I keep hearing pundits say the Chargers versus Raiders game week 11 was an ugly win or not a work of art. Pretty much the only NFL fans excited about the game were aspiring punters. By the time we were collectively wiping sweat off our brows and watching the clock hit zeros the teams had racked up a season high 18 punts.
When your punter, Mike Scifres, gets the game ball you know something was not clicking with the offense. Derek Carr is not putting Scifres on his Christmas card list. He was really the difference in the game.
Through the last two games the Chargers have completed a few drives but they were making up yards on 1st and 2nd down and struggling on the most important of downs. Since the bye week the Chargers have had 17 failed 3rd down conversions. They went 4 of 15 in the Raider game and 4 of 12 on third downs.
Thanks to some turnovers and effective plays on first and second down, the Bolts managed to get a win against the Rams. But these are issues the offense needs to work out before facing the Ravens in their stadium where they are tough to beat.
So what went wrong? Well I went back and watched every play, so you won’t have to. Each one had different issues. There is a Good, Bad and Ugly on almost every play. Let’s check it out.
1) 1st Quarter 11:10 on the clock 3rd and 10
Good: Rivers had moved the team down field with a few run plays and got two third down conversions off hard counts.
Bad: If the pocket had been clean Gates was wide open 17 yards down field. Royal appeared to be the intended target but didn’t get open quick enough.
Ugly: If you watch the play in slow motion Fluker and Dunlap both get beat. Rivers is flushed to his left. He can’t set his feet to throw. The sack ultimately comes from Antonio Smith who has Troutman chasing him from behind.
2) 2nd Quarter 2:33 3rd and 5
Good: With all the receivers in the slot (KA, ER on right- MF on left) I expected a quick pass. Rivers had Donald Brown out wide but as always he brought him back to the pistol at the last moment. Defense shows blitz Rivers calls a mic on 52 and snaps the balls. He hits Keenan Allen with quick pass that was on the money.
Bad: Rookie cornerback Carrie just made a good play and knocked the ball out of his hands.
Ugly: The pocket folded like an umbrella. Dunlap was smoked on this play and Rivers got smashed as he threw. Still he got the ball there.
* Note the missed Novak kick happened on first down going into the half. The offense was moving down the field just ran out of time. Hmmm two-minute no huddle offense. Might be something to try on the first drive in Baltimore.
3) 3rd Quarter 15:00 3rd and 10
Good: After a pretty solid 2 minute drive (time management problems on the coaching staff) the Bolts got the ball to start the second half. Rivers did a good job of reading the defense. Gates and Floyd were lined up in the slot on the Right. The corners covering them were 10 and 8 yards down the field standing up straight. Rivers probably assumed the corners were ready to back up expecting Floyd to go straight down field. Rivers hit Floyd as crossed the middle.
Bad: 7 yards short of the first down. The rookie Hayden closed quickly on the play, Rivers was just a little slow on the throw. This same play got Gates 25 on a 3rd and 5 in the Jets game.
Ugly: No ugly here. The pocket was clean, the defense just saw it coming.
4) 3rd Quarter 11:21 3rd and 18
Good: The pocket was clean. It didn’t matter because…
Bad: No one was open. Donald Brown picked up a blitz out of the back field. When he saw that no one was open he tried to leak out. So Rivers dumped off to him.
Ugly: This play was broken, when Rivers could go down field he chucked down to Brown who was not in any way shape or form ready. Ball hit his shoulder pads.
5) 3rd quarter 3rd and Goal (from the 5)
Good: The offense finally got in a rhythm. 4 first downs on the drive plus another hard count that got the raiders off side on a previous third down. After two short Oliver run plays the Bolts lined up with Green and Gates. The two tight-end sets we have been screaming for.
Bad: Rivers had nowhere to go. No one got separation at the goal line.
Ugly: Before anyone could get open Troutman lost contain on the Raiders #95. Rivers had to throw it away to avoid a sack.
6) 3rd Quarter 3rd and 3
Good: This is an awful play. Gates was open down field. Keenan Allen was there for a dangerous throw into coverage. Rivers never had a chance.
Bad: Bolts only needed three yards, Gates should have turned around quicker, Rivers should have thrown the ball right away.
Ugly: Chad Rinehart who till this point has a had a good game just gets spun on. Antonio Smith just crushes Rivers so quick he can’t throw the ball away.
7) 3rd and 4 + 3rd and 14
Good: Rivers hits Malcolm Floyd for 22 setting up 1st and goal. Best third down play of the game. Crowd goes wild. Cue a Chargers nationwide homer Simpson “Doh.”
Bad: Holding on King Dunlap. This sets up 3rd and 14 that is a short useless pass to Keenan that is 10 yards short of the first down.
Ugly: The holding was not the Ugly. The Ugly was Dunlap getting a holding by hugging Mack and rolling up on his QB. Rivers had trouble getting up and it is amazing he even tried to go on the 3rd and 14.
