San Diego Chargers Position Grades vs. Miami Dolphins
The San Diego Chargers lost, 20-16, to the Miami Dolphins Sunday.
All losses are bad, but falling to the Fins was especially harsh considering what was at stake.
Announcer Dan Dierdorf summed it up nicely near the end of the second quarter.
“The loser of this game is looking to run the table to make the playoffs,” the Hall of Fame offensive lineman said. “That’s unlikely.”
Miami (5-5) is right in the thick of the playoff hunt, while the Chargers (4-6) are most probably out of postseason contention.
It really was an ugly game for San Diego, and the scoreboard showed which team played better and which struggled.
Philip Rivers completed 22 of 34 pass attempts (64.7 percent) for 298 yards and a touchdown. He also tossed his eighth interception of the year.
Rivers rarely looked comfortable in the pocket. While that is not his fault, the result was passes that were off the mark.
Rivers does not get enough credit for his ability to step up in the pocket, but there was not much of a pocket to step up into against Miami’s strong defensive line.
Down the stretch, on the final drive of the game, River went 6-of-8 with the two incomplete passes being a spike to stop the clock and the final Hail Mary as time expired.
Rivers was able to spread the ball around to nine different receivers, but he had four incomplete passes on third downs.
Even though he had good numbers, it is hard to say Rivers had a good game. Granted, it is hard to complete passes or look comfortable when the defense is constantly in your face.
Rivers also gets knocked for even trying that illegal forward pass. Understandably he is not Randall Cunningham, but Rivers could have run that ball into the end zone. Or throw it earlier.
Ryan Mathews looked impressive, gaining 127 rushing yards on 19 carries. His 51-yard run up the left side at the end of the third quarter was the longest play from scrimmage of his professional career. The first six plays the Chargers ran on offense all went to Mathews (four rushes and two receptions).
He became the first player this season to rush for more than 100 yards against the Dolphins defense. Mathews ran hard and finished runs plowing forward instead of getting knocked backward.
Mathews also added two receptions for 16 yards.
Danny Woodhead had a fairly quiet night by his standards. He finished with 37 total yards on seven total touches. He had five rushes for 21 yards and two receptions for 16.
The wide receivers as a group totaled nine catches for 120 yards, but it was the little mistakes that will stand out.
Rookie Keenan Allen paced the wide receivers with three catches for 45 yards, but a taunting call helped kill the first drive of the second half.
Allen delivered a devastating block on the first drive of the game and continued to commit himself to run blocking throughout the game, but a slip on a slant pattern almost ended in an interception later in the fourth quarter.
Allen ended the game on the sidelines with a knee injury, according to U-T San Diego’s Michael Gehlken.
Right knee of Keenan Allen wrapped, iced on Chargers sideline. We'll see, but doesn't look like he'll return.
— Michael Gehlken (@UTgehlken) November 17, 2013
Seyi Ajirotutu had two catches for 38 yards, Eddie Royal had two for 20 and Vincent Brown had two for 17.
On Rivers’ interception, either the quarterback threw to the wrong spot or Brown veered to far inside on his route. Whatever the case, Brent Grimes ended the first drive of the game for San Diego with a pick.
The receivers as a group did not get much separation from Miami’s defensive backs, which also hurt the offensive linemen’s protection.
A tight end was the leading receiver for the San Diego Chargers for the seventh game this season, but for the first time it was not Antonio Gates.
Gates finished with four catches for 52 yards and the Bolts lone touchdown, but Ladarius Green had four receptions for 81 yards.
John Phillips also had one catch for 13 yards.
With Miami focusing on Gates, Green was able to have the biggest game of his career. What is more admirable than simply putting up big numbers, Green made difficult catches and ran well with the ball after the catch.
Green also provided big blocks in the run game.
This is Frankenstein’s monster of offensive lines.
They are bits and pieces of mismatched utility players thrown together and expected to thrive.
Yes, the Chargers racked up 435 total yards and registered the first 100-yard rusher against Miami. But the team was unable to score more than one touchdown, and Rivers was harassed throughout the game, even though the Dolphins officially had three sacks.
Congratulations on having a bevy of players ready to play multiple positions, but the level of play needs to improve for the team to make any serious playoff push.
Miami was held to two rushing yards against Tampa Bay.
The Dolphins responded with 104 yards on the ground on 19 carries against San Diego. That is an average of 5.5 yards per attempt.
Corey Liuget’s blatant roughing the passer penalty erased a potential turnover at the start of the second quarter.
From the first play of the game, the defensive front seven for San Diego was anxious to get off the line of scrimmage in a hurry.
The first play looked like the nose tackle jumped early. Three plays later, Thomas Keiser was penalized for encroachment. Five plays after that, it looked like the nose tackle jumped early again.
The first play of Miami’s second drive was a penalty on the Chargers defense for being offsides. Keiser had another penalty to start the second quarter.
The Chargers defense had six penalties for 31 yards.
Sean Lissemore had the lone sack for the defensive line, but Ryan Tannehill had a relatively clean pocket to pass from for most of the night.
The play of the defensive line is even more depressing considering the Dolphins offensive line may be in worse shape than San Diego’s.
As mentioned earlier, outside linebacker Thomas Keiser was overly eager to rush the quarterback. Keiser was flagged three times for either defensive offsides or lining up in the neutral zone.
Reggie Walker was also credited with a sack.
But the story for the linebackers—the entire defense really—was missed tackles.
Chargers fans unfortunately expect the cornerbacks and even the safeties to miss tackles, but when defensive leaders like Donald Butler are letting runners slip through tackles, you know the team has an issue.
Is there anything that needs to be said that has not been said before?
Derek Cox is so afraid of getting beat deep (which should be a legitimate fear of his considering how his season has gone) he is giving Brian Hartline 10- to 12-yard cushions on 3rd-and-7.
Once a player does catch the ball, the secondary is about as talented at tackling as countries in the Southern Hemisphere are at the winter Olympics.
The touchdown pass to Charles Clay is a perfect example of how the season has gone for the San Diego defense in general and the defensive backs in particular.
The secondary did have four pass deflections, which is by far the most it has had all season, and Johnny Patrick had an interception and Eric Weddle had a sack.
But Cox dropped what looked like was an easy interception that could be returned for a touchdown.
Nick Novak was 3-of-3 on his field goals and made the lone extra point. More impressive, he had three touchbacks on kickoffs.
Mike Scifres flipped the field with his punts and pinned the Dolphins inside the 20-yard line twice.
Keenan Allen looks like the punt returner for the Chargers as long as he is healthy.
The coverage units did well not allowing big plays.
The announcers wanted to chide head coach Mike McCoy for not calling a timeout at the end of the first half and putting pressure on the Miami punting unit.
While keeping a timeout in your pocket is not advisable, that is not what fans should be made about with the coaching staff.
The coaches have failed to instill the fundamentals with this team, especially on defense.
The play-calling on offense was fine. Mathews had the hot hand, so giving him the ball often was smart. If anything, the Chargers should have ran the ball more than the 26 attempts they did run.
Defensively, the team needs to go back to basic tackling drills.
It is embarrassing.
Also, teach the defensive front seven the quarterback may use a hard count, so don’t be so eager to jump offsides and give the opponent five free yards.
Coach the defensive players to not run into the other quarterback after three steps.