sack.

Secondary: C

CBs Richard Marshall and Shareece Wright struggled between them to cover WR Hakeem Nicks, who finished with 135 receiving yards (although 43 came on a Hail Mary at the end of the 1st half). Early in the game, Marshall also struggled with his tackling, but improved as the game went on. Both players fared better against WR Victor Cruz, who had a limited impact with 42 receiving yards. Both players also made some nice plays in coverage, combining for 5 passes defensed, and Wright did come away with a 4th quarter INT against Manning. In limited duty, CBs Johnny Patrick and Derek Cox did not allow any big plays.

SS Marcus Gilchrist is playing much better now that he's near the line of scrimmage and allowed to attack downhill instead of being lost in deep zone coverage. Gilchrist recovered the fumble forced by Williams, and finished with a team high 7 tackles. He was also solid in coverage downfield against TEs Brent Pascoe and Brandon Myers. FS Eric Weddle did not have any major plays, but was solid in run support. He was a bit late on the 51 yard pass to Nicks in the 1st quarter.

Special Teams: B minus

Given a 2nd opportunity, PK Nick Novak had a perfect day, converting his 3 (official) FG attempts of 36, 27, and 43 yards. On kickoffs, he generated only 1 touchback on 7 kicks, but the coverage teams were strong again, led by Ladarius Green this week. P Mike Scifres had a quiet game, with his 1 punt of 39 yards landing inside the Giants' 20 yard line. Punt blocking continues to struggle giving either Keenan Allen or Eddie Royal room to run, as the 3 punts received resulted in 2 returns for 2 yards and 1 fair catch. On kickoffs, Ronnie Brown managed to return 2 kicks for 34 total yards.

Coaching: B

Jason Peters did a nice job examining Mike McCoy's 4th down decision making, and since I fully agree with his conclusions, I see no need to rehash them here. One good decision I do want to highlight was McCoy's challenge on the Andre Brown fumble in the 2nd quarter. Whether McCoy won the challenge or not, it was a good decision based on the high potential reward - possession in NYG territory and eliminating an end of half possession.

I'm wondering if the decision not to feature Ladarius Green was a conscious choice by OC Ken Whisenhunt, as he felt WR Eddie Royal presented a better matchup. Otherwise, I really liked his decision to push the running game, even though the gains were steady as opposed to explosive. He's also getting really good at integrating Mathews' straight line speed on flare and flat passes.

I'd also have to say that this was probably DC John Pagano's best game this season. It appears that he has finally figured out a) what his best corner combination is (not that it's great) b) playing Gilchrist closer to the line takes better advantage of his skills and c) putting Reyes, Thomas, and Liuget in more 1 gap situations helps them play better. I'd still like to see some more aggressive blitzing combinations, but at this point, I'll settle for something that approaches functionality.

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

  • 14:25 2nd Qtr, 3rd and 5 SD at SD 47. Rivers converts the 2nd of 3 3rd downs on this drive, this time for 13 yards to Ronnie Brown, and eventually resulting in a FG.
  • 11:10 2nd Qtr, 4th and 7 SD at NYG 23. PK Nick Novak comes in to kick a 41 yard FG, which is missed right. However, Novak gets another chance due to an offsides penalty, and converts from 36 yards for a 10-0 SD lead.
  • 8:38 2nd Qtr, 3rd and 12 SD at SD 31. Rivers completes a 15 yard pass to Antonio Gates to extend the possession, which takes over 6 minutes and results in the 2nd TD pass to Keenan Allen and a 17-0 Chargers lead.
  • 7:27 3rd Qtr, 3rd and 4 SD at NYG 48. De Justin Tuck jumps offsides, resulting in a 5 yard penalty and a 1st down, extending the drive.
  • 6:36 3rd Qtr, 3rd and 3 SD at NYG 37. Rivers throws into the end zone for WR Vincent Brown, who is covered by LB Spencer Paysinger. Paysinger commits inter fence to prevent a TD catch, giving the Chargers 1st and Goal at the 1. Mathews scores 3 plays later for a 31-7 Chargers lead.

One Play I Really Liked: Keenan Allen's 2nd TD catch.


  1. Chargers come out in 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs). On the left side, TE Ladarius Green is outside, with WR Keenan Allen in the slot. RB Danny Woodhead is flanking Rivers' left. On the right, TE Antonio Gates is in the slot, with WR Vincent Brown outside.
  2. The Giants are in a 4 man front, with no one showing blitz.
  3. Green comes in motion behind Allen, stopping between Allen and LT King Dunlap. No one moves with him, which means the Giants are likely playing zone coverage.
  4. At the snap, Green runs a shallow cross, Allen runs a corner, and Woodhead runs a Texas route. Note that Woodhead's outside release is so fast, he forces Giants CB Prince Amukamara to honor a flat route into his short left (goal line) zone. Meanwhile, Allen slips past him.
  5. Once Woodhead breaks back inside, Amukamara is in no man's land. Also, S Antrel Rolle who has the back left of the end zone, is late getting to the outside on Allen.
  6. Allen's route splits the zones of Amukamara and Rolle perfectly, and Rivers has an easy TD pass.

Looking Ahead To:

The Chargers trying to beat two Mannings in 5 Days - in a Thursday night game which has a chance to be watchable, and actually has some meaning in terms of playoff positioning.