Sunday’s Tennessee Titans-San Diego Chargers game was decided by two factors that went San Diego’s way. The first, and most obvious, was winning the turnover battle 3-0. The second was making a statement in the rushing game (the Chargers ran the ball for 208 yards; Melvin Gordon contributed 196 on 32 carries). Conversely, San Diego held Tennessee to 80 yards rushing on the day.
Despite the big win, not all is not well in Chargerland. The Chargers are still reeling from injuries, and in part because of those injuries, were gashed for 317 receiving yards and three receiving TDs. Free agent import Casey Hayward has been a godsend with five INTs (one in this game), and Brandon Flowers looks a lot more like the good 2014 version than the bad 2015 version who was frequently burned. That said, this secondary still misses Jason Verrett.
Secondly, the Chargers committed a season-high 14 penalties for 107 yards (and it could have been worse, as a few penalties were declined). Against a fellow AFC West opponent that number of infractions could be a killer (many analysts said Denver lost the first game against San Diego because of their high number of penalties).
Additionally, while San Diego ran the ball effectively, the OL struggled in pass protection. Right tackle Joe Barksdale had another bad game. Guards Orlando Franklin & D.J. Fluker had better games, but Rivers still didn’t have much time in the pocket. I wouldn’t be surprised if rookie Spencer Pully gets a long look while Franklin is in concussion protocol.
I do not, however, want to paint an entirely negative picture. The Chargers obviously ran the ball effectively and forced turnovers. And Philip Rivers was his usual excellent self, completing more than 72% of his passes for 275 yards and two TDs. The big thing here was that Rivers didn’t force any bad throws. He took what was available to him. This is not an insignificant point. Despite missing Keenan Allen, Steven Johnson, Danny Woodhead, Travis Benjamin, and Hunter Henry, Rivers kept Tennessee’s defense from keying entirely on Gordon.
Before the game I hesitantly predicted a 26-23 game with lots of field goals, but without a clear victor (I wouldn’t even predict who would win).
prediction for Sunday (#TENvsSD): LOTS of yards & LOTS of FGs, 26-23 (victor unknown). I seriously have no idea who will win.
— Peter F. (@PickinBolts) November 5, 2016
My thinking was with all those offensive contributors sidelined, Rivers & company wouldn’t get into the end zone very often. I was confident, however, was that our defense would force the Titans into lots of FG attempts. The Chargers did attempt (and convert) three FGs, but the three Tennessee turnovers kept San Diego in the game and eventually sealed the win.
I want to address one more thing here. Prior to Sunday’s game, there was a lot of chatter, particularly on sports talk radio, about a rumored trade offer of the #2 overall pick (and thus, obviously, Marcus Mariota) for Philip Rivers. Rivers is a HOF caliber QB. Mariota is one of the brighter young QBs in the NFL. Ultimately we won’t know if and/or how this supposed trade could have turned out. But it was good to see the Chargers QB beat his would-be trade partner.
Next week, the Chargers face another team that’s coming on strong. The Miami Dolphins have won three straight, and RB Jay Ajayi has run for 200+, 200+, and 100+ in those three games. I don’t think their QB, Ryan Tannehill is much of a threat, i.e. they’re one-dimensional. But the Chargers can’t relax going into this game.
Thanks for reading.