Monday night was ugly. I could've gone with 20 different plays that cost the San Diego Chargers a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I narrowed it down to 5. There were 5 plays in the Steelers game where I felt like if the Chargers converted, they would've won. Let's get right into the plays.
Play 1: 1st quarter, 1:05 remaining: Mike Vick incomplete pass to Antonio Brown
I know, I know. "There's no way a play in the 1st quarter would decide the outcome of a game. I would disagree. First, let's walk through the play. Vick drops back to pass, Jimmy Wilson beats Le'von Bell and forces Vick to scramble right. Vick throws late to Brown, who is being covered by Jason Verrett. Verrett drops the interception.
This had a chance to be a pick-6 but Vick was in the vicinity and Verrett's momentum was taking him out of bound. If This flips the field and the Chargers are now are farther down the field after the interception than they would be until the end of the half when they attempted the 60 yard field goal. Field position matters, particularly when you are playing an offense quarterbacked by Vick. So for 3 drives San Diego never crossed the 36 yard line. This not only backs up the Steelers offense in the event that the Chargers do have to punt but also opens up the playbook instead of having to waste downs running just to get out of your own end zone.
What Verrett did against Brown was as good a job as I've seen any CB matchup with Brown since he's risen to one of the best WRs in the league. That said, catch the damn ball.
Play 2: 3rd quarter, 7:19 remaining, Vick incomplete to Darius Heyward-Bey
This one stung. A nice, risky, design here where Jimmy Wilson is in man coverage and comes across the formation. The Steelers run Heyward-Bey up the sideline on a wheel route. Vick doesn't see Wilson and throws the ball across the field. Where the previous through Verrett's momentum was taking his body out of bounds, on this play Wilson's momentum was taking his body to the end zone.
Only thing stopping Wilson from scoring here is if he trips over his own feet high stepping to the end zone. This one hurt. This is the play you see on sportscenter at night other teams making. For whatever reason, San Diego isn't capitalizing on other teams mistakes.
Play 3: Philip Rivers Interception to Malcom Floyd
Speaking of capitalizing on mistakes. What do good teams do after they get a turnover? They score. Verrett's dropped INT was followed up with a punt. San Diego got an interception, then they fumbled. Wilson's dropped INT was followed up with this play. I saw Rivers get criticized for staring down Floyd or this being a poor throw. I don't see it. This all on Floyd. He either ran a dig route and wasn't supposed to or ran one of the sloppiest square ins you'll ever see.
Based on the 5 step drop, when the ball is released, and where the ball is thrown, it tells me Floyd ran the wrong route. You'll see the vine below, but some have brought to my attention that Floyd was running a post. The "hi-lo" concept that Gates runs also tips it off that Floyd should be coming flat after he gets out of his break.
Rivers would have to throw to the red arrow for this to be a completion to Floyd. He's expecting Floyd to be the blue arrow. Here's a look at the play full speed.
If Floyd comes flat he has a chance not only for a reception but in the event the DB still has the opportunity to catch it Floyd can either contest his catch or at least tackle the DB and force the Steelers offense to go 65+ yards. Floyd has never been the most precise route runner but even this was egregious on is part.
Play 4: Chargers fail to convert 3rd & 6
The Chargers are in an empty formation and the Steelers blitz from the nickel corner, thus having more than the Chargers can block on this side of the formation. Pressure in Rivers faces forces an errant throw. 2 mistakes on this play. 1st, as soon as Ladarius Green's man blitzes, he should get his head around for the "hot" throw. Neither he or Rivers recognize this. I'm guessing it's the little things like this that are holding Green back. Because physically, there's not a team who can stop him. Here's a look at the play.
The real reason this play irks the hell out of me is the bottom of the screen. Look at the slot WR, then look who is guarding him in man coverage. The cherry on the top is that Rivers takes a peak at him pre-snap and doesn't take advantage. That's Keenan Allen on James Harrison. Yes, 245 pound, 37 year old James Harrison. Keenan cooks Harrison off the line for what would be an easy conversion as Allen would've flirted with a touchdown.
Considering this was one of the worst offensive line performances in the last few years, which is saying something, I thought Rivers played outstanding. He only missed 4 throws all night. Not only did he miss this throw, he missed the easier read.
Play 5: The Chargers season in a nutshell
If the last failed 3rd down conversion was a bee sting this play was like being tied down on your bed with 10 different beehives in there with you. Everything goes as planned. Frank Reich gets the man coverage he wanted, the Chargers get the receiver they wanted in space. This has the making of a 1st down where the offense can run the clock out unless Allen makes a guy miss which he had already done twice earlier in the game.
This was the look if Keenan catches this in stride. Lotta grass in front of him and not a lot of resistance.
This is so San Diego because even when everyone does their job, as D.J. Fluker did here, something still goes wrong.
Three up, Three down,
I thought Jerry Attaochu played very well. Hopefully he's starting to get it because this is 3 weeks in a row now he's played well. This has been his most active week. Attaochu led the team in tackles, wins, stops and tackles for loss. Good sign, and they're going to need him.
Old number 85 can play a little bit, can't he? Antonio Gates caught 9 of his 11 targets, brokes a couple tackles and wasn't a liability in the run game. He made it look realllyyyyy easy out there.
Verrett was actually struggling before he got hurt. He had the task of guarding the best WR in the game and the only catch he gave up he was picked. You can't guard Brown any better than Verrett did. It's rare guys can cut off Brown on his routes or beat him to the spot. Verrett did multiple times. He also broke up 2 passes. Good to see him playing at the level we all anticipated.
I'm hoping Chris Watt was as unhealthy as he'll ever be because he had the worst performance of any lineman this year, with 9 blown blocks, 3 QB hits, and 2 sacks given up. He was....bad. Think Troutman/Clary bad.
If the team doesn't trust Denzel Perryman, sure, whatever. At this point you might as well be playing with 1 LB, then. Donald Butler is just a body. I don't think Bell handed it off once when he was at QB and here was Butler running with the fake when it was clear as day Bell had the ball. He has the decision making of a deer/rodent crossing the road. He's really hurting the teams ability to stop the run.
This could go to about 4 different lineman but the scapegoat goes to Trevor Robinson. He just cannot matchup 1-on-1. I'm confused as to what the team sees in him. It's the same everytime he plays. He gets outmuscled and is overmatched. He can't hold his ground, can't move in space. At least Watt is more athletic. I guess Robinson's saving grace is he can stay healthier so he has to play. But Monday night he blew 5 blocks and was constantly in the offensive backfield.
Next up, Aaron Rodgers. Pray.