Philip Rivers finished the game with 20 completions on 28 attempts (71.4%), for 288 yards and a robust 10.3 yards per attempt, with 3 TD passes and one turnover. Let's dispense with the turnover 1st - although Rivers did have pressure in his face, the INT was a forced throw to WR Keenan Allen in the end zone which also exposed Allen to an unnecessary hit from Jets' S Calvin Pryor.
On the good side, Rivers continues to show uncanny pocket awareness by knowing exactly when to climb the pocket, exactly when to break the pocket, and when to eat the sack and not risk a big mistake. His touch passes were terrific on Sunday, notably a pass to WR Eddie Royal on a slant-turned post, and the 2 TD passes to TE Antonio Gates. Considering the multiple looks given by the Jets defense, Rivers did a great job with the protections and keeping the offense in the right play. Honestly, this stretch by Rivers might be the best 4 game stretch of QB play in Chargers' history.
Running Backs: A-
RB Branden Oliver gave the Chargers their best overall game at RB this season. Oliver finished the game with 182 total yards on 23 touches. He rushed for 114 yards on 19 carries (6 YPC) with a 15 yard TD, and added 4 catches on 4 targets for 68 yards - 50 coming on an outlet pass after coverage broke down, and another TD on a 9 yard catch-and-run. Oliver showed nice patience when setting up his blocks, good burst when hitting the hole, and - surprisingly for a rookie RB - solid pass protection.
Prior to his concussion, RB Donald Brown finished with 10 touches (9 carries, 1 catch) for 30 yards (26 rushing, 4 receiving), while newly signed RB Shaun Draughn added 10 carries for 19 yards. Brown was also good on blitz pickup early in the game, helping to give Rivers time on the 1st Gates TD pass. At FB, David Johnson was erratic as the lead blocker - at times he appeared to not quite know which way to go, or which defender to pick up.
WR Malcom Floyd continues his strong rebound 2014 season, finishing with 3 catches on 3 targets for 72 yards. His long gain of 49 yards came on one of his now-classic jump ball receptions over a small DB. WR Eddie Royal continued with his solid run of recent play, hauling in 3 catches for 42 yards on 3 targets. Surprisingly (and possibly due to a minor leg injury during the game), WR Keenan Allen had a rough game, finishing with 3 catches for 25 yards on 7 targets. WR Seyi Ajirotutu added 1 catch for 11 yards on a nice outside spin move.
At TE, Antonio Gates had his second multiple-score game of the season, with 2 TDs among his 4 catches for 60 yards (on 6 targets). TE Ladarius Green finished with only 1 catch for 8 yards, although he had a TD catch taken off the board by a holding penalty. TE run-blocking was a mixed bag. Gates had a huge block on Oliver's long run, while Green was flagged for holding, and TE John Phillips was pushed around a bit until the Jets wore down late.
Offensive Line: B
Let's get the bad out of the way first. RG Johnnie Troutman had a rough game against DTs Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison even before he was injured. As has been the case this season, Troutman was regularly beat inside with quickness, allowing a sack even while drawing a hold, and looked utterly lost on pull blocks early, although he got better as the Jets wore down. Unfortunately, rookie G/C Chris Watt was not much better - he allowed pressure up the middle which helped lead to Rivers' INT, and also missed a pull block on OLB Quinton Coples which lead to the hit and concussion on Brown, along with Holding and Face Mask penalties.
RT D.J. Fluker was playing some of his best football this season prior to getting rolled up in the 1st half - with solid run and pass blocking. Later in the 2nd quarter, following his injury, he allowed a sack to OLB Calvin Pace on an inside spin. RT Willie Smith entered the game at the end of the 1st half, and also allowed a sack to Pace, but was otherwise serviceable throughout the 2nd half.
Otherwise, the left side of the offensive line (LT King Dunlap, LG Chad Rinehart, and C Doug Legursky) played solid football across the board. They were especially good at sealing backside blocks and picking up blocks downfield on runs in the 2nd half. Rivers saw very little pass pressure from the blind side.
Defensive Line: A
DTs Sean Lissemore and Ricardo Mathews made life miserable for Jets C Nick Mangold. They both regularly pushed him into the backfield, and or beat him with quick moves to his right side, resulting in a sack for Lissemore and a forced fumble by Mathews from RB Chris Johnson. DEs Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes did not have a flashy impact on the game, but they did do a nice job of pushing LG Brian Winters and RG Willie Colon into the middle to free up Pagano's blitzers on pass plays, and allowing the LBs and DBs to come up and make tackles in run support.
