There's been a lot of talk about how the Chargers offense performed against the Patriots and how they were outmatched, out coached, and didn't make the needed adjustments. This is mostly true. Players we're used to seeing didn't play to the level they did and Frank Reich didn't seem to have an answer for the Patriots press-man Cover 1 scheme that doubled Antonio Gates on passing downs. What I've seen a lot during and post game was that "Rivers didn't have time" and "maybe if he wasn't facing constant pressure it would've been different. I didn't feel that way during the game so I decided to re-watch the game with someone smarter than me and see what how he felt the offense line performed.
I got the offensive line coach from the high school I coach at to sit down and go through each play with me to grade the line. He played football at the University of Iowa and I respect him his opinion so I thought this would be a fun task. Just how most teams do it, you get a "+" if your technique was right and you didn't get beat. You get a "-" for reverse and in the end you get a percentage grade. So that's what we did for this game. We understand that guys are going to get beat so ideally you'd like them in the low to mid 80's. I will go from left to right.
King Dunlap - 87% effective
King only had 7 plays where he received a minus. While he allowed 2 QB hits late in the game, this was about as good of a game as you could ask from your left tackle. The Chargers ask Dunlap to climb to the 2nd level quite a bit and he had no issues getting there and sealing off LBs. Dunlap also did a good job of blocking down when asked as well. It's impressive to see a man like Dunlap move for his size. All in all, it was a very good game. Something we're used to seeing with Dunlap. I think because Dunlap isn't flashy, he doesn't really get the credit he deserves, but more often than not he resembles the vine below. He just gets the job done.
Dunlap blocks down on the defensive tackle, and then seals off the linebacker. Very good play that won't get much recognition.
Chad Rinehart - 78% effective
Playing in between the 2 best lineman on the team, you would think Rinehart would be better on a week-to-week basis, but he's making the same mistakes week in and week out. Whether it's falling off blocks after he made good initial contact or completely whiffing when he's asked to block the linebacker at the next level. I think the biggest concern is that, for the most part, Rinehart isn't even losing to the oppositions best player. There were a few runs where if he just sustained his block a half count longer the run would've hit, or Philip Rivers would've been able to get the pass off.
These are simple plays that need to be executed for this run game to work. It's something that just hasn't happened. Don't be surprised if there are 2 starting guards next year.
Chris Watt - 78% effective
Up until this week, Watt was giving Dunlap a strong run for the best offensive lineman on the team. Hell, if you told me he was the best lineman I don't know if I would argue that. This was probably his worst game and it all started with the 1st sack he yielded. It's funny how 1 play can alter an entire teams game plan. The Patriots would sugar those A-gaps just like they showed the past few weeks. Watt didn't pick up the linebacker, gave up a sack. After that, New England smelled blood. They used a similar blitz a handful of times and had success up the middle. If Watt handles the 1st blitz initially, I don't think we see them run it nearly as much as they did. So it was just good coaching on their part. In the vine below, New England puts their best blitzer over Watt and he just uses his athleticism for the sack.
No way am I writing off Watt. It was a bad game for a guy who didn't practice all week against a tough matchup. We've seen him do some very good things recently and he continued to show those things this game, too. He looked like Nick Hardwick last week. I fully expect for him to bounce back against the Broncos.
Johnnie Troutman - 82% effective
Such a confusing player. There are times where Troutman can look like he has a spot on the roster for years to come. Then there are times where you question why he is on the field. Troutman has the balance of a toddler who is just learning to walk. He also has a tendency to play too high, and good defensive lineman will get up under him and put him on skates. He still hasn't found the chemistry with D.J. Fluker just yet, but I think they've gotten better. Troutman showed this game when he's the aggressor, he can take you where he wants you to go and sometimes even put you on your back. I wouldn't be surprised if the team upgraded at the position in the offseason, but Troutman is not lacking talent. It's his limited athleticism that's holding him back in my opinion.
Here is "bad Johnnie." Where he gets stood up and thrown to the side like a rag doll. These are the plays that drive you nuts because when he's the aggressor.
He can do things like this. In the run game, he's good on combo blocks but has a tendency to hold on to the initial block a little long. It's the small things like this he needs to iron out to take his game to another level.
D.J. Fluker - 84% effective
The whipping boy of the offensive line had another good game. I would compare Fluker to a closer in baseball. Fans are going to remember the 2-3 home runs you give up every now and then and completely block out the 11 inning hitless streak you just pitched. That's the case with Fluker. He'll give up a home run, many times it's a grand slam, but for the majority of the game he's a good player. He has his lapses and I mentioned the miscommunication is still an issue with him and Troutman(led to a sack).
Fluker gave up 2 QB hits and a sack this game, but only blew 1 true block. That's less than Dunlap. It was his technique that caused him to grade out lower than Dunlap. Fluker's issues in the run game are when he has to cut off a second level defender that's at an angle where he just can't cross his face. In the passing game he'll get beat once on a speed move, but the real issue is not making first contact, and getting bull-rushed into Rivers. I think we counted 3 times where he did this in the run game.
That's so impressive to me that Fluker seemingly does this every game, yet all I hear is moving him inside. Fluker is fine where he is, you guys.
I think my biggest takeaway was that the line, while they certainly had their faults at times, wasn't as big of an issue as many made them out to be. It was just an off day by the quarterback and not a great game plan by Reich. That's going to happen and when it does, these are the results. Hopefully, the offense can bounce back next week, and I think that they will.