Melvin Gordon - 16 carries, 88 rush yds, 1 catch (1 target), 10 rec yds
It was clear from the start that the San Diego Chargers offensive coaching staff was looking to get Gordon more involved in this one, as 6 of their first 8 plays went straight to Gordon and got him in a running lane.
His touches were fairly consistent, as was his output (5.5 YPA), and he didn't turn the ball over or come close to turning the ball over. It's a shame that the Chargers couldn't find a way to get him into the end zone.
Ladarius Green - 5 catches (6 targets), 47 rec yds
Wow! Seriously, wow. After last week, I had been repeating the same line about Ladarius. He doesn't know how to get open quickly, so Philip Rivers needs lots of protection for Green to be a factor. Little did I know, Antonio Gates had been working with Ladarius Green and the lessons are starting to set in.
I know the stats are mind blowing, but play after play, Green resembled a young Gates. He would take off on his route but sniff out the soft spot on zone coverage, between two players, and "sit down" (stop and turn to face Rivers) once he found it. That's an easy 6-7 yards every time. Gates rode that skill to a Hall of Fame career, and now it appears that he's passed that skill on.
Jimmy Wilson - 7 tackles (3 solo), 1 QB hit, 1 fumble recovery
Remember, this is about players performing above or below expectations. I don't think Jimmy Wilson had a great game, but I thought he played better than Jahleel Addae did in Week 1, and that's a bit surprising. I doubt he can win the starting job unless Addae is going to be out for a long time, but I liked what I saw. Unfortunately, John Pagano changed his defense around due to Addae's absence, and that screwed some things up, but we'll get to that later.
Philip Rivers (and Frank Reich) - 21/27, 241 pass yds, 2 pass TDs, 1 interception, 1 fumble lost
We need to have some real talk, guys.
Philip Rivers was lost on Sunday. Sure, he can still throw an incredibly accurate pass, and he can find Malcom Floyd deep when the coverage busts, but Rivers was not prepared to beat the Bengals on Sunday.
Just about every time he snapped the ball, Cincinnati showed him something he wasn't expecting. It led to the 4 sacks and the 2 turnovers, and it also stopped the offense from getting crucial 3rd downs on multiple occasions.
This hasn't exactly been rare, either. Since Nick Hardwick's unexpected retirement, Rivers has been asked to do a lot more with his pre-snap reads. Ken Whisenhunt gave him a new system of calling plays at the line of scrimmage which has been pretty hit or miss ever since.
Simply put, the Bengals beat Rivers in the film room this week. Before the ball was even snapped, they won the game. They prepared better, and had a better gameplan, and Rivers (along with his coaches) never figured out what they were doing.
At the end, Rivers got desperate and starting chucking it up to Malcom Floyd, no matter the coverage. That's on him, and that's an easy way to give up on a game by being an idiot, but McCoy and Reich put him in that position by having him woefully underprepared for the rest of the game.
Keenan Allen - 2 catches (4 targets), 16 rec yds, 1 muffed punt return
Let's not get too complicated with this.
To start the game, the Chargers defense held the Bengals' offense to a 3 & Out. Keenan Allen got distracted during the punt return while filling in for Jacoby Jones, took his eye off the ball, and muffed it. The Bengals recovered around the San Diego 10 yard line and from there it was an easy six.
Keenan Allen cost the Chargers a touchdown. Then, when given the opportunity to try and make up for it with a key catch on third down to get the team a first down, he dropped the ball.
Keenan seems like the type of player that can be a great #2 receiver, but the second teams start game-planning for him he disappears. I hope I'm wrong about that.
Manti Te'o - 10 tackles (5 solo), 1 QB hit, 1 pass defended
Manti isn't a bad player, per se, but the Chargers should try to get him to the bench as quickly as possible or teach him how to tackle.
Manti is the anti-Rivers in this one, in that he was rarely fooled. He was where he needed to be. He was shooting gaps and hitting running backs at the line of scrimmage. The problem is, apparently nobody told him that tackling occurs at the hips down. Manti tried desperate to pull guys down by their shoulder pads, which is bad form in that it isn't effective and also in that it's a penalty if he succeeds.
Simply put, if you're a linebacker that can't tackle, you serve no purpose. It's like a car that looks really nice but has no engine inside of it. Manti Te'o is one of those soap box derby cars. (And, yes, I am fully aware that I predicted he'd play at a Pro Bowl level after seeing him in Training Camp. In my defense, there is no tackling at Training Camp.)
Oh, man. Let us count all of the ways in which Mike McCoy gave this one away.
