As opposed to Week 1 against Kansas City, the Chargers built a huge lead and sustained it for 4 strongly played quarters. As a result, we get to revisit one of the biggest plays of the game with a full heart and lots of enjoyment.
This play immediately followed a missed 54 yard FG attempt by the Jaguars, which provided the Chargers strong field position and the opportunity (similar to a turnover) for a shot play. As we'll see below, the Jaguars defense was only too happy to oblige the Chargers.
Let's get on with it.
The Play: 12:05 remaining in the 2nd quarter. Chargers' ball 1st and 10 at their 44 yard-line.
The Chargers come out in 11 personnel (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE), shotgun formation, trips left. Historically, a run out of this formation isn't out of the question.
The Chargers' Offense, from left to right.
- WR Dontrelle Inman (15).
- WR Tyrell Williams (16).
- WR Travis Benjamin (12)
- The Offensive Line: LT King Dunlap (77), LG Orlando Franklin (74), C Matt Slauson (68), RG Spencer Pulley (73), RT Joe Barksdale (72).
- TE Antonio Gates (85).
- In the backfield: QB Philip Rivers (17), with RB Melvin Gordon (28) on his right.
The Jaguars' Defense (from the defense's right to left).
- Up Front: DE Dante Fowler (56), DT Abry Jones (95), DT Sen'derrick Marks (99), DL Jared Odrick (75).
- In the Middle: LB Paul Posluzny (51), LB Telvin Smith (50)
- In the Secondary: CB Jalen Ramsey (20), CB Dwayne Gratz (27), S Tashaun Gipson (39), CB Davon House (31), S Johnathan Cyprien (37).
The Jaguars are running a 4-2-5 nickel defense by personnel.
Elements of the Play
Figure 1 shows the pre-snap business. Gates and Gordon are the eligible receivers on the play side of the formation, with Inman, Williams, and Benjamin on the field side of the formation with more field to work with.
Jacksonville comes out with Gipson as the single high safety, while Cyprien and and House line up near the line of scrimmage on the left side of the defense (offense's right). As Rivers makes his checks with Slauson, Cyprien and House shift for a moment, then return to their original positions. Cyprien is showing blitz, which if accurate means the Jacksonville is playing (off) man coverage beneath the single high safety. Because the extra defensive back is showing blitz on the play side of the formation, it means that Posluzny is man-to-man on Benjamin. The pass rush better get home if the blitz is sent.
At the snap, Figure 2 shows a 5 man rush. Cyprien becomes an edge rusher and is picked up by Barksdale. Odrick twists behind Marks, which means each lineman is responsible for one man. Pulley vs. Marks, Odrick vs. Slauson, Franklin vs. Jones, and Dunlap vs. Fowler. Gordon's initial responsibility is for any free rushers to his side, before releasing into a check down spot.
At this point in Figure 3, the routes are developing. Inman will run a Comeback, while Williams runs a Fly. Benjamin has the blitz-beater route, a Quick Slant. Gates runs an Out. As I mentioned above, Gordon will release following his blitz blocking assignment. Here's where I wonder if this play wasn't designed expressly by Chargers' Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt for exactly this match-up, as Jacksonville's coaching staff has indicated this is a defensive play they've run with Posluzny in this position before. The play design basically clears the middle and right half of the field for Benjamin, as the high safety has to respect Williams' vertical route.
In Figure 4, we check out the protection again. Rivers has hit the end of his drop. Note that Rivers has a passing lane open to Benjamin right now to beat the blitz, but...
The pass protection is superb. Dunlap has forced Fowler into attempting an inside spin move, which runs him right into Jones, after Franklin has moved Jones outside. If Fowler comes back inside, Franklin has no problem picking him up. Slauson has Odrick under control in the middle. Pulley is doing a solid job with Marks. Barksdale manages to get his hands on Cyprien, which nullifies the Safety's speed advantage. Gordon is about to release, and the protection is so solid he doesn't even have to chip.
This allows Rivers to hold the ball for an extra beat...
Figure 5 - For a QB the caliber of Philip Rivers, this matchup and play design is rather like giving the burglar an unlocked door to the house. Easy money barring a bad throw (and Rivers does slightly underthrow Benjamin) or a dropped pass.
I love this play. The play design gets the ball into the most dangerous open-field runner with plenty of field to work with. The play takes full advantage of a bad matchup in the Chargers' favor. The execution from all areas of the offense is strong. Best of all, I love Philip Rivers' patience. He passes on the early designed throw, and the easy 1st down with it. By holding the ball for an extra beat, he turns a good play into a 44-yard gain.