First of all let me say that having to sit through the end of the damn Raiders game and missing all but the last 3 and a half minutes of the Chargers game sets me is a really foul mood. The bright side, once the network finished with the game, it cut to the Chargers game in time to see Running Back, Ryan Mathews run for a first down.
San Diego Entered the game winning the last three over the Broncos, and with the change of the Broncos coaching staff in the lockout shortened offseason I did not really expect that to change. Add to the coaching change, the fact that there is a real Quarterback controversy in Denver, and you have the makings of what should be a win for the Chargers… That is unless you factor in that these two teams know one another and no game against a divisional rival is ever easy.
The improvement in this young man from last season to this season is a welcome site. He is picking up blitzes better, hitting the holes and running with confidence. He has been by far the most consistent offensive weapon on the Chargers this season. Mathews is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and 135 yards from scrimmage per game on the season thus far.
To the game; as I mentioned, I did not get to see most of the first quarter, and this includes Quarterback Philip Rivers’ pick 6 interception. I will say that Rivers has not been himself in this early season, but is getting a bit better each game. Even with Rivers not at his best, statistically he is still a top QB in the league, more on that later though.
With about 2 minutes and 40 seconds left in the first quarter Running Back Mike Tolbert ran for a 13 yard first down, he took a few fair hits to bring him down. The second defender appeared to hit Tolbert in the ribs with his shoulder, and Tolbert got up and put his hand to the rib section. On this run the Chargers had both Tight Ends, Kory Sperry and Randy McMichael lined up on the right side of the formation. I like this formation as it has max protection and the possibility to change what looks like it could be a run play into a pass play.
Sperry on this particular play did a nice job of occupying Denver’s Line backer Von Miller and preventing him from getting to the backfield, as McMichael ran to the left of the formation with Guard Louis Vasquez to open a nice running lane for Tolbert. The Chargers offensive line is having its share of difficulties so far in this young season, but they ran this play very well.
Every run on this drive Tolbert came up limping or holding something as he was taking some hard hits from the Denver defenders. The drive was capped with a field goal, brining the Chargers to within one point of the Broncos lead.
The Chargers and Broncos as stated before are divisional rivals; they have been since the days of the AFL. It showed with the number of fights that occurred after the whistle was blown. In the second half one big scrum brought off setting personal foul penalties. Bronco Defensive Tackle Kevin Vickerson was lucky to not be ejected during the scrum, as he threw a punch at Chargers Center Nick Hardwick and then at the end of it all, shoved an official who was laying over him, presumably knocked there. What may have gone unnoticed in all of this is that the Chargers opened another beautiful hole on the left side of the line, allowing Full Back Jacob Hester to run for 8 yards.
A few plays later the Chargers scored a touchdown on a play that saw Rivers run it in from the two yard line. There is seriousness about Rivers that I haven’t really seen in the past. When he ran the ball in Rivers spiked it then looked at the end zone crowd with a flat, steady stare. On the play the protection was good, but it was Rivers’ pocket awareness that stood out to me. He felt the pocket collapsing and shifted up past the pressure. When he saw the open field, he lowered the ball and charged into the end zone for the score.
A lot of fans comment on how conservative the Chargers are. Arguably they are conservative at times, but I tend to be of the mindset that it is more to control the clock that to simply be nice to the opposition and not score on them. However on this day the Chargers moved down the field near the end of the first half, with 20 seconds left the Chargers did not take a knee, instead they dialed up a play where Rivers dropped back and hit a rainbow pass to Malcom Floyd for a 42 yard touchdown. This was by far the best looking long pass that Rivers has thrown so far this season. That pass put the score at 23 to 10 in favor of the Chargers at the end of the half.
After the completion for the touchdown, Rivers ran towards the sideline pumping his fist and pointing at someone. Was it props to Head Coach Norv Turner for calling the play? We can only speculate.
Thoughts on the first half; Kyle Orton is probably going to lose, if not already lost his job. He is shaken, there is fear in his eyes. His passes are rushed and off target. Rivers has some settling down to do, but there was a lot of non-contact pressure on his throughout the first half.
The second half the Chargers started having more difficulties. On one play Rivers dropped back to throw the ball only to have it slip out of his grasp. The result was Rivers recovered the fumble, but it brought up a 3rd down and 35 yards to go.
On the ensuing Broncos Drive Quarterback Tim Tebow came out to try and rally the Broncos. Shawn Phillips knifed into the back field on the second play, almost taking the handoff, but settled for stopping the play 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Tebow’s first series was three and out, not what the Broncos fans wanted to see from their young signal caller.
One thought on Hester as a full back. I see him line up and run in front of the running back, but I do not often see Hester looking to lay a hit on a defender, all too often I see him standing in the gap watching the running back go by. I hearken back to the days when we had the great Lorenzo Neal, and he would seek to lay the wood on a defender to open a hole. I can’t bring myself to like what I see from Hester as a lead blocker.
Kicker Nick Novak has turned out to be another good pickup by General Manager AJ Smith. The majority of fans were commenting on how bad he was and his low percentage rate when we picked him up, but if he has missed a field goal or point after attempt thus far I am unaware of it. In the 4th quarter Novak his a 51 yard field goal.
All in all I am extremely happy with the 4-1 start. Have the Chargers performed at the highest levels we have seen? No. They have played well enough to win though. Some will say they have won games against bad teams, but the bottom line is they have won. The offense is moving the ball and for the most part controlling the clock. The Defense is doing enough to keep the Chargers in the game. The Chargers will continue to get better, and as we see around the league there are a lot of teams not performing up to their usual standards. A large part of that is because of the shortened off season. The bottom line is the Chargers need to win. It is wins, not style points that get you into the post season.
Tim Tebow, though completing 4 out of 10 passes brought the Broncos back and made the final score much closer than any Chargers fan wanted. The Chargers held out for the 29 to 24 win. They suffered through some injuries notably to Mike Tolbert and Shawn Philips and got the win in Denver. Denver has always been a tough venue to win in.
Time of possession: Chargers 40:08 minutes. Broncos 19:52
First downs: Chargers 25, Broncos 13
Third Down efficiency: Chargers 50%, Broncos 22%
Total yards: Chargers 418, Broncos 275
Rushing yards: Chargers 206, Broncos 162
Passing yards: Chargers 212, Broncos 113
Penalties: Chargers 0*, Broncos 4
* The Chargers were given a personal foul penalty, but it was off setting so not recorded.
Season numbers going into the bye week:
Rivers: As noted above, Rivers is not performing at the levels we are used to as Chargers fans. However, this is perhaps a comment of how good Rivers actually is, that even not at his best, statistically he is still in the upper levels of Quarterbacks in the league.
5th passing yards with 1536.
4th in number of completions with 125
5th in number of attempts with 186
4th in passing percentage with 67.2
6th in yards per game with 307.2
Tied for 19th in touchdowns with 6
Tied for 1st in interceptions with 7
13th in passer rating with 87.6
As the numbers indicate, he needs to fix the interceptions and get better at getting the ball into the end zone. The Chargers have not been up to their normal levels of performance in the red zone so far this season. It is going to be on Rivers’ shoulders to be the leader in fixing this going forward.
Chargers Offensive Stats
7th overall offense
7th in total yards
10th in rushing
7th in receiving
12th in scoring
11th in most sacks given up with 13 (2.6 per game)
29th in number of QB hits with 18 (3.6 per game)
Chargers Defensive Stats
5th overall defense
5th in total yards given up with 293.2 per game
2nd in passing defense
18th in rushing defense
23rd in sacks with 8 (1.6 per game)
12th in interceptions with 5 (1 per game)