That was a much needed win by the Chargers in Miami yesterday. It’s the kind of win that will benefit the team in a bunch of ways moving forward.
So lets take a quick review of last week’s AAR before we roll into this week’s.
Week 3 AAR
Sustains: Keenan Allen, Run Defense, Dez King
Improves: Drops, Coaching, Personnel
I feel like all 3 of the sustains were carried forward this week. Keenan Allen was still a pretty heavy part of the offense, would have been more if not for an OPI call that was universally seen as hot garbage. The Run Defense remained pretty solid not allowing a TD on the ground and keeping the Dolphins under 75 yards on the ground. Dez King was a monster yet again, coming up huge with 2.5 sacks, a TFL, a FF, and was honestly robbed of a safety. He did have one hiccup on special teams when he should have caught a fair catch, but I trust him to clean that up.
The Improves were actually mostly improved! There were only 2 drops that were even close to frustrating, the coaching in the first half looked very similar to weeks 1-3, but then something happened at halftime and outside of some time management issues and offensive play calls coming in slowly, the coaching decisions were great. Personnel (and honestly during the game this part of it falls entirely on the coaching staff) looked good this week. Lance Kendricks looks very good in this offense and taking advantage of the control they had in the game to sub out some starters to get a look at some of the younger guys in a live game situation was awesome.
It was nice to see them keep the sustains, make improvements to the improves, and come away with a win.
So onto this week:
What a difference a week makes. In fact, what a difference a half makes. Like I mentioned above, the 1st half looked like it was about to be the same ole same ole from the coaches. Then at halftime they made some changes that really worked out well for the team. In the first 3 weeks the Chargers had been outscored 45 - 10 in the second half, and specifically had not outscored any of their 3 opponents in the second half. This week, the Chargers outscored the Dolphins 10 - 0. It was dominant. The Chargers defense held Miami to 50 total yards of offense in the 2nd half, while the Chargers’ offense put up 167 yards and 10 points. Part of this was Gus Bradley making adjustments to start bringing some extra pass rushers which resulted in 5 sacks. Where Ken Whisenhunt stayed with the run in the 2nd half this week, there was a little trouble in the 3rd quarter with plays coming in too slow on offense and a couple wasted Time Outs meant a missed opportunity to challenge a big play from Dez King that should have been ruled a safety. The staff also decided to actually try a few things. They gave Forrest Lamp a full drive at LG in the 1st half, and when the game was fully under control, a series with Lamp at LT and Trey Pipkins in at RT. They also managed to get Drue Tranquill and Nasir Adderley snaps on Defense. The Chargers were a little shell-shocked with the early start and a frustrated and desperate Dolphins team, but they were able to get things under control and soundly secure the win.
The offense was cooking on Sunday morning. 6 of the 8 possessions ended in points for the Chargers with the other 2 being a turnover on downs and kneeling the ball at the end of the game for the victory. Ty Long didn’t have to punt a single time yesterday. The team was 8 of 13 on 3rd down where Philip Rivers was just masterful at finding the open man, and the 9 different receivers that Rivers threw passes too kept the drops to a minimum. There was great balance with 33 rushing attempts and 31 passing attempts. It looked like Wiz constantly had the right play call dialed up. It was a well oiled machine. And to make all of that even more impressive, that well oiled machine executed like that despite the fact that WR2, WR3, RB2 (Justin Jackson), Melvin Gordon, TE1, TE2, and LT1 were all not playing. Yes it was the Dolphins, but that is just flat out impressive.
The Chargers cycled a lot of players onto the field Sunday. A lot of it was due to injuries, which the Chargers unfortunately had a lot of, but there was a lot of it that was the staff getting some starters some rest and taking advantage of having the game in hand to get some young players some much needed live game reps. The 5 starters on the offensive line and Thomas Davis had all played every single snap this season. With a late bye week it was good to get all but 1 of those 6 guys some snaps off. In the case of Davis, it let Gus Bradley try out some different packages in obvious passing downs. For the offensive line, it let Wiz and Lynn get a look at Lamp at not 1 but 2 different positions, and get rookie tackle Trey Pipkins some live game reps.
Also on defense, the team was able to get Tranquill and Adderley some snaps in different packages to see how they’d respond and help “build trust” with their teammates. The coaches said a few times this week that that’s part of why they rely so heavily on practice performance, because they want the players on the field to be able to trust the guys around them to do the right thing at the right time.
This was just very encouraging all around to see the team take advantage of an opportunity to try some things, but without taking their foot off the gas or playing it safe.
The defense played an absolutely lights out second half, but in the first half, especially in the run game, there were too many missed tackles. They could stand to clean that up a little bit, but it felt like they already had with the performance in the second half. Tackling is just one of those things that tends to pop up on and off with this team so paying extra close attention to cleaning it up would benefit this team moving forward.
I’m going to start this section by saying that once again there were some very questionable calls as well as a couple outright garbage calls in this game. However, the point of these AARs are to highlight things the team could actually control, and with that in mind, being a little more disciplined is needed. Dan Feeney had a holding penalty where he flapped his arms wide out to his sides then grabbed the defender by the outside of the should pads, while he didn’t really hold the guy very much at all, that hand usage is just asking for a penalty. Tyrod Taylor’s inexperience as a holder meant that he didn’t call for the snap in time which resulted in a delay of game on a field goal attempt. Trent Scott grabbing the facemask of pass rusher was pretty terrible and compounded a turnover on downs by giving the Dolphins an extra 15 yards of field position for free. Little things like that need to be cleaned up, especially when the refs are already making such bad calls against the team.
I feel like I’m nit-picking at this point. I’m so happy with the changes they made in the second half, it’s hard to ask for more, but here we are. The Chargers had to burn 2 TOs in the 3rd quarter that they could have used later. The first was on Rivers. He was so livid after the refs failed to let them get a quick snap off when the Dolphins had 12 guys on the field that he had to burn a time out because he couldn’t get it together to run a play. He was completely justified in his anger, especially when early in the game the Dolphins had a catch on the sideline that may have been questionable, and the Dolphins were able to get the next play off so fast that the TV coverage actually missed the snap of the next play before they could get back. Yet they held Rivers and the offense up, not allowing them to take the snap. However, he needs to do better there to save the anger for a more appropriate time and not force the team to burn a TO.
The second wasted TO came when Wiz wasn’t able to get the call in to Rivers in time and they had to call for a TO. That is something that has happened more than once with this team and needs to be figured out.
Having only 1 TO for the last few minutes of the 3rd quarter and all of the 4th quarter puts the team at a disadvantage. You don’t feel like you can risk challenging plays, if you have an injury in the final 2 minutes your last TO would get taken away involuntarily, and if you need to make a drive for the victory, only having one shot at stopping the clock after a pass over the middle makes your offense a lot more predictable. It didn’t hurt them this week, but it has in the past, and could again.
All in all this was a good victory. It was a rough first half but the team and the staff did a great job at making corrections during the game and securing the victory against a team they should have beat.