What a win!
Before the game, I thought the Chargers could be good enough to sneak a win, but that Julio Jones would probably ruin that. Instead, after carving the Chargers defense up all day, Matt Ryan forced a terrible pass intended for Julio right into Denzel Perryman's arms, and the Chargers tied the game up before winning in OT.
I'm not exactly sure why I'm telling you this because the only reason you won't have seen the game by now is if you got so black out drunk from celebrating one of the Chargers finest wins in recent years, you physically can't remember anything that happened. If that's you, you’re welcome.
I tweeted after the Raiders game that, even with all their injuries, the Chargers could easily be 5-0 with just adequate coaching. The coaching was adequate against the Broncos and Falcons, and the Chargers responded by pulling off two wins against intimidating opponents. (Seriously, John Pagano deserves a lot more credit than he's getting. He's put together a fantastic defense so far this season).
The Chargers are without a top 5 WR in Keenan Allen and a top 5 CB in Jason Verrett. They've also been without Danny Woodhead, Jahleel Addae, Brandon Flowers, Branden Oliver, Jeff Cumberland and many more for long stretches of the season. They're still 3-4, coming off two huge wins and heading into the easy stretch of their schedule.
The truth is, this is a damn good football team. Mike McCoy might not be the right man to lead the Chargers, and the injury bug may never leave the Chargers alone. It doesn't matter. The Chargers are getting the most hype I've seen around them since they started 5-1 in 2014 - and it's well deserved. As much as it seemed impossible two weeks ago, the Chargers could very well be playing some meaningful football come January.
Chargers might be the second best team in the AFC. Seriously.— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) October 23, 2016
1: Joey Bosa
This is likely the last time you'll see Joey Bosa on this list. After just three games in the NFL (and two starts), the bar has been set for Joey Bosa. I'm not going to say I 'expect' anything for Bosa, as such, but put it like this: If he has a three-sack game, he won't have exceeded my expectations enough to count as a winner. He's just that good.
The truth is, talent like Joey Bosa's doesn't come around all that often. His blend of speed and power is frightening, and the way he moves his hands when disengaging with a blocker is like watching an artist, hard at work perfecting a piece called 'happiness.' Oh, he also just turned 21, and has only been healthy and training with the team for a few weeks.
A 4-12 season is never a good thing, but the 2015 Chargers season has a very clear silver lining to it. That silver lining wears #99, is about 275 pounds, and will eat you if you're in his way. Even if you're not, he might eat you for fun. Joey Bosa is hungry. He's hungry for success, he's hungry to help the team, and he's hungry to win.
Believe you me - Joey Bosa is going to feast.
2: Tyrell Williams
A year ago, Chargers fans were excited about the UDFA they'd just signed from Western Oregon going by the name of Tyrell Williams. They didn’t actually know anything about him, but being big and fast is always good, right? In this case, yes. Yes, it is. Because on Sunday, Tyrell Williams was having his stat line compared to Julio Jones. And Tyrell Williams was winning.
I feel like I say this every time, but he's still not perfect. You can usually see Rivers
go over to calmly talk to him in a composed manner shouting at Williams once or twice a game for making a rookie mistake. You can also see him burst past an entire defense without even trying.
The impact his speed makes to the Chargers can't be understated. Ken Whisenhunt is a man who likes to run a lot of short crossing routes. If you can find me a defense who can successfully win on crossing routes against Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams, I'll call you a liar and tell you to get off the internet for the day to think about what you've done. The Chargers have the #2 scoring offense in the entire league, and I'm not exaggerating when I say a significant part of that is down to the emergence of Tyrell Williams.
Right now, Tyrell Williams is 12th in the league in receiving yards in the entire NFL. He's 7th out of eligible receivers for Yards Per Catch and 9th in YAC. He's on pace for 1,200 receiving yards - which would surpass Keenan Allen's career best. In fact, that would make him the Chargers leading receiver in a single season for the 21st century.
Tyrell Williams at 526 receiving yards, 12th-most in NFL. On pace for 1,202. No Charger has surpassed 1,200 since 1995 (Tony Martin, 1,224).— Michael Gehlken (@sdutGehlken) October 24, 2016
This isn't a fluke. Tyrell Williams is for real. He's only going to get better - a lot better. With Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin and Hunter Henry, the Chargers could have the best passing attack in the entire NFL last year. Add in Philip Rivers (and possibly Danny Woodhead)? I'm smelling a dynasty.
3: Josh Lambo
Remember how Josh Lambo doesn't care about winning, because he was laughing with Sebastian Janikowski after the loss to the Raiders?
