Philip Rivers didn't just have a pedestrian day by his 2014 standards - he was simply pedestrian. Rivers completed 17 of his 31 attempts (54.8%) for 205 yards (6.61 YPA), with 2 TDs and one late INT coming in desperation time. As was the case last week against Oakland, and the case against Arizona, Rivers frequently held the ball much longer than he should have, especially considering the problems his Offensive Line had with providing consistent pass protection. Rivers did lose the ball on sack by OLD/DE Tamba Hali, but recovered the fumble.
That said, Rivers was fairly efficient on his deep shots. Excepting the last 2 desperation throws, Rivers went 3 for 7 for 78 yards and the TD pass to TE Antonio Gates. Also, for the first time this season, there were plays where Rivers seemed antsy in the pocket, and heaved the ball instead of taking the 1st available option. Also, there were some throws late in the end zone to WRs Malcom Floyd and Keenan Allen where Rivers didn't do a good job of throwing them open.
Running Backs: B
RB Branden Oliver didn't get a whole lot of chances, but he was solid with the chances he got. Oliver finished with 78 yards on 17 touches (15 rushes, 67 yards, 4.5 YPC) and 2 receptions for 11 yards on 2 targets. As was evident last week, Oliver continued to show good burst into the hole, was able to stay low and power through tacklers, and this week showed a good understanding of when to cut upfield on outside zone runs. He wasn't quite as good in pass protection as last week, however.
RB Ronnie Brown finished with 1 rush for 2 yards, and 1 reception for 4 yards, but was much more valuable in pass protection , where was good in helping the OTs with chip blocks on Hali and Houston.
WR Keenan Allen should have had a much bigger impact in this game. Allen finished with 6 receptions on 10 targets for 58 yards. Allen owned the Chiefs DBs (often CB Jamell Fleming) on quick outs, hitches, and curls. Why he wasn't thrown to more often on 1st and 2nd down is something I don't understand. Beyond Allen, WR Malcom Floyd finished with 3 catches on 7 targets for 50 yards. Confusingly, WR Eddie Royal the primary downfield target against the Chiefs, and (as he did against Arizona) struggled badly in that role. Royal finished with 1 catch on 5 targets for 20 yards, and had at least 2 killer drops.
Among the TEs, Antonio Gates had the best statistical day with 3 catches on 5 targets for 61 yards, and a sensational TD catch off a pass deflected a Chiefs' DB. Otherwise, John Phillips added 1 catch for a 1 yard TD on a sweet play-action fake. Blocking-wise, however, the TEs struggled for the second straight game. On 2 or 3 instances, the Chargers attempt to power run was thwarted by bad blocking from Gates, PHIllips, and TE David Johnson.
Offensive Line: D
Without question, this was the worst game LT King Dunlap has played this season. Dunlap allowed the strip sack to DE Hali, along with several other pressures, On the opposite side, RT D.J. Fluker also allowed a sack against OLB Justin Houston 9though it appeared he might have gotten feet tangled with RG Chris Watt) along with some additional pressures.
On the inside, LG Chad Rinehart struggled badly against DE Allen Bailey, allowing pressure up the middle and getting beat in the run game.C Rich Ohrnberger had a tough draw against DT Dontari Poe, but basically held his own in the running game with some occasional help from the Gs. On pass plays however, Poe's presence helped prevent Rivers from stepping up into the pocket. The best overall game probably came from the RG tandem of Johnnie Troutman and Chris Watt, and of the two, Watt looked better. Watt did a nice job finishing off plays, and his athleticism was welcome on the zone runs to the right side.
Defensive Line: C-
This was DE Corey Liuget playing really well, and a mixed bag otherwise. It's a sign of how well Liuget played that he managed to 4 solo tackles, along with a sack and a pass defensed despite drawing near constant double teams, and the Chiefs running away from him almost the entire game. He also managed to draw a killer (and dubious) face mask penalty late in the game. In limited duty, DT Ryan Carrethers finished with 5 solo tackles with 1 TFL showing some nice quickness to go with his strength. DE Tenny Palepoi finished with 2 TFLs.
DT Sean Lissemore struggled going against C Rodney Hudson, and despite reversing sides with Liuget regularly, the Chiefs made a point of attacking him all game, regardless of where he was lined up. His inability to hold ground on run plays is becoming a major defensive liability, and he's not winning enough on pass plays to make up for it.
I'm convinced ILB Donald Butler is playing hurt. Never mind making impact plays, or controlling the line of scrimmage - as he has against the Chiefs in the past - Butler looks like he's lost about 2 steps since last season, is taking terrible angles to the ball, and lunging at ball carriers instead of breaking down and wrapping guys up. ILB Kavell Conner, on the other hand, is doing yeoman's work, doing a solid job filling gaps and making good tackles for limited gains.