8) 3rd quarter 4:10 3rd and 1
Good: After a few good plays the Bolts looked ready to drive.
Bad: Really it was 3rd and Inches I realize with his ribs hurt (possibly) Quarter back sneak was not the best idea, but damn. It was so close. The Raiders packed the box.
Ugly: Oliver had no chance but pushed at the line. #24 generally hits those piles and tries to bounce out to the left. Oliver should have done that the box was a wall of Raiders.
9) 4th Quarter 11:14 left 3rd and 7
Good: Great protection. Rivers has time. He seems Keenan is being covered one on one by Hayden.
Bad: Hayden gets beat by Allen but is closing quickly. When Rivers throws he has to put it in an awkward spot.
Ugly: Keenan has to lay out-of-bounds to try to catch the ball. It is a good effort but uncatchable.
- 4th Quarter 6:50 left 3rd and 6
Good: Nothing really.
Bad: Raiders have the receivers locked up. Rivers holds on to the ball to long hoping a play will develop. Can’t blame him for that.
Ugly: Raiders rookie linebacker Mack beats Dunlap, but I think in fairness it was a coverage sack. After a battle Rivers is sacked. He is slow to get up.
- Somewhere around the 2 minute warning 3rd and 5.
Good: On the last third down Gates had that amazing circus catch. That drained a lot of clock. Not this time.
Bad: Besides my notes? (I was running out of space on my paper) Donald Brown had no running lanes at all.
Ugly: This gave the Raiders a chance at the end. Thankfully they Raidered it up.
The Rams Game
The offense still had trouble in the first half but Rivers and company seemed to find their rhythm in the second half. Rivers was 14/15 in the second half and, more importantly, Ryan Mathews averaged over 8 yards a carry. Still the third down woes continued in the Rams game. The first half was ugly.
1) 3rd and 15 ( first drive)
Good: Nothing much works on this drive.
Bad: On his first drive as a starter at the center position Chris Watt sets the team back to 2nd and 20. On 3rd and 15.
Ugly: Donald Brown was open for a check down near the line of Scrimmage and Eddie Royal was open near the first down. Dunlap was beat on his block. Rivers had to move up in the pocket and could not set his feet in time to throw. Sack.
2) 3rd and 3 (Red zone)
Good: After Flowers picked up Shaun Hill the Bolts have a short field. The Rams crowded the box, expecting a run from Ryan Mathews who was off to a hot start. This leaves Keenan Allen out on the left with single coverage. Rivers audibles out of the run, based on the defense being set up to stop the run.
Bad: Keenan Allen might not have gotten the memo because…
Ugly: Rivers throws him a fade in the endzone and Keenan is nowhere near the ball. Terrible communication.
3) Second Quarter 3rd and Goal
Good: Well it was a great drive. Mathews looked great and then…
Bad: Go straight to ugly.
Ugly: A 99 yard pick six, is pretty much the red zone/ 3rd down nightmare. It wasn’t a bad call. Jenkins just moved quicker than Keenan Allen. Not much more to say.
4) Second Quarter 3rd and 1 9:51 left
Good: by design this play almost worked. Unlike the last two plays Keenan Allen was where he was supposed to be. It is clear he was the target in a crossing route.
Bad: The problem is even though the pocket holds the Rams D-lineman disrupt the timing of the play by Sticking his arm up for block at the moment Rivers needs to pass to Keenan.
Ugly: Rivers has no choice but to tuck and try to run for the first down. He fails.
5) 2nd quarter 3rd and 5 3:02 left
Good: Completed pass to Malcolm Floyd
Bad: A this point in the game the Chargers are 0/5 on third down.
Ugly: M-80 was not even close to the first down. He started wide left and crossed, despite Rivers almost instant release the Rams #33 read it. This play failed last week. I have a feeling defenses have watched how many times this play worked in the first 5 weeks.
6) 4th quarter 3rd and 2, 1:54 left
Good: Mike Scifres foot finally gets a break.
Bad: This is your game on the line. Convert this and Gilchrist doesn’t ever get his hero moment. We would have had a more relaxing end to the game. It didn’t happen. Ryan Mathews in the back field. Keenan Allen and Eddie Royal slot on the left. Floyd slot right. Gates starts wide and motions in.
Ugly: On the snap the pocket just folds. Both Troutman and Fluker get beat. Rivers looked for the check down to Mathews but the timing is bad. Mathews is behind Dunlap, by the time he is free Rivers is sacked.
Last year the Chargers led the NFL in third down conversions. During the first 6 weeks of the season Rivers was looking like a third down wizard. If there is anything we can read as a pattern here it would lack of timing. This is something that the team has to get on the same page with. It seemed they did in the second half of the Rams game. They have 3 straight perfect drives (team-wise although Keenan Allen had a fumble that ended the second of those drives).
The defense has started to play with speed and a mean edge. If the offense can get back to sustaining those long drives, a key to Mike McCoy’s system, this team will be dangerous despite the gauntlet they face the rest of the regular season.