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Bolts and Dolts: Philip Rivers carries the Chargers to a comeback win over Lions

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Each week, John Gennaro goes back over the previous San Diego Chargers game and gives players cheers (Bolts) or jeers (Dolts) depending on if that player played above or below expectations. This week, we take a look at the dramatic comeback win over the Detroit Lions.

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Bolts

Philip Rivers - 35/42, 404 pass yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

I can't tell you how ready I was to throw Philip on the bottom half of this page. In the first half, Rivers was tentative and making poor decisions. It was that version of Rivers that feels like he has to make a play on every play, the version that gets him in trouble. Then, well....just look at his second half stats:

21/23, 249 pass yds, 2 TDs (zero interceptions, zero sacks)

MY GOODNESS. That might be the best half of football Rivers has ever played, and he did it without Antonio Gates and without the right side of his offensive line in the fourth quarter. Philip Rivers is a wizard.

Danny Woodhead - 12 carries, 42 rush yds, 2 rush TDs, 4 catches, 20 rec yds

Melvin Gordon was unquestionably the Chargers' starting running back against the Lions (despite the fact that Danny got more touches), and he actually played well if you ignore his lost fumble, but Danny Woodhead was who the coaches called on when the temperature got turned up.

The Chargers ran a lot of no-huddle in the second half, mixing in a ton of short passes to Stevie Johnson and Malcom Floyd with draw plays to Danny Woodhead, and it worked to perfection. I credit Woodhead with the dramatic shift in offense, from last year to this year or from first half to second half, more than any other player on the field. He was fantastic.

Keenan Allen - 15 catches, 166 rec yds

No touchdowns, but Keenan was absolutely dominant in the second half. No matter what the Lions threw at him, he got open and Rivers got him the ball. Those 15 catches came off 17 targets, which is an absolutely absurd catch rate.

It seems like Allen has decided that he will fill the gap left in the passing offense with Gates out, and he didn't have a single disappointing play against the Lions. Even the pass that bounced off him and turned into a Lions' defensive touchdown was not his fault, although I'm sure he's blaming himself for it.

Ladarius Green - 5 catches, 74 rec yds, 1 rec TD

Lamoarius! The guy that BFTB was championing in 2013, and expecting big things from in 2014, finally came through in his first career start. He barely even practiced this week, but that didn't keep him from being able to get open down the field and to pick up some YAC with the ball in his hands. His speed at the TE position adds an entirely new dimension to the offense and make the entire unit seem ready to break a big play at any moment.

A free agent at the end of this season, Green is playing for his next contract in the next few games.

Stevie Johnson - 6 catches, 82 rec yds, 1 rec TD

I thought about leaving Stevie off of here, because when it comes to expectations, this is exactly what I am expecting from Stevie. He's filling Eddie Royal's role, even wearing the same number, and putting up similar production. Still, when you compare this to what he did last year with the 49ers, it's easy to see how one would be surprised by this performance.

Pass Rushers (Melvin Ingram & Kyle Emanuel) - 7 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 passes defended, 2 QB hits, 1 sack, 1 INT

I thought it was a little unfair to separate this pair, and I hope that the San Diego Chargers coaches find it a little unfair to separate them on the field as well.

Ingram and Emanuel were both great, and it seemed as though they were challenging each other to do something bigger, while also working together as a team. Emanuel got the sack and the interception, but it was Ingram running into Matthew Stafford that caused that pick.

If these guys can stay healthy this year, I think the Chargers have found themselves a solid starting tandem that will be driving offenses nuts for a while.

Cornerbacks (Brandon Flowers & Jason Verrett)

The Chargers finally have a shutdown corner. In fact, they now have two, and they just glue them to the opposing receivers they want shut down. Yesterday, Flowers followed Calvin Johnson around the field and Jason Verrett never let Golden Tate get more than a few inches away from him. You need to see these numbers.

  • Calvin Johnson against Flowers: 4 targets, 2 catches, 39 rec yds
  • Golden Tate against Verrett: 3 targets, 1 catch, 6 rec yds

Wow. Did I mention that Calvin Johnson is the best WR in the league and Tate went to a Pro Bowl last year?

Defense is a team effort. The cornerbacks were helped by the pass rush, but they also helped the pass rush, and with both units playing at this high of a level....it's no wonder that before going into semi-prevent defense at the end of the game, San Diego gave up just one drive of more than 50 yards (it was the 80 yard touchdown drive to start the game).

Dolts

Run Defense

I nearly put down "Nobody!" for the Dolts section, but then I remembered Ameer Abdullah.

All things considered, the Chargers won this game but the Lions also gave it away. I have no idea why they started panicking and throwing the ball all over the place when the Chargers' offense found its rhythm.

Abdullah ran for 7.1 yards per carry. 7.1! That's a video game number. Then you factor in that he was averaging 14.7 yards per catch and you wonder why the Lions were so determined to throw it down the field when San Diego seemed helpless to stop the rookie RB from Nebraska.

Look at how frustrating this must have been for Lions fans. Let's start with when the Chargers scored their first TD, climbing back from 21-3 to make it 21-10. This is exactly when Detroit should have been establishing the running game and trying to create long, clock-killing drives:

abdullah1

First of all, God bless Josh Lambo.

Secondly, the Lions started off just fine. Abdullah gets 5 yards, and gets 15 yards added on at the end. 1 play, 20 yards. Seems good. This is after he's already led them to an impressive TD drive in the first quarter.

What happens next? Joique Bell runs it for nothing, and then two passes to guys who aren't named Abdullah. Surely, they'll come back to him on the next drive...

abdullah2

Another Lambo touchback, and another drive started with positive yards for Ameer Abdullah. This time, it's a screen pass that he turns into 36 yards.

What happens then? Two throws to Golden Tate and an interception that was partially the result of Stafford holding onto the ball while he waited for Tate or Megatron to come open down the field.

Am I taking crazy pills? Was I the only one seeing that Abdullah was destroying San Diego's defense every time he touched the ball?

Next drive!

abdullah3

You've got to be kidding me.

Yes, Abdullah got his on screen play because the offensive line was slow to get over and Stafford is terrible at faking things. Also, most offensive coordinators call for the screen pass or draw play on 2nd & 11 because they think it's an easy 5 yards. That being said...why are they starting this drive with Bell on the field?

....and it goes on from there.

You get the idea. A better gameplan from the Lions and this game may not have gone the way that it did. The Chargers defense has to figure out a way to not get burned by speedy running backs, and they should probably figure it out quickly.