In our preview and predictions post over the weekend, we came up with four goals on both sides of the ball that we felt the Chargers needed to obtain in order to win. In a dream world, they get all eight goals, but three out of four on each side should be plenty good enough to come away with a victory.
More than 5.7 yards per play before garbage time (400 total yards on 70 plays)
Result: 407 yards on 61 plays-6.7 yards per play
I try to avoid writing the day of/after the game to avoid being a prisoner of the moment. I say that to say you'll be hard pressed to find a quarterback playing better in the NFL right now than Philip Rivers. Yes, he completed 74% of his passes for a bunch of yards and 3 TDs against a bad defense. The manner in which he accomplishes it is what makes it so damn impressive.
It was another disastrous day on the ground for the Chargers and the protection still isn't where it needs to be. Yet, there was Philip Rivers, extending plays in the pocket as he somehow eluded oncoming defenders to complete passes downfield for first downs.
On the Eddie Royal touchdown, Rivers held the safety and then boom, looked back to Royal, dumping it over the linebacker with the perfect trajectory for the score. If that's not enough, on Malcom Floyd's touchdown pass, Johnnie Troutman was jolted back (nearly into Rivers' lap) as he made the throw. Rivers could have easily dropped his eyes, scrambled and looked for another receiver. Nope. He stood tall and delivered an absolute dime.
Which brings me to my next point...
Frank Reich? Good. Very good. Had some worries Week 1 after he didn't adjust to a few things and I didn't think he used the talent all that well. In the last three games, he's been lights out. He seems to be one step ahead of the defense. It's much easier to execute a game plan with El Capitan under center, but make no mistake, Reich has been dialing up some brilliant play calls. If the run game isn't working, he turns to screens and quick passes. Even knowing the running game isn't where he likes it to be, he sticks with it. Hats off to Reich for this game.
Result: 0 turnovers
The team never really came close to turning the ball over. Even on the sacks, Rivers did a good job of protecting the ball. Against an inferior team, turnovers are usually the only time they have a chance to make the game close. The offense did a good job of protecting the ball.
4 "big" plays (rushing plays over 10 yards/passing plays over 20 yards)
Result: 6 big plays (all passing)
In addition to the six big plays, the offense had five separate plays where they gained 15 yards or more. That's impressive. Jacksonville is a heavy zone team and the Chargers were really able to attack the intermediate to deep middle of the field. When they took their shots to the perimeter, they won their match-ups. 11 plays over 15 yards is the definition of exploiting a defense. That's a lot to ask of the offense moving forward. If they can manufacture half of that, they'll continue to have a lot of success moving forward.
66% or greater TDs in the red zone
66% was probably too lofty of a goal, but with the way Jacksonville has been playing, I thought they should be able to punch it in the end zone two out of three times. San Diego continued their struggles in the red zone as they failed to score a touchdown in four attempts. The Chargers are currently 24th in the NFL in red zone scoring percentage. The red zone is already such a tough place to score because the field is so condensed, but the Chargers seem to make it much harder on themselves, usually by committing a penalty and doubling the down and distance.
- On the first red zone possession, there was a holding penalty and the offense wasn't able to overcome it to convert a 3rd-and-8.
- On the second possession, after a timeout, there's a fumbled snap on a 3rd-and-1.
- On the third possession, Rivers gets sacked on first down from the 12.
- The fourth possession was in garbage time and they ran the ball on 3rd down.
Still, with the offense rolling like it's been the last three games you'd expect them to convert at least 50% of their opportunities.
Force 2 turnovers or more
Result: 3 turnovers
Two interceptions, a forced fumble, and the defense stopped Jacksonville twice on 4th down. On the two interceptions, both Brandon Flowers and Eric Weddle did a great job of baiting the quarterback and jumping the route. On the fumble, Jarret Johnson secured the tackle and then punched the ball out. Textbook. San Diego is lucky to have a guy like JJ, who is so under-appreciated. The defense is on the field the fifth least amount in the NFL. If they can find a way to create turnovers on a consistent basis and give the offense a short field, this will be a very dangerous team.
Less than 5 missed tackles as a team
Result: 4 missed tackles
This has been an area where the team has struggled, and to be honest, I'm surprised that they hit this mark. Only one missed tackle in the secondary. Shareece Wright and Flowers were excellent when it came to tackling. The Jaguars don't offer many "make you miss" threats so it was good to see a minimum amount of mistakes.
Less than 5.1 yards per play (300 total yards on 59 plays)
Result: 319 yards on 65 plays for 4.9 yards per play
The first half didn't go very well for the defense. They gave up 5.5 yards per play and 200 total yards. There were a couple of blown coverages that led to big plays, but Jacksonville was able to convert five of their eight 3rd downs into 1st downs. That just can't happen.
With the combination of poor offensive play calling and better defensive play, the Chargers were able to shut out the Jags in the second half. Jacksonville was having success down the field as well as on quick timing routes to the perimeter and just went away from that game plan in the second half. San Diego did a good job of eliminating mistakes and capitalizing on a rookie QB being late with the ball a couple times. I don't care who it is, holding a team to 4.9 yards in the NFL is how you win in this league.
Less than 3 Red Zone trips (before garbage time)
Result: 2 Red Zone trips
The Jaguars did convert both red zone trips into touchdowns, but the fact that they only had two tells you how well the defense played. This was another lofty goal on my part but against inferior teams you have to play at a high level, and the Chargers did.
This is how good teams perform. These are the type of performances to be expected from upper echelon teams.