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10 observations from the Bucs game...According to Hoyle

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Jamie Hoyle shares his 10 observations from the Bucs game and, in spite of the painful ending, he has some positive thoughts to share. Oh, and let's not forget... it's officially time to #GetDownWithTheTank2.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Stop me if you've heard this before, but the Chargers took a lead into the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and found another way to lose a potentially winnable game.  Again, stop me if this sounds familiar, but the loss was sparked by a pair of costly Philip Rivers interceptions coupled with a fairly significant second half defensive collapse.  It wasn't pretty, and it drove the team's already minuscule playoff chances from 5% to 1%.  In other words, the season is over.

Alright, with (most of) the negatives out of the way, let's break the game down and see if we can't find some positives to takeaway from the team's season-ending loss to the Bucs.  Here are my ten observations from the Tampa game....

Melvin Gordon was electric en route to his 21-touch, 138-yard, one-score game. Not only did Melvin average nearly eight yards per touch, but his work as a runner and a receiver ignited their three 75-yard scoring drives (12 touches in 24 plays, 95 yards, one touchdown, five plays of 10+ yards).  Maybe the most impressive part of his performance was his physical and decisive one-cut-and-go running style, which he has taken to a new level in recent weeks.  He was the focal point of these drives, and good things happened as a result...

As I mentioned, there were stretches of the game in which Ken Whisenhunt used Melvin Gordon brilliantly. Wis did a nice job of getting Melvin in space with off tackle runs and a couple well-designed and perfectly-timed screen passes for chunk plays.  And most importantly, these plays set up the down field passing game. The best example of this can be found in the four consecutive running plays (for 35 yards) Ken called before hitting the Bucs with a 40-yard play-action touchdown pass to Tyrell Williams in the third quarter.  Unfortunately, it wasn't long before Jekyll-Wis morphed into Hyde-Wis...

Which brings us to his usage of Gordon in the second half. If it felt like the Chargers played from behind for most of the game, that's probably because Gordon only touched the ball three times during the 18:00 minutes the Chargers held the lead in the second half.  Yeah, you read that right...three times in 18:00...with the lead. You can make all the excuses in the world, or rationalize it however you want, but it is nothing short of gross mismanagement to ignore your best and healthiest offensive weapon when all of your receiving threats are playing at less than 100%.  And frankly, 21 touches in a game the team lead for 42:00+ just isn't enough.  That, my friends, is inexcusable...

There is no defending the decisions Philip Rivers continues to make. No excuses here, Philip Rivers has been making rookie mistakes in crucial situations, and it has got to stop.  While I understand the desire to "take a shot," and can appreciate the play call, there is simply no reason to take that kind of a risk, with that type of field position, against a tired defense with 9:00 remaining in the game.  Not only did Rivers make a poor pre-snap read, but Inman was covered, and Rivers failed to put the ball in a spot where he could make a play and, worst of all; Gordon was wide open underneath with man-to-man coverage in the secondary.  It was careless, it was inexcusable, and there was no reason for it.  It just can't happen...

This is becoming a weekly thing, but I need to give a shout-out to Dontrelle Inman. Granted, #15 only caught two passes for 49 yards on five targets, but I'll be damned if that corner route he ran for the Chargers first score wasn't a work of art.  He sold the inside move beautifully with nifty footwork and subtle lean, broke the route off perfectly and, I think, even surprised himself with how open he was.  It was gorgeous, and it was yet another sign of his continued development.  Keep up the good work, Dontrelle...

Corey Liuget played like a man possessed on Sunday. I've been critical of Liuget, and rightfully so, but he played his ass off on Sunday.  In addition to having a fantastic statistical day with five tackles (4 solo, 2 TFL), he looked as explosive as he's looked since week one in Kansas City.  He played a critical role as a run stopper and provided added value as a pass rusher.  While no one will ever confuse Corey with JJ Watt, this defense is much better when he's penetrating and disrupting like he did against the Bucs.  Which brings me to why he played so well...

John Pagano made a subtle but key adjustment that set up Liuget for his big game. What was it?  He overloaded the right side of the Tampa offensive line by shifting his defensive line one gap to the left.  In other words, he had Liuget, who was primarily playing weak side defensive end, lined up in the A-gap (over either shoulder of the center, shading the inside shoulder of either guard), Damian Square in the B-Gap and Joey Bosa over the right tackle.  This allowed Liuget to use his greatest assets - his first step and athleticism - to victimize the interior line by shooting gaps to blow up run plays.  It was another solid adjustment, and it paid off in a big way...

How about that Joey Bosa sack?! Late in the second quarter with the Bucs driving for what looked like a game-tying score, Pagano went with a 4-man line on second and ten from the Chargers 15.  Bosa lined up as the 7-technique, Liuget at the 1-technique and Pagano dialed up a twist for his two linemen.  Bosa hesitated, Liuget drove the guard and tackle upfield, and Joey did what he does - looping underneath #94 and bursting through the A-gap for a critical sack.  Aside from the results, this call was pure defensive nirvana because it involved Pags identifying and maximizing the highest and best use for both players to perfection.  Please, Lord, give us 4-3 base defense in 2017...

Casey Hayward continues to build his case for both Pro Bowl and All Pro honors.  The best free agent signing of the Tom Telesco era, and perhaps the best free agent signing in the NFL in 2016, shadowed the opposing team's best WR; and once again he shut him down.  While Casey didn't record a tackle, he only allowed two completions for 16 yards in man-to-man coverage and reeled in his league-leading seventh interception (Evans' biggest play came when he was matched up man-to-man with Jahleel Addae while Hayward was playing the deep zone).  Casey is having a monster season and all roads clearly point to Orlando in January...

Adrian Phillips was awful in coverage and was directly responsible for several of Cameron Brate's splash plays. I know it looked like Denzel Perryman got lost in coverage on most of those plays, but Phillips was the real culprit.  The training camp darling was repeatedly caught flat-footed when he was supposed to be helping Perryman over the top, allowing Brate to find holes between the linebacker's deep zone and the safety's help. This isn't to say Perryman looked comfortable or effective in coverage, but it certainly wasn't all on him.  It isn't the first time we've seen Adrian imitate a deer in the headlights on the field and it probably won't be the last...

Where is the Craig Mager experiment going? Simply put, Craig Mager is not an NFL corner.  He hasn't proven himself to be physical enough to be a press corner, he struggles with change of direction too much to play the slot on a regular basis, and he hasn't shown the instincts, ball skills or tackling ability to be a reliable safety.  He hasn't even found a way to make an impact on special teams, which was the primary reason the team drafted him.  This third round pick is going nowhere fast, and the really scary thing is, the imminent release/retirement of Brandon Flowers this offseason is likely to force him into a more prominent role in 2017...

Well, folks, that's the Tampa Bay game in a nutshell.  While this game had a predictably disappointing finish, it wasn't all bad.  Chargers fans have to enjoy the development of young players (Gordon, Inman, Tyrell Williams, Korey Toomer, Joey Bosa), as well as the promise the Chargers defense has shown of late.  With the playoffs out of reach, it's time to get an extended look at some other players (Ryan Carrethers, Spencer Pulley, and Chris Landrum come to mind) as they shift their focus from 2016 to 2017.  And, of course, it's time to #GetDownWithTheTank2.

Let me know what you think in the comment section...