Look at that face. What a poser.
I defended Lambo after the Raiders game, saying that game had made me want Lambo as the Chargers kicker for the next decade. The Falcons game re-affirmed my decision.
Against the Falcons, Lambo successfully kicked from 40, 37, 33 and 42 yards, with two of those kicks being in a high-pressure moment. I wasn't worried for a second that he'd miss any of them. For the first time in a while. I have confidence in a Chargers kicker.
This season, Lambo is 17/18 on FGs, with that lone miss coming on a 54 yard FG. Of kickers who've kicked more than 10 FG attempts this season, only Justin Tucker and Adam Vinatieri have a better percentage - both at 100%. He's tied in first place for the most points out of any player in the NFL, with both Lambo and Vinatieri being responsible for 72 points each. That's 10.2 points a game! (As a side note, Melvin Gordon is 6th on that list with 60 points. The next highest non-kicker is LeGarrette Blount at 15th with 48). Oh, and he also leads the league in touchbacks.
What I'm saying is this: Josh Lambo is good at football. No - Josh Lambo is really good at football. Having a good kicker is crucial in the NFL (see: Cardinals vs Seahawks). Not only do the Chargers have a good one, but I'm going out on a limb and saying that Josh Lambo is one of the best kickers in the NFL right now. As long as he keeps doing his thing, he can laugh as much as he likes.
4: Denzel Perryman
Denzel Perryman is a rare breed of player. He's a throwback to the old-school style of football, where you'd man up, tear that broken arm right out of its socket and just use the other one. (Can you tell I haven't followed football for that long?)
Against the Falcons, Perryman must have gone off the field about four times for various injuries. He clearly wasn't 100%. Hell, I don't think he was even at 50%. The truth is, Perryman really wasn't at his best for the first three quarters of the game. But when push came to shove Perryman's fighting side took over, and he fought through the pain.
On 1st and 20 from midfield with just 3:32 left, Matt Ryan and the Falcons know that some first downs will ice the game and seal the win. Ryan sees Julio Jones open and throws the pass downfield. Except Julio wasn't open for long. Perryman stepped in front of the throw, secured the football and gave the Chargers the chance to drive down the field and take the game to overtime.
It's overtime. 4th and 1. I'm not in the business of 'what if', but I'm fairly confident that if the Falcons had converted that 4th down, they'd have won the game. Lucky that the Chargers have Denzel Perryman, then. Perryman burst through the line of scrimmage untouched, bringing DeVonta Freeman crashing down short of the first down marker. Chargers win.
Recently, the Chargers have been a soft team who can't finish games late. Except Denzel Perryman didn't get the memo. He brings a real intensity to the Chargers for all 60 minutes (and more, sometimes). He hasn't been at his best at points this season, but that doesn't make him any less valuable to the Chargers. Without Denzel Perryman in the lineup against the Falcons, the Chargers would have lost that game. It's as simple as that.
5: Trevor Williams
Imagine you're Trevor Williams. You're fresh out of college at age 23, and you've managed to work your way onto the San Diego Chargers practice squad, living your NFL dream. Suddenly, you're needed on the main roster. It's fine, though. You won't be forced into much game time before you're ready. Just enjoy the learning experience.
Wait. Craig Mager's injured. You've heard the saying 'Next Man Up' too many times to count. Now that means you. Oh, and you're defending Julio Jones, quite possibly the best WR in the NFL. Not a big deal, right? Oh, by the way - if the Chargers lose this game, they're 2-5 and their season might be done. No pressure, Trevor.
Trevor Williams was awesome against the Falcons, considering my own personal expectations of him. He didn't create a huge buzz in training camp and didn't stand out in preseason. I wasn't really sure why he was on the practice squad, to be honest. But against the Falcons, he was forced into the game for 17 snaps, and he more than held his own.
One play in particular, stands out to me. Williams was in man coverage on DeVonta Freeman, which is not an easy matchup by any means. Freeman runs his route and turns to catch the ball from Matt Ryan - only Trevor Williams is right there behind him. Williams uses beautiful technique to rip the ball out of Freeman's grasp, and for a second must have thought that he'd forced a fumble on the play. It was eventually ruled as an incompletion instead, but that doesn't matter. I've seen enough of Williams to know he can play.
Can he play at a high level in the NFL? It's too early to know. He might never be more than a career backup, or he may never even reach that level. One thing's for sure, though - it's worth keeping him around to find out. The Chargers may have found a diamond in the rough in Trevor Williams.
