It’s been almost a week since the San Diego Chargers‘ shocking loss at Arrowhead, in such a typical McCoy and Pagano way. I can only assume most Bolts’ fans are trying hard to forget that game and have shifted their focus to the home opener against the Jaguars, hoping for a better result.
Still, I’ve spent most of the limited time I had last week analyzing the Chargers at Chiefs and want to share the many positives I found. I haven’t read any other articles or listened to radio shows or podcasts, this is entirely my own take on the game. The first half, in particular, was awesome, but the second half wasn’t all bad. Lets take a look who (or what) stood out to me:
It can’t be a surprise that I start this list with running back Melvin Gordon. After a great preseason in which he looked like a completely different player, Gordon confirmed his new level of play in week 1 against the Chiefs. He showed confidence, vision, patience, ran hard downhill, was able to break tackles, and scored not only his first, but also his second career regular season NFL rushing touchdown. Gordon did slow down a bit in the second half, but so did the entire offense. He finished the game with 14 carries for 57 yards (4.1 avg) and the aforementioned two TDs.
Keenan Allen was a total nightmare for the Chiefs defense, especially for cornerback Marcus Peters, and seemed to be completely uncoverable. Using his long arms, combined with his explosiveness, Allen constantly was able to create separation from the line of scrimmage. When Allen went down just before half time, he had 6 receptions on 7 targets for 63 yards. Furthermore, with Keenan the Bolts were able to convert all six third downs – two of which by Allen himself – and only one without him in the second half. When healthy, Keenan Allen truly belongs to the best wide receivers in the NFL. The Chargers’ offense can still be dangerous, but obviously would be better with Keenan Allen in the line-up.
Offensive Line / Joe Barksdale
The entire offensive line had a great game. Philip Rivers was hardly hurried and didn’t suffer a sack until the last minute of the fourth quarter. Even though that one sack happened because Barksdale got beat – Dunlap being pushed into the pocket didn’t help – he was still the offensive lineman who stood out to me. Apart from that moment and the very first offensive snap, Barksdale had a very solid game against one of the better pass rushers in Dee Ford. The main reason why I’m mentioning Barksdale here, though, is because I couldn’t fault him in run blocking. He had a few noticeable blocks.
He held off Ford to create a lane for Gordon on his 17 yard 1st quarter run. Melvin Gordon’s first rushing touchdown was successful because of Barksdale. Orlando Franklin was the intended lead blocker, but he got pushed back towards Gordon and it was Barksdale’s effort, who pushed his guy into the endzone, that created the narrow lane for Melvin to squeeze through. On the last play of the 1st quarter he had a good second-level block on ILB March-Lillard, keeping him engaged long enough to create extra space for Woodhead, which resulted in a 12 yard run. With the exception of a rare play where he got surprised by Dee Ford’s speedy edge rush, Barksdale had an awesome game.
Caraun Reid entered the game early after Darius Philon went down and he impressed almost immediately. He showed a nifty spin move, off the left guard I believe, to get to Smith and record his first sack for the Bolts. Reid also played an important role in Attaochu’s sack. He beat his guy, came rushing up the middle, and Smith, trying to avoid Reid, ran right into Attaochu. With 34 seconds left in the first half, Reid got close to another sack when he let Liuget pick up a double team that allowed him to rush the passer. In the second half Reid was less successful as part of the line rotation in nickel and dime formations (mostly), but it would be unfair to hold that against him. In my opinion he’s the Bolts’ third best defensive lineman and should be on the field more, especially on obvious passing downs.
Corey Liuget made my awesome list because of his importance in the run defense. He had three recorded tackles, all of them on running backs, two for no gain and a tackle for loss. He was also responsible for a sack and fumble in the first quarter, however, unfortunately negated by penalties. He particularly impressed with his intensity attacking the line of scrimmage and his relentless effort chasing down people out of the backfield. Consistency has often be an issue for Liuget, lets hope he can show us this high level of play on a weekly, regular basis.
For three quarters the offensive play calling was fantastic. I’d like to credit Whisenhunt for this. There was great balance between pass and run plays. Something made possible by an effective run game, especially in the first half. Furthermore, we saw Rivers under center a lot more. Whisenhunt showed us a great variety of formations, including multiple two tight end sets, the I with fullback, empty backfield, bunch sets, even a formation with an extra tackle (Hairston) on short yardage downs. That the offense slowed down and got less effective in the third quarter was more an execution issue rather than a play calling issue. The Chargers offense looked amazing and dangerous for a majority of the game. The potential is there, but a football game has four quarters!
Danny Woodhead‘s stat line of 16 carries for 89 yards (5.6 avg) and 5 receptions for 31 yards with a receiving touchdown is more impressive than Mevin Gordon’s. I guess it’s Woodhead doing Woodhead things, why I list him here. It’s what we know he’s capable of. Also, he couldn’t quite make the difference when he became Rivers’ go-to guy in the second half.
Brandon Mebane was as good as one could expect from the Chargers’ biggest offseason signing. He solidified the line in run defense and also recorded a sack.
Jason Verret almost made my awesome list, if he hadn’t allowed that Jeremy Maclin touchdown. He got beat in man coverage and even though it was a perfect back shoulder throw by Smith, Verret never saw the ball coming.
Jatavis Brown showed flashes of his potential when he nearly intercepted a ball, spying Smith close to the line of scrimmage. On an earlier play he showed his excellent coverage skills when he ran to the side line with running back Charcandrick West, forcing Smith to throw away the ball. It’s up to Pagano to utilize him correctly.
This was my Chargers at Chiefs top 6 awesome list, with the addition of a few honorable mentions. Thanks for reading!