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Takeaways from the San Diego Chargers win over the Buffalo Bills

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What have we learned about the San Diego Chargers through three weeks? Are they a good enough team to make it to the playoffs?

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego is 2-1 after a convincing win over the Bills. Through 3 games we're starting to see patterns and trends from the Chargers, whether good or bad. The offense is good, but are they still playing at a top 3 level like a year ago? The defense is improved, but by how much? There are 4 takeaways that I had from Sunday that we can probably count on seeing the rest of the year.

Philip Rivers playing at a ridiculously high level

After a so-so 1st game, Rivers is 43-62(69%), for 540 yards and 5 TDs. This coming against the 1st and 4th best defenses per DVOA a year ago. That's pretty silly. I joked that after a red zone series, where Rivers missed 3 throws, that he should be benched. Why? Because he's spoiling us. We're just not seeing mistakes. The Bills wanted to hug the line of scrimmage, Rivers made them pay deep with a couple 49 yard bombs. You want to blitz? Rivers will exploit that by hitting a receiver on a linebacker for a big 1st down. The decision making, the audibling, the scrambling, the ability to be in total control is something we can expect to see from El Captain. The reason why his performances have been so impressive?

Shaky offensive line play

I'm putting it lightly by using shaky. If we're being real here, the team has been bad up front.

Player

Blown Block (R)

Blown Block (P)

Sack

Penalty

King Dunlap

1

.5

1


Chad Rinehart

2

1.5

1


Rich Ohrnberger

2

1



Johnnie Troutman

1.5

.5



D.J. Fluker

5



2

Antonio Gates

1




David Johnson

1




Don't read too much into Dunlap's sack, because Rivers really ran himself into that one. We're seeing a recurring theme: It's Dunlap and everyone else. This group is 31st in adjusted line yards, and it's really no surprise by the way they've played. There's a lot of lunging going on, no communication with each other, and just all around bad blocking. The fact that Rivers has only been sacked 3 times this year is a minor miracle in itself. Most of the line is struggling to hold their ground. In their defense, the offensive line likely won't go through another 3 game stretch where they face the amount of talent and speed that they've seen the last 3 weeks. Still, these type of plays aren't acceptable.

Saying Nick Hardwick is missed is an understatement

Fluker is still lunging with his head down

Troutman blocks his man for less than a second here

In that last vine, you'll see Rivers miss Donald Brown. There were a couple times Sunday where he fled the pocket because he knows the line isn't holding up. Hasn't been an issue, and I don't think it will, but it's something to keep an eye on if the pressure keeps coming at such a high pace.

As far as the run game, I thought it was a combination of 3 negatives. The majority of the time the line wasn't creating holes. When the holes where there, Brown would either miss them or run up a lineman's back with his head down. The last one was Frank Reich(who called a very good game) featured more draw plays than usual. This group especially is much better when they're asked to be aggressive as a unit. That inside draw takes away that aggressive mentality as well as being able to create 1st contact. On the zone plays that's where you saw gains of 5,6,14. It was the draw plays that were a result of zero and sometimes even negative yards. Let's go ahead and cross that draw play out.

Trading "wins" for "losses" on defense

If I haven't explained it, it's pretty simple in the chart below. A "win" is that player beats his man. It's not an unblocked pressure, it's not a phantom pressure, that player was able to beat his man and have some sort of impact on the play.

Player

Missed Tackle

Wins

Stops

QB Hits

Sack

Kendall Reyes

1

2

3

2

1

Sean Lissemore



1



Lawrence Guy

1





Corey Liuget

1

7


3

.5

Dwight Freeney


5


2

1

Jaret Johnson


1

1



Manti Te'o

1


1

1


Donald Butler

2


2



Reggie Walker

1



2

.5

Tourek Williams


1


1


This is the entire front 7 from Sunday. I don't think people realize how rare it is for a defensive lineman to "win." A good day is 2 wins. Also, Stops explained here. It was nice of Reyes to leave his skates in San Diego. He had one of his better games as a starter. Lissemore won't rack up numbers, but continues to be good up the middle. Freeney dominated. Lineman can't keep up with his speed and if they can, he counters with his spin move, which completely overwhelms them. He's such a luxury to have. The fact that Freeney wasn't the best member along the front 7 this game speaks volumes to the performance by Liuget. He was a monster. He was beating double teams and still getting to the quarterback. Will he dominate like this every week? No. But when you're facing inferior competition, this is how stars play, and that's what Liuget did.

Now, to the bad. The "losses" I'm referring to are the missed tackles. Only 3 last week, but against the Cardinals there were 8 and Sunday there were eleven. There were some god awful angles and not the greatest technique shown. How about your $51 million dollar linebacker?

Butler also had a bad whiff on the Bills 3rd quarter touchdown. I think we can just expect the defense to miss a lot of tackles. That's going to be the trade off for winning up front. We haven't seen any evidence for the tackling to consistently improve.

Consistent Cornerback Play

It's early, I get it. But the consistent play from Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett has been the most refreshing thing about this team yet. Going from a secondary that features Derek Cox and Dick Marshall to these two is like going from McDonalds to In-N-Out, like Coors Light to an IPA, like a Tyler Perry movie to a Christopher Nolan movie. No analogy will do this comparison justice. Flowers and Verrett are so sound. They just don't get beat. You know you have a pair of good cover corners when you watch this play and complain about a dropped interception.

Do you remember much of the media saying Flowers was washed up? That he couldn't cover, and has nothing left in the tank(at 28 years old!!)? Again, it's early, but he looks really, really good. After the 1st few weeks Verrett hasn't made many splash plays, but you're not hearing his name very often because he's doing this.

Patience at the line of scrimmage, playing the sticks on 3rd down, turning his head around. He's the real deal. All of this prevents Eric Weddle from running around like a chicken with his head cut off trying to do everyone else's job, and looking like one of the best safeties in the game. Shareece Wright did miss 3 tackles and had a penalty. As long as he's not a liability, this unit should be fine.

Jacksonville up next.