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Chargers at Broncos: Reliving the Goal Line Situation

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Jerome Watson breaks down the goal-to-go situation at the end of the Broncos game.

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Down 19-27 in the fourth quarter, the San Diego Chargers had four shots from 2 yards out to have a chance to pull within 2 of the Denver Broncos and couldn’t convert.

What exactly happened? Well, let’s take a look…

Before we get into what happened on the goal-line, let’s quickly review what went into getting down there. San Diego marched 73 yards on this drive. After an incompletion and the inevitable false start by Joe Barksdale to start the drive, this is how the San Diego drive went, in sequence:

- +16 yard pass to Dontrelle Inman on a deep comeback out of a 3x1 set

- +30 yard pass to Melvin Gordon on a PA pass out of 12 personnel

- +17 yard counter run for Melvin Gordon out of a 22 personnel, Full House look

- +5 yard run for Kenneth Farrow out of the I-Formation (22 personnel)

- +3 yard run for Melvin Gordon out of the I-Formation (22 personnel)

- +2 yard slant pass to Hunter Henry out of Empty Quads

Chargers are now on the 2-yard line...

1st and Goal

Personnel: 12

Formation: Gun Right, Bunch Left

Chargers go 12 personnel here and with two tight ends in the game, I think this would’ve been the perfect time to go PA pass. But they elect to go drop-back. Denver sent six (Man coverage on Chargers 5 options) and it appears that QB Philip Rivers slid the protection to the right and this gave the Denver safety a free run to the quarterback. Philip never had a chance to look right and he sent it to the stands.

Confused By: If Spot is the concept, why have Tyrell Williams just run to the back of end zone and not attack the back pylon with a flag route? Put that flat defender in a Hi-Lo situation. Weird to me.

2nd and Goal

Personnel: 11

Formation: Gun right, Trey Left

Chargers take the two tight ends off of the field and insert two wide receivers. This let everyone on the defense know that pass is coming. Broncos countered the play by sending 5, forcing 1 on 1 matchups across the line. They bracketed the concept to the boundary (3 on 2) and had man coverage on the three options to the field.

Before the snap, you can see Philip signaling to the WRs to split out wider and a late hand gesture may have been the call for a levels concept. This is not good as every single WR to the field had the same route. Chargers LT King Dunlap got beat here and that’s what caused 17 to move his launching point. The result is cutting the field in half which is a huge no-no down there.

Confused By: Play clock management. They got out of the huddle with 00:17 to go on the play clock. The OL walked to the LOS and the ball snapped at 00:03. Rivers had zero time to view field, no time to send a check motion. Just lined up and ran the play. Again… weird.

3rd and Goal

Personnel: 11

Formation: Gun Right, Trey Left

Chargers remain in 11 personnel, and by this time it’s obvious San Diego is going to pass. The Chargers Offense finally decides to attack the back pylons with a china concept to the field and fade/flat concept to the boundary. This was the best play-call of the sequence as Philip had two legit options open at both pylons. Denver sends five with a delayed blitz behind it, this opened up the back of the end zone. DeMarcus Ware had nearly identical pressure as the previous play but this time Rivers didn’t take off once his spider senses went off. This helped the play design. I would’ve preferred Rivers go to Tyrell for the lob but his pass wasn’t bad.

Confused By: Window dressing. No motion? Same formation? Plus, again, they get out of huddle at 00:13 and walk to the LOS. Chargers C Matt Slauson makes his check at 00:05. Leaving no time for anything else. Another rushed play. No urgency.

4th and Goal

Personnel: 12

Formation: Gun Right, Doubles (Stack)

Chargers go triangle concept to boundary with scat and a combo of inverted pivot and curl to field. Pre-snap, Denver showed they were sending four but at the snap Ware slanted inside and TJ Ward took outside (similar to the first down look). Denver also stunts an ILB, so it’s another 6 on 5 matchup up front.

Why not go with the natural pick? I’m not mad at going with Hunter Henry but it was clear by the previous plays that Denver smothered the goal-line and San Diego couldn’t get any separation on this route earlier – Gordon ran it on first down. There was a quick window for Rivers to hit Williams but he wouldn’t know because his mind was made up pre-snap and never looked right.

Confused By: With 00:09 on the play clock, none of the OL are set. Again, zero urgency. It’s 00:03 when Philip Rivers is raising his knee to get the snap. This entire goal-line sequence was sloppy and hurried.

The man who taught me about offense told me when you get to the red zone, you must run one play-action and/or special and you have to run the ball at least once. San Diego did neither. San Diego never got under center. San Diego threw every 22 personnel set they used to get there out the window. And now, San Diego is now 3-5.