The Big Picture – Offense
If you watched every San Diego Chargers game over the last two years, your own lying eyes have told you that last year’s team was better offensively than the 2014 version. In this case, your eyes were not lying. The Bolts scored 396 points in the 2013 season, which declined to 348 points this year. While points league wide were down overall this season (by .8 per game), the Bolts scored 3.125 fewer points per game in 2014 (21.625) than they did in 2013 (24.75).
A field goal per game may not sound like too much, but it sure would have come in handy for at least two games in 2014. A deeper look into the offensive performance year-to-year also confirms that the Chargers' 2014 offense was much different than the 2013 edition.
Details of the Offensive Stats
Turnovers overall were not a large concern in either of the two years. Fumbles lost declined from 10 in 2013 to 5 in 2014. INT’s thrown by Philip Rivers increased from 11 in 2013 to 18 in 2014.
The difference between the 2013 and 2014 rushing offenses was obvious; while the 2013 team ran a little better than the league average, this past season’s team was one of the worst in the league. The 2014 offense also did not pass as well in 2014 as they did the prior year. The 2014 team passed for 210 yards less than the 2013 edition. The 2014 team also let up more sacks then the 2013 version, 37 compared to 30. TD’s were nearly similar, 32 TD passes were thrown in 2013 and this declined by only 1 for the 2014 campaign.
While there were few major statistical differences in the passing game year to year, in the rushing game, the differences were profound. San Diego was a little better than the league average of 112.9 rushing yards per game in rushing in 2013, with 122.8 YPG. This declined to 85.4 YPG in 2014, an atrocious 30th in the league and 26 yards less than the league average of 111.3 TDs were down from 9 in 2013 (not great) to a horrible 6 rushing TD’s in 2014.
The Big Picture – Defense
In the most important defensive statistic, the team was remarkably identical (348 points allowed) in both years. Measured by yards allowed, the 2014 defense squad gave up 452 yards less than the 2013 team.
Details of the Defensive Stats
The main difference between the teams is that the 2013 defense gave up over 4,100 yards in the air; the 2014 version only let up a little over 3,400. What makes that even more remarkable is the 2013 team got 9 more sacks (35) than the 2014 team (26). The defense did allow more rushing yards in 2014 (124.1) than the 2013 team did (107.8). The 2014 team was worse than the league average, but the 2013 was a little better.
Neither defense was able to get many turnovers. The 2014 squad got 18, which was a 1 takeaway improvement from the 2013 team. The league average for both years was 1.5 turnovers per game produced by a defense. Looking at the turnover and sack numbers, the Bolts defense does not produce a large amount of impact plays for the team. This also has been consistent between the two seasons; in the case of QB sacks, it got worse in 2014.
One thing that the team did badly in 2014 compared to the 2013 team was give up 1st downs by penalties. The 2013 team did that 21 times, but the 2014 squad allowed 41 1st downs from flags.
Conclusion and Observations
Offensively, the stats support what we all saw in the 2014 season from this team: An offensive line that could not get any room for a back to work in the running game and that got their QB hit more often than it had the year before. Delving deeper into the passing game stats, the Bolts passing offense was much less efficient in 2014 than it was in 2013. The 2013 passing game produced 7.5 Net Yards per passing attempt, good for 2nd in the league. The 2014 team was in the middle of the pack with 6.7 Net Passing yards per attempt, despite efforts to stretch the field. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the shorter routes result in fewer sacks, incompletions, interceptions, and more chances for playmakers to get yards after a catch.
How much of the drop in offensive production was a function of injuries to the O-line and key skill position players and how much could be assigned to the change in play calling cannot be readily determined. It also cannot be determined how much the injuries contributed to the different play calling. Those items are not quantifiable, just the results.
Defensively, neither version of the team produced many impact plays in the form of turnovers or sacks. The most disturbing number for me in the 2014 team was the near doubling of first downs given to opponents by penalty. If a defense is not going to make impact plays, it has to maintain discipline and at the very least not make negative impact plays.