The San Diego Chargers came up short in their attempt to come from behind in the fourth quarter and beat the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans. After leading for most of the game, the Chargers fell behind the Saints at the end of the third quarter and couldn't find their offensive groove in order to win the game. The Saints stripped Philip Rivers with less than one minute remaining in regulation to hold on for the 31-24 victory over the Chargers.
The Chargers were forced to play in a tough environment. A prime time game on the road across the country and with all the drama that follows the Saints was almost a near impossible setting for the Chargers to be successful. Despite 427 total yards on the offense, the Chargers came up short and fall to 3-2 on the season. Check out the following slides to see a final report card and analysis of all the players following the Chargers loss.
Philip Rivers: B+
Philip Rivers had a great game against the Saints. The only thing that didn't quite go his way was the final outcome. Rivers completed 27/42 of his passes for a season high 354 yards and two touchdowns. Rivers also threw an interception but it looked as if there was pass interference on the play that would have reversed the interception.
The Chargers struggled all night to protect Rivers, which is a minor concern as the Chargers move on. The Saints were overwhelmed on defense all night until the fourth quarter when the Chargers offense struggled to get anything going. Rivers fumble late that eventually ended the game was not his fault as his left tackle, Jarred Gaither, couldn't move.
Rivers missed a couple receivers on deep balls but other than that he was nearly perfect throughout the night. If Rivers can play like this every week the Chargers should seriously contend in the AFC West.
Ryan Mathews: A+
The return on Ryan Mathews? Mathews was ultra productive today racking up 80 yards on just 12 carries and touchdown. Mathews was also very active 59 yards and six catches. He came into the game and provided instant explosion to the offense that was struggling before his entrance. Mathews solidified his spot as the best option in a Chargers backfield that was looking for a leader.
Ronnie Brown: B
Ronnie Brown showed that he still has some open field moves as he made numerous Saints miss when he got the ball into open field. Brown was much more effective in the passing game where he totaled 47 yards through the air. Brown looked much stronger than Jackie Battle who disappeared as the game progressed.
Jackie Battle: D
It was an awful game who Battle, who did not record a touch after the first quarter. Battle had four carries for 10 yards and two catches for seven yards. Not exactly the production that the Chargers were hoping to see.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: B
The wide receiver unit had a fairly decent night against an awful Saints defense. Robert Meachem may have had his coming out party against his former team as he grabbed two touchdowns and 67 yards. Malcom Floyd had another good game recording five catches for 108 yards on eight targets. It was disappointing to see the receivers disappear in the fourth quarter when the team needed them the most.
There also needs to more production from the other receivers such as Eddie Royal, who has been nonexistent this season. Royal only managed to total two catches for 31 yards. Besides Meachem, Floyd and Royal there was not another receiver to record a catch other than the running backs.
Antonio Gates and Dante Rosario were disappointing for the Chargers who needed one of their play making tight ends to take over the game. Gates has had a below average season and seems to struggling to escape the double teams that he faces week in and week out.
Offensive Line: C-
The Saints have struggled generating a pass rush all season but you wouldn't guess that after watching the saints get constant pressure on Rivers all night. The pass protection was awful and many times Rivers was forced outside of the pocket, something that Rivers does not like to do.
While the pass protection was subpar, the offensive line did a nice job opening up holes for the running backs to run. Throughout the night Mathews and Brown were able to find themselves running through wide open holes and into the second level.
If the Chargers can improve the pass protection then they should have no problem putting up even bigger numbers on the scoreboard.
Not sure what happened with left tackle Jarred Gaither at the end of the game but if he is unable to play then he needs to removed from the game. Him being on the field cost the Chargers a chance at winning a game that they deserved to win.
Defensive Line: B+
The Chargers should be very impressed how their front seven played against the Saints and it all begins with the defensive line. Corey Liuget is turning into a beast up front for the Chargers. Liuget, who was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft struggled through his rookie season. His 2012 season has been fantastic and he looks like he might blossom into the player that Chargers hope they were getting when they used a first round draft pick on him.
The Chargers were able to stop any running game that the Saints had hoped to get going and were able to keep constant pressure on Drew Brees throughout the game. If it wasn't for such poor play in the secondary then the Chargers would of walked away from New Orleans with a win.
The Chargers linebackers helped the defensive line in getting after Drew Brees throughout the game. The linebackers were led by Shaun Phillips and Jarret Johnson throughout the game. Johnson recorded three tackles and showed up huge in the stopping the Saints running game, which only managed 53 yards. Phillips totaled four tackles as well as a sack.
John Pagano has done a great job at rotating the linebackers and using the depth that the Chargers have at that position. The Chargers have one of the deepest linebacker units in the entire NFL and Pagano has been ensuring that fresh guys are playing and getting after the quarterback. Another excellent night by the Chargers front seven.
As good as the front seven was for the Chargers, the secondary was equally as bad. Drew Brees who did not have much time to pass the ball was able to constantly find open receivers downfield. The two deep threats that the Saints have (Colston and Henderson) both had monster days. Jammer, Gilchrist and Cason were unable to cover deep and the safeties struggled to help over the top.
There is not many days when Eric Weddle struggles in coverage but tonight was one of those few days. Weddle and Bigby struggled all night in coverage and with communication. There were a few times where a Saints receiver was behind the cornerbacks and there was not a safety in the frame of action. The Saints passing attack is elite but the Chargers secondary made it look much better than it actually is.
Special Teams: D
Not a great day for the Chargers special team unit. While they managed to not give up a score they constantly made poor decisions while returning punts and kick offs. Nick Novak was forced into a long field goal but against a team as good as the Saints you need to get all the points you can. Richard Goodman and Eddie Royal were too ambitious with their kick returns often leaving the Chargers with a long field in front of them. The Chargers need to make sure that they give their offense the best opportunity to succeed and tonight the special teams did not do that.
Norv Turner was off to such a good start during the Saints game. The first quarter he made excellent play calls and the Chargers were in a groove on both sides of the ball. Then the play calling started to unravel and the Chargers failed to score from two yards out (on two passing plays). But the lowest point of Turner and his staff's game was the fact that no one noticed that Jarred Gaither was in obvious pain and was basically useless on the final drive of the game. Chris Collinsworth of NBC talked about it for two plays before Gaither was beat and Rivers was stripped from his blind side. The fact that no one noticed that they needed to make a move at left tackle is baffling.
Turner has his work cut out for him next week as the Chargers host the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. It will be a great chance for the Norv Turner and his team to prove that they belong in the AFC discussions and are the ones to beat in the AFC West.