The Chargers offense struggled out of the gate against the Broncos on Sunday afternoon and only truly got going when it was all but too late. Yes, they scored a late touchdown to bring themselves within 10 points with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, but that’s when the defensive wheel finally started to unravel.
The dagger before the actual dagger for the Broncos was an insane 46-yard touchdown pass to Courtland Sutton which happened with six minutes remaining in the third quarter. On the play, the Chargers rushed four and not a single one got close to getting home and/or affecting the pass attempt from Wilson. For a quick reminder, check out the Twitter video here:
Russell Wilson's touchdown to Courtland Sutton on Sunday was the NFL's longest TD pass by air distance (60.8 yards) this season, per @NextGenStats.— Zack Kelberman (@KelbermanNFL) December 11, 2023
Had a completion probability of 21.9%.
What you’ll notice is that of the five players to line up on the line of scrimmage, three of them are down linemen and then both Khalil Mack and Tuli Tuipulotu. On the snap, Mack drops into coverage in the flat while Tuli rushes with what looks like three defensive tackles, none of which are pass-rush specialist Morgan Fox.
Wilson takes his sweet time and finally decides to heave it up to the 6’4 Sutton who was being defended by Michael Davis. Sutton was able to box out Davis and snag the pass with one arm while Davis held the other. A penalty was called, but it was declined swiftly.
After watching that play live, it was probably hard not to either hang your head or roll your eyes at what you just saw. No pressure. Nothing. Add in the play’s outcome while remembering the team’s 15-sack man was 15 yards away defending the running back in the flat and you’ve got one heck of a cocktail to digest.
Earlier today, defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day was asked about the play during media availability. Here’s what he had to say, via Alex Insdorf of the Guilty As Charged podcast.
“It was interesting for sure. He did have a lot of time back there. I don’t want to talk about scheme here. I had to contain the quarterback and keep him inside the pocket, that was my job...There are certain things I can’t talk about, that’s a coach question.”
He later clarified, “I’m not throwing any shade at anyone at all. We had a 5 man front. My job was to contain. That’s all I’m saying. I had to keep Russell in the pocket, which I did.”
Sebastian Joseph-Day on Courtland Sutton TD: "It was interesting for sure. He did have a lot of time back there. I don't want to talk about scheme here. I had to contain the quarterback and keep him inside the pocket, that was my job...There are certain things I can't talk about,…— Alex Insdorf (@alexinsdorf99) December 11, 2023
I’m honestly a huge fan of players speaking candidly about questionable things that happen on the field. On a play like that, you just know SOMEONE did not do their job and it’s not surprising that one of the players on the field wants to make sure they are not a target for potential blame. Joseph-Day makes a point to lay out his responsibility on the play and the tape matches up his actions with his words.
So what went wrong here? Joseph-Day first engages the right guard before coming off onto the right tackle. He two-gaps while spying the quarterback to make sure Wilson doesn’t have a lane to scramble. The other three rushers, including Tuli Tuipulotu, couldn’t get any movement against the remaining four linemen. They were outmanned and stonewalled almost immediately. Someone needed to win their matchup. Only one rusher was going to be double-teamed which meant someone else needed to step up and make the play.
At the same time, again, why is Mack dropping into coverage? It’s only first down so you could assume that Staley wasn’t expecting a deep shot, but to ever drop the league’s sack leader is still quite the choice. Was it for the element of surprise? Maybe. Sure still seems like a bad tradeoff of value (Broncos losing a running back as a pass catcher vs. Chargers losing Khalil Mack as a rusher).
What do you all think of SJD airing out his thoughts publicly? Is this a good or bad look? Let us know all of your thoughts below!