2:22 left to go in the game. No timeouts. You need a touchdown to stay ahead of the pack in the playoff race. You need to go 80 yards to get said touchdown against one of the best defenses in the league that features the league leader in sacks who, by the way, had already registered 2 "QB hits" in the game.
Offensive coordinator Frank Reich would need to figure out a way to get the points while not allowing enough time for the Ravens to march down the field and kick a field goal. A tall task. Let's go over the San Diego Chargers game-winning touchdown drive.
Play #1: 1st & 10; SD 20 yard line; 2:22 remaining
Baltimore shows a blitz up the middle by sugaring the A-gap with both inside linebackers. They end up bringing the slot defensive back from the top of the screen on a blitz.
The Chargers have their patented "switch route" on to the top of the screen. Philip Rivers, who I'll get to as the week goes on, recognizes the blitz and hangs in there just long enough for the route to develop and hits Keenan Allen on a quick in route. The DB over plays it, Allen makes him miss and cuts back out for a gain of 14 and gets out of bounds. Good play all-around. Here it is full speed.
Play #2; 1st & 10; SD 34 yard line; 2:16 remaining
Nothing too special about the second play. The Ravens rush four and are playing soft coverage; Reich has a good route combination on as Eddie Royal runs off his man and Allen runs to the sticks and turns around. Rivers has plenty of time in the pocket and it's an easy pitch and catch.
With some guy named Anthony Levine is guarding Keenan, this sort of outcome is to be expected. Another low risk throw for a gain of 12.
Play #3; 1st & 10; SD 46 yard line; 2:00 remaining
Baltimore bring five this time, and new center Trevor Robinson fails to account for the blitzing linebacker and it forces Rivers to get rid of the ball much quicker than he would have liked to. Which is unfortunate because it appeared that they were attempting a back shoulder fade, something the team doesn't try nearly enough in my opinion. Here's a look at the play.
You can also see that D.J. Fluker didn't account for the blitzing linebacker (57) his way, either. Hard to get too mad at Robinson here. Yes, he blows his assignment and this could've been very costly. However, the guy probably didn't take a rep all week. The fact that he wasn't a liability out there is a positive.
Play #4; 2nd and 5; BAL 49; 1:52 remaining
After the Ravens were offsides, Baltimore sugars the A-gaps again to give the illusion that they're bringing pressure up the middle but this time they bluff. Another good route combination on here as both receivers to the top of the screen run off coverage and Royal is able to catch a quick underneath route and get out of bounds for a gain of 10.
Fluker had a rough game and got beat on the play; but Donald Brown did a good job of hitting the edge rusher just enough to allow Rivers to get off the pass just in time.
Play #5; 1st and 10; BAL 39; 1:46 remaining
The Ravens again show blitz, and bring six. Rivers sees it, checks into a screen pass to Allen and the play goes for 7 yards. I know it's easy to second guess things after the fact, but if Keenan cuts it inside towards his blockers instead of attacking the safety, he strolls in for a touchdown. Probably a good thing he didn't here. Good open field tackle by the safety.
Play #6; 2nd and 3; BAL 32; 1:13 remaining
I thought this would be the play that Reich decided to take a shot at the end zone. If it's incomplete you leave yourself with two downs to get 3 yards. This was a screen pass to the slot to Royal. I wasn't a fan of this call. The screens have worked well for the team recently, but screens on back to back plays? The Ravens sniffed it out pretty easily and as soon as their man released to block they went with them. Good play by them and one of the few questionable calls by Reich who called an otherwise outstanding game. Rivers ended up throwing the ball at Royal's feet.
Play #7; 3rd and 3; BAL 32; 1:09 remaining
In the biggest down of the game Reich puts his five best receivers on the field. From left to right: Floyd, Royal, Gates, Green, Allen. Going empty is a bit risky given the Ravens pass rush success leading up to this point, but their secondary had been so bad that you'd think at least one of the receivers would be able to get open, and they did just that.
Another great route combination here. Good zone beater as you can high-low the defender.
In this case, the both players went with Gates on the flag route leaving both Royal and Floyd open underneath.
This (see below) is not ideal, Fluker. Rivers did a great job all day hanging in the pocket and taking hits while still delivering the ball on the money. This one for a gain of 8.
The Pass Interference
First of all, 1st and 10 from your own 24 yard line is a great time to take a shot, so good play call there. It's going to be an incomplete, a touchdown, or a penalty, especially with a guy like Floyd. As far as the penalty and people complaining about the call, I really don't know what to tell you. Receiver goes up to catch the ball, DB holds receiver, DB gets called for a flag. There's really nothing to see here.
He almost has Floyd in a complete bear hug, there's nothing ticky tack about the foul.
Play #8; 1st and goal; BAL 1; 41 seconds remaining
I don't know why I didn't see this screen coming. Maybe I just wanted to see Mathews get a TD here. Ravens sugar the a-gaps again with both linebackers. Ravens send seven on this one and this is a great call by Reich with great execution. It's 2-on-2 on the outside, it's a "tunnel" screen so Royal works his way back to the quarterback. Allen gets a big block on the outside, Dunlap doesn't have to block anyone. Royal could've commando crawled in the end zone it was so wide open. I saw people complaining that it was offensive pass interference on Allen but he doesn't make contact until Royal has caught the pass. People just reach for anything, man.
Here's the play; I thought it was funny how Dunlap celebrated and he had no idea what was going on behind him.
Friday I did a preview and prediction that had goals for both the offense and defense. I wanted to revisit them to see if they were too lofty. I did feel like they were essential to a Chargers victory.
-45% or better on 3rd down
Welp. I imagine that this was the best game of the season for the Chargers on 3rd down, going 9-11. This was crucial as the team had been 8-27 their last 2 games. The offense did a good job of keeping themselves in 3rd and short and were able to convert. That's such a good conversion rate for a defense that's this good up front.
-60% or better TD percentage in Red Zone
The offense was 3-5 in the red zone, so exactly 60%. The 2 "failed" drives came off of pretty crucial mistakes. The drop down in the red zone by Mathews and Fluker forcing a fumble on his own teammate. Again, very good against a good defense.
-5 or more plays over 15 yards
This one was pretty greedy on my part. But the Chargers finished with 8 plays over 15 yards and 2 more that went for 14. I thought they did a very good job of dictating what the Ravens did and exploiting mismatches.
-50% or less TD's in the red area
We knew the Ravens would move the ball but the defense would have to find a way to hold them. I never would've thought they would make it to the red area 7 times. But holding them to 3 touchdowns was certainly the difference in this game. It wasn't the greatest game by any means defensively but 42% is a good number.
-3 or fewer explosive plays
The 1st goal so far the team failed. They gave up 5 explosive plays(run of 15+/pass of 20+) and there was plenty of other yardage given up due to penalties. The defense reverted back to some of the poor tackling that we saw earlier in the year. Have to clean that up if they want to keep winning.
-40% or less on third down
Another failed goal on the defense. They gave up 7-12. You'd like for them to be in the 40-45% range at worst but giving up 58% to a team that doesn't exactly scare you with weapons is a problem.
This was probably one of the more fun games to watch. We should all know by now every game is going to go down to the wire. We all hate that we love this team so much but damn these games are fun.