OLB Dwight Freeney had maybe his quietest game of the season so far, as he was largely neutralized by LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Freeney was moved occasionally to the right side, but did not have much success going against RT Breno Giacomini. On the other side, OLB Jarret Johnson was reliable in setting the edge and negating runs to his side, and while he was penalized (wrongly, in my opinion) for roughing QB Geno Smith, his hit early in the game made it clear early who the aggressors were. It should be noted that following this hit, Smith never looked comfortable.
Inside, ILB Donald Butler finally started showing some of his late 2013 form on Sunday. Butler only recorded 3 tackles, but he generally looked more comfortable in space, took better angles to the ball, didn't whiff on tackles, and posted a sack of QB Michael Vick off a blitz in the 3rd quarter. ILB Kavell Conner also performed solidly in relief of Manti Te'o, recording 3 tackles and getting some pressure off of blitzes during the game.
CB Brandon Flowers is continuing to look like the steal of 2014 free agency for the Chargers. Flowers came down with his 2nd INT of the season, and finished with 2 other passes defensed. CB Jason Verrett was strong outside in relief of Shareece Wright, finishing with a pass defense and only allowing 2 receptions on short routes. As the 3rd CB, I'd even say that CB Richard Marshall was not the liability he normally is - his Defensive Interference penalty was questionable and came long after the game had been decided.
SS Jahleel Addae did a nice job in run support, leading the defense with 5 tackles, and recovering the fumble forced by Mathews. FS Eric Weddle finished with 4 tackles and 1 pass defensed. S Marcus Gilchrist was also solid in this game, finishing with 2 passes defensed and forcing an Intentional Grounding penalty on Vick off a blitz.
Special Teams: B
PK Nick Novak converted his on FG opportunity of 34 yards, but generated only 1 touchback in 6 kickoffs. P Mike Scifres finished with 5 punts, with a net of 35.8 yards, 2 dropped inside the 20, and 1 touchback - not the fault of Scifres. Kick coverage was strong as usual, with Ajirotutu making 2 nice tackles. As usual, the kick and return teams contributed little, with Royal gaining only 2 yards on his punt return, and Allen gaining 10 yards on his return.
Mike McCoy and his staff deserve a tremendous amount of credit for continuing to get quality results despite the injuries ravaging the roster. In this week's case, there's probably no worse opponent for a struggling offensive line than the Jets front seven. McCoy, Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich, and Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris deserve much credit for finding a way to make the current group work, and making sure nothing the Jets did was a surprise.
My only criticism of McCoy would be that he left several starters on the field long after the outcome was decided, and he was risking catastrophic injury against a team which had already lost it's composure during the game.
More specifically to Reich, it was nice to see him run similar concepts repeatedly against the Jets' blitzes, such as the shallow crosses to Gates - if it's not broke, don't fix it. Same compliment for Defensive Coordinator John Pagano, who repeatedly attacked the middle of the Jets' offensive line with blitzes and stunts, moving Smith and Vick off their spot and making them throw under duress.
5 Biggest Hidden (i.e. non-scoring, non-turnover) Plays:
- 14:26 1st Qtr. Jets 2nd and 9 at NYJ 17. Geno Smith is hit hard by OLB Jarret Johnson following an incomplete pass, drawing a (questionable) roughing the passer penalty. Though it results in a 1st down, the Chargers set the tone early.
- 10:52 1st Qtr. Chargers 3rd and 9 at SD 25. Philip Rivers converts with a 49 yard pass play to Malcom Floyd, helping to set up SD's first touchdown.
- 00:38 1st Qtr. Jets 3rd and 8 at NYJ 20. Smith throws deep down the seam for TE Jeff Cumberland, initially drawing a Defensive Pass Interference penalty. Following a conference, the referees pick up the flag, forcing the Jets to punt.
- 2:51 2nd Qtr. Chargers 3rd and 17 at SD 27. Rivers evades the pass rush and finds Oliver all alone in the right flat. Oliver catches and runs for 50 yards, setting up his own TD run and a 21-0 Chargers lead at halftime.
- 10:10 3rd Qtr. Chargers 2nd and 6 at SD 26. Oliver breaks free down the left side for a 52 yard gain, setting up his later TD reception and a 28-0 Chargers' lead, effectively ending the game.
Looking Forward To:
Raider Week, Part One. Hopefully, the Chargers will be burying Tony Sparano's interim coaching career with the same enthusiasm with which Sparano buries footballs. And maybe, hopefully, a game without any serious injuries.