First of all, why was Ryan Carrethers inactive? Was it crucial that Adrian Phillips be on the field? The Cincinnati Bengals ran the ball over and over and over and over, right at Sean Lissemore (who played terribly) and the Inside Linebackers (see the thing above about Te'o), and it resulted in a first down basically whenever they wanted one. Carrethers exists solely to make it harder for opposing offenses to run the ball up the gut, and McCoy left him on the bench because....he was afraid of Andy Dalton?
Second, the lack of a timeout at the end of the first half. Try to read these tweets without your head exploding.
I asked McCoy why no time outs at the end of the half. Sure enough, he said he had confidence in the offense starting the 3rd quarter.— Derek Togerson (@DerekNBCSD) September 20, 2015
I followed up with why not let Philip take a shot. His respons: "I made the decision I made."— Derek Togerson (@DerekNBCSD) September 20, 2015
Let's ignore the stubbornness of McCoy, and the arrogance he has when he blatantly states that he doesn't have to defend or explain his awful decision. Let's focus on the decision itself.
McCoy said that the rest he didn't give his offense a chance to score points at the end of the first half is because he was confident that they would score points in the second half....
Okay, hold on.
Mike McCoy said, in no uncertain terms, "I didn't want to give my team a chance to score 14 points because I had confidence that we would score 7 points." Excuse me for going all caps lock for a second, but THE CHARGERS WERE LOSING WHEN HE MADE THIS DECISION.
Not only did McCoy not understand that the point of a football game is to score more points than his opponent, he also did not seem to understand that the Bengals would also be trying to score points in the second half.
What. The. Shit.
You can blame the Chargers players all day for this loss, and there will be plenty of that going on, but at the end of the day the coach is responsible for putting them in a position where good execution equals out to a victory. Not only did McCoy not put them in that position, he literally was handed that option and decided to throw it in the trash instead of taking it. And this was after his team went 31 yards on their previous offensive drive, so it's not as though he thought there was no hope of moving the ball.
Is McCoy a mole? Was he trying to prove a point? Is he trying to tank in hopes that Los Angeles won't want the Chargers anymore? McCoy is too smart of a guy for this to be a thing that has happened, and it's not as though it's the first time he's made this call. In 2013, it was almost a regular thing, and back then I said that it was McCoy and Whisenhunt protecting Rivers from himself, trying to keep him from throwing picks (like he did at the end of the half in Week 1). Maybe that was still the case here, but that argument holds a lot less water when your team is losing.
Mike McCoy may be an excellent coach Monday through Saturday, but he is easily one of the worst coaches in the entire league on Sunday. Easily. If you're wondering why his team can never get past 9-7 when they have oodles of talent, this is why. He's no better than Norv Turner on Sundays.
McCoy did a ton of other things wrong in this game. Kicking a 32 yard field goal on 4th & 1 from the Cincinnati 14 yard line when your team is down by 4 points? That's stupid. However, it doesn't compare to the stupidity of giving up an offensive opportunity because you don't really feel like trying to score points. That's a fireable offense.
Brandon Flowers (and John Pagano)
Look. I know.
All through the game, I was saying on Twitter that I thought Pagano was having a solid game despite the defense being mostly awful. I still believe that to be true. That being said, I'm sure he had some input on the horrible Carrethers decision, and he also out-thought himself in this game.
Against the Lions, Pagano had a great plan. Use Eric Weddle to hide Brandon Flowers' one big weakness: his lack of deep speed. He left Jason Verrett alone on an island, and then he helped everyone by calling heaps of zone blitzes and trading TE coverage between Manti Te'o and Jahleel Addae.
Despite that working perfectly, he did the opposite of it on Sunday. Weddle was on Tyler Eiffert all game long, Flowers had no over-the-top help (which led to both touchdowns that he gave up), and the team played man defense with no blitz on just about every single down. The Bengals offensive line threw chip blocks at Melvin Ingram and Kyle Emanuel all game long and Pagano never made them pay for it.
Pagano got as creative as he could get with the pre-snap looks, and I suppose his defense was set that way to try to avoid giving up big plays, but without the threat of pressure (zero sacks!), Dalton was able to sit back and wait for guys to come open. Even Jason Verrett didn't come out smelling like roses because, honestly, it's hard to cover an NFL-level Wide Receiver for more than a couple of seconds.
This isn't quite as dumb as what McCoy did, but it seemed like Pagano changed up his entire defensive philosophy either because he was missing Addae or because he was worried that the Bengals would watch the Lions tape and figure out his zone blitzes. Either way, he didn't coach to his players' strengths, and it showed.
Brandon Flowers - 6 targets, 4 catches allowed, 70 yards allowed, 2 TDs allowed
Jason Verrett - 3 targets, 2 catches allowed, 38 yards allowed