1: Caraun Reid
I love writing this column weekly. It's a fun concept, and it gives me the creative freedom to go off and ramble in tangents, which I'm sure you all absolutely love. There's only one downside to it. Every single week, I know who has to be the biggest loser on the list, and it's the person who's had their season ended prematurely. This week, that's Caraun Reid.
Caraun Reid was quickly becoming one of my favorite Chargers. The Lions waived him in their cut down to 53 players, and the ‘Coupon God' Tom Telesco pounced, bringing Reid to San Diego. Even though he was only used sparingly as a rotational defensive lineman, Reid clearly had a huge amount to offer the Chargers.
He was a good run defender, a strong pass rusher, and - most importantly - had a hustle you don't see much in the NFL. It wasn't unusual to see Reid sprint downfield and make the tackle on a ball carrier who's already eight yards past the line of scrimmage. Caraun Reid didn't know what it meant to give up. Unfortunately, on Sunday, his body gave up on him. On his 25th birthday, no less.
That's the only positive there is for Reid. As a younger man, not only will his body (hopefully) respond better to the arduous rehab process, but he should still be able to have a long and fruitful career once he makes a full recovery. He's only under contract for one more season. If he'd been able to keep playing at the level he had so far this year, there's no doubt that he'd have earned a new, handsomely paid deal from the Chargers. Instead, he's back to square one.
Even if Reid makes a full recovery and plays well next year, he's still lost money from this injury. Teams don't like injury prone players - yes, even the Chargers don't go out and pull players straight from the local hospital, no matter how it might seem sometimes. When in contract negotiations with Caraun Reid, you can bet the Chargers are going to bring up that ACL tear and the impact it might have on his future. It may have been a freak injury to a player who didn't deserve it, but that doesn't matter. He's going to have to pay the price.
2: Joe Barksdale
Before I say anything, look at this stat:
Most OL sacks allowed (through Week 7)— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) October 25, 2016
Remmers, Decker, Humphries, Turner 4.5
That's not good.
Barksdale hasn't been at his best this season. That much is obvious. He hasn't been as bad as that no-context stat makes it seem, but he hasn't played at the same level he was at last season. He had a two-play stretch near the end of the first half that you'll be hard pressed to forget, getting beat by Brooks Reed for a sack on second down, and then by Vic Beasley on the next play for a strip sack which Atlanta recovered for a TD. (I'm not going to blame him for not going after the football - to me, it just seems like he didn't know where the ball was until it was too late).
Barksdale recovered from that stretch to actually have a pretty good second half, but that doesn't excuse his lack of consistency which has plagued him all season. If the Chargers are going to make a run at the playoffs, they simply have to get better blocking up front. The onus isn't all on Joe Barksdale to do that, but he can help by playing at the level we all know he can. Hopefully, he turns the corner on Sunday. If the Chargers can't protect Rivers against the Broncos in Denver, it's going to be a long day.
3: Dexter McCluster
I didn’t think that I'd ever be able to call someone who played just 7 snaps in a game a loser before, but thanks, Dexter McCluster! Dexter messed up. He messed up bad. With the Chargers 7-3 up and driving on the Falcons (and, quite frankly, looking unstoppable), Dexter McCluster dropped a pass right through his hands, and Deion Jones snagged the interception, returning it back to San Diego's 11-yard line. Amazingly, the Chargers defense held the Falcons to a field goal.
Still, it took the Chargers a long time to get back into their groove offensively - in their next three drives they'd score just 3 points. On those same drives, the Falcons scored 7.
Mike McCoy said after the game that Kenneth Farrow has earned himself a bigger role. That's not going to be because Farrow was overly impressive on the two snaps he played, or because Melvin Gordon's 3 TDs were disappointing. No, Farrow's game time will come at the expense of Dexter McCluster, a receiving back who can't actually catch the ball.
I might be being overly harsh here, but the NFL isn't known for second chances. McCluster's job was to catch the ball. He didn't do that. You better believe that there's going to be a doubt in Philip Rivers mind next time he targets McCluster as to whether he can actually catch the ball or not. Considering McCluster's job is dependent on having the trust of the QB, it's safe to assume that his already limited game time will take an even bigger hit.
McCluster's contract is up at the end of the year. So is Danny Woodhead's and Branden Oliver's. It doesn't take a genius to work out which of the three they're going to want back the least. Essentially, McCluster's time in San Diego is likely at an end after this season - if he even makes it that far. All because he dropped a football.
It's a tough business, the NFL.