OLB Dwight Freeney once again did a nice job generating hurries whenever Smith held the ball, and gave LT Eric Fisher fits, although his one sack was wiped out by a bad penalty. OLB Jarret Johnson was another player the Chiefs ran away from, yet he still controlled his side of the field and managed to beat Fisher for a sack - while avoiding some really dirty cut blocks by the Chiefs offense. The trio of OLB Tourek Williams, Reggie Walker, and Andrew Gachkar were not good in this game - Williams lost contain more than once, Walker drew a terrible roughing the passer penalty, and Gachkar was lost in space in zone coverage.
Secondary (Everyone but Marshall): B
Best things first. DB Marcus Gilchrist rebounded from a shaky game against Oakland and played solid in coverage and against the run, finishing with 5 solo tackles and 1 sack. FS Eric Weddle finished with 8 solo tackles, and helped clean up a lot of mess left by the players ahead of him. CB Shareece Wright was also strong in the tackling department with 7 solo tackles and only 1 completion allowed. in his limited action CB Brandon Flowers allowed 1 catch when he overplayed a slant pass, but was otherwise solid before leaving.
Richard Marshall: F
However, once Flowers left, that meant Richard Marshall came into the game. As said in Bolts & Dolts, Marshall allowed 4 catches on 7 targets for 62 yards, and it should have been MUCH worse. The 3 incompletions were a dropped pass by WR Junior Hemingway which should have gone for a TD, a drop by WR Dwayne Bowe which would have extended a Chiefs' drive, and a throwaway by QB Alex Smith. That doesn't include a killer defensive holding penalty on 3rd down which extended a Chiefs drive and led to a TD on the next play. The Chiefs' WR hands were better pass defenders than Richard Marshall was in this game.
Special Teams: C+
Congratulation to PK Nick Novak, who broke a team record with 31 consecutive FGs. His kicks of 27 and 47 yards came in the 4th Quarter and allowed the Chargers to (briefly) draw even. On kickoffs, Novak couldn't generate any touchbacks, although the kickoff coverage units were solid. P Mike Scifres was excellent, with a net of 47.6 yards per punt on 5 kicks, with 1 placed inside the 10 and no touchbacks. Punt coverage units in this game struggled some with PR De'Anthony Thomas, who had a 27 yard return on one of his 3 returns.
I hated the play sequence with just more than 3 minutes remaining, with the Chargers trailing by 3 and a chance to win the game - it smacked of Head Coach Mike McCoy settling for the FG. And to further beat a dead horse, I vehemently disagreed with McCoy burning a timeout in an attempt to ice Chiefs PK Cairo Santos. I don't care if it ultimately didn't affect the endgame; the timeout was more valuable employed in the service of a game-tying or (had Santos missed) game-winning drive. For what it's worth, the loss ran McCoy's record in 1 score games to 5-8 in his career so far.
On offense, this was the second consecutive game where the Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich went away from the short passing game and attempted to push the ball down field. Considering the struggles the offensive line has had in generating consistent run and pass blocking, and considering the inability of the Chargers to maintain possession due to being placed in repeated 3rd and long situations, the insistence on vertical passing was problematic. It was even worse, considering the success Allen had on short routes, and the utter misuse of Royal on deep routes.
Defensive Coordinator John Pagano should know the book on Alex Smith: He doesn't throw deep, and he doesn't throw to his left. It stands to reason that the Chargers might have a) stacked the box against the Chiefs running game, b) forced Smith to hold the ball by flooding shallow and offensive right zones, c) blitzed Smith and forced him to beat the defense deep. And considering Richard Marshall playing off was like handing out 12 yard gains - Pagano did very little to help his defense get off the field. Also, teams have figured out they can run at will against Pagano's 2-4-5 nickel.
5 Biggest Hidden (i.e. non-scoring, non turnover) Plays
- 1:57 4th Qtr. KC 2nd and 10 at KC 8. Smith scrambles up the middle for a 9 yard gain, and draws a face mask call against Liuget. 3rd and 1 at the KC 17 with a running clock becomes 1st and 10 at KC 32, losing only 8 seconds off the clock. The Chiefs take the lead on a 48 yard FG with 0:21 remaining.
- 0:16 3rd Qtr. KC 3rd and 5 at SD 15. Smith is sacked by Freeney and Weddle forcing a FG attempt, except Mashall is flagged for defensive holding. With the resulting 1st down, KC scores a TD on the next play.
- 8:50 3rd Qtr. KC 3rd and 7 at the SD 22. Smith finds Bowe open for a 1st down, who drops the pass and forces the Chiefs to settle for a 4o yard FG.
- 1:05 2nd Qtr. KC 3rd and 6 at the KC 49. Smith finds a wide-open Junior Hemingway on a slant, who drops the pass. A completion almost certainly results in the Chiefs bleeding the clock and scoring at least a FG to close the half.
- 7:01 2nd Qtr. KC 3rd and 11 at SD 45. Smith throws deep and incomplete for A.J. Jenkins, but the Chiefs gain a 1st down following a roughing the passer call against Walker. The drive results in a Chiefs FG.
Looking Ahead To:
Watching the 2014 Chargers impression of a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest in Denver on Thursday night. To make matters worse, work on Friday limits alcohol consumption to dull the pain of rooting for the one-legged man.