After a big win, this list is usually a little lopsided. Today, that is less the case. It's not so much that the San Diego Chargers were the more talented team in their 30-21 win over the Seattle Seahawks, but they were better coached. Mike McCoy, Frank Reich, and John Pagano all came up with gameplans that hid weaknesses and highlighted strengths. If I were in the business of handing out Bolts to coaches, each of them would get one from me.
Onto the Bolts & Dolts!
Philip Rivers - 28/37, 284 pass yds, 3 pass TD, 11 rushes, 17 rush yds
Well, that looked a lot more like the Philip Rivers from last season. Replace all of his nervous energy against the Cardinals with confidence, and a little arrogance, and you have the El Capitan who showed up to beat the defending Super Bowl champions.
Outside of one or two poor decisions that fell harmlessly to the turf, Rivers was perfect. Every pass was right on the money, and he didn't seem bothered to be going up against the best defense in the league. Perhaps most importantly, Rivers has learned how to not get sacked. Those carries for one or two years seem ridiculous, but they're better than when Rivers was leading the league in fumbles because of how often he got sacked.
Hilariously, Rivers reminded me a bit of Russell Wilson yesterday. He was perfectly efficient, made all of the right decisions, and somehow was able to consistently make big plays without making a mistake. He led the Chargers to this victory.
Antonio Gates - 7 catches (7 targets), 96 rec yds, 3 rec TDs
Despite his body slowly, but surely, giving out on him, Gates has always maintained the ability to get open. He may not be the deep threat he once was, but he's almost unstoppable on third down or in the red zone. You simply can not keep the man from getting open, which makes him incredibly valuable to Rivers and the Chargers.
The difference, this Sunday, was that instead of getting open 7 yards downfield (as he's done for the past two seasons), Gates found bigger openings. Look at the yardage on his catches:
- 5 yards
- 20 yards
- 8 yards (TD)
- 8 yards (TD)
- 19 yards
- 21 yards (TD)
- 15 yards (3rd & 8)
Let's forget about him being an outstanding red zone target for a second. Every NFL Head Coach dreams of a game where his TE can grab four catches of 15+ yards. The only thing that kept Gates from doing it six times was the end zone.
Eddie Royal - 7 catches (10 targets), 69 rec yds
Royal wasn't quite Antonio Gates, but he had a tremendous game. It seems as though Frank Reich, or Mike McCoy, remembered that Royal is good when you run routes that get him in space. However, when you try to use him as if he's Keenan Allen, he's damn near useless.
In this one, they got him in space regularly and he used his speed to do the rest. Glad to see those drops by the receiving corps, led by Royal last week, have disappeared after one game.
Keenan Allen - 5 catches (6 targets), 55 rec yds
Allen isn't on this list for his stats. I fully expect him to go back to putting up 100+ yd games after this week, but his game was just as valuable as Royal's for two distinct reasons:
- He was not shut down by one of the best CBs in the league. He got open when he needed to, and contributed to the offense. Only the "elite" WRs in this league can still find ways to contribute when going up against the best CBs and Allen is already on that level.
- I've said it since the beginning of last year: Keenan Allen is arrogant and I love it. This team needed more arrogance. It needed more fearlessness. It needed to see the best defense in the league and immediately think "We are better than them." Allen's confidence is doing wonders for this team, on and off the field.
Melvin Ingram - 5 tackles (4 solo), 1 sack
I have no idea what happened either. Maybe Ingram got pumped up to play the defending Super Bowl champs. Maybe Seattle prepared for Jarret Johnson and was thrown off by Ingram's speed. Maybe it was just one of those games.
Melvin Ingram was the player we hope he can be against the Seahawks. He consistently won one-on-one matchups, got a sack, got pressure on Russell Wilson regularly, and even helped in the run game. On this side of the ball, Ingram was the biggest reason that Seattle couldn't get anything going.
Dwight Freeney - 1 tackle (1 solo), 1 sack
One added benefit of the Chargesr offense being on field twice as long as the Seahawks? Dwight Freeney, forced into being an every-down player once again, was able to play just about every snap without issue. In fact, he played less snaps in this game than he did against the cardinals last week.
The Seahawks started this game thinking they could stop both Freeney and Ingram with one blocker and an occasional chip-block. Early sacks by both men quickly put a stop to that. Freeney took most of the double-teams after that, which made it awfully difficult for Seattle to get through the Chargers defensive line.
Shareece Wright - 7 tackles (5 solo) 1 pass defended
That was a pretty cool gameplan for the secondary from John Pagano. With Brandon Flowers, who shadowed Larry Fitzgerald last week, out of the game with a sore groin, I thought Jason Verrett would be the one to shadow Percy Harvin. Instead, nobody shadowed anybody.
The Chargers played zone almost exclusively, with Wright on the right and Verrett on the left, with Steve Williams taking the third WR. With blitzes and a strong pass rush, this gameplan can work (it's akin to what Dick LeBeau has been doing for centuries). Eric Weddle and Marcus Gilchrist spent most of the day confusing Wilson, coming into the box on almost every play but never doing the same thing twice.
In a nutshell, Pagano dared the Seahawks to beat the Chargers deep. Then he relied on his CBs and his pass-rushers to make sure it didn't happen. In the end, it's what led to Seattle having a hard time running the ball.
Let's get back to Shareece Wright, though. He spent most of this game covering Percy Harvin and Doug Baldwin, but was targeted only three times and gave up just one catch for 17 yards (to Bryan Walters). In addition, he has been a huge help to the run defense this season with his tackling.
Jason Verrett - 5 tackles (5 solo)
Targeted four times, Verrett gave up four catches for 39 yards. That's not to say he was bad, Verrett did a fine job in coverage, but he wasn't Brandon Flowers. However, the kid loves to hit. Every opportunity he has to throw his shoulder into someone was taken. He will soon be factored into opposing gameplans by offensive coordinators that don't want to run wide to his side, because he's that good.
Johnnie Troutman and D.J. Fluker
I don't know where the guys from last year went, but I want them back. Troutman gets pushed back on every play, Fluker can't handle speed rushers, and neither one of these guys is helping with the running game. This was supposed to be their strength, and so far each guy looks more like a backup than a starter.
Malcom Floyd - 0 catches (0 targets)
Well, there's the blueprint for how to stop Floyd. Just put a strong DB on him and see how long that guy can jam him at the line. He was absolutely useless in this game. Seattle could have put a LB on him and he still wouldn't have been able to get off the line.
We've always known Floyd isn't out there for his strength, but this was a bad matchup for him and it showed. The good news is that he likely won't see another onslaught like that for a few months.
Kendall Reyes - 0 tackles
I am waiting for Kendall Reyes to get benched. At this point, Lawrence Guy would be a step up. Reyes looks like a beaten man. He can't win one-on-one matchups against a guard. Ever. He can't get off the block to stop the run, he can't overpower anybody, and he's not quick enough to get around anyone.
I don't know what happened to the guy we saw in Reyes' rookie season, but he is G-O-N-E. Kendall is actually hurting the defense with how bad he is. If he took more chances, trying for the big play, he'd basically be Cam Thomas. How long can this go on until the team has to make a move?
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