San Diego Chargers Position Grades vs. Kansas City Chiefs
It was disappointing at times to watch a bunch of second-stringers from Kansas City give the Chargers’ starting units so much trouble, but San Diego did end up getting the win.
Not all players and units played poorly for San Diego but they need to improve their performance if they wish to make any type of playoff run.
Philip Rivers did not light up the scoreboard, but he got the job done.
Rivers completed 22 of his 33 pass attempts for 229 yards and three touchdowns. He did have an interception, but his receiver fell down as Rivers was releasing the ball, so you cannot hold that against the quarterback.
He had some pinpoint passes, like the one to Ladarius Green in the end zone or the crossing route to rookie Keenan Allen in the fourth quarter.
Ryan Mathews had a marvelous game. He had a game-high 144 rushing yards on 24 carries for an impressive 6.0 yards per carry. This was one of the best games he had this season in terms of making hard cuts and firing through the running lane.
The 144 yards is the most rushing yards in a game in Mathews’ career. It also put him at 1,255 yards on the season, his best year as a professional and the first time a San Diego running back rushed for more than 1,200 in a season since LaDainian Tomlinson had 1,474 in 2007.
Danny Woodhead was the game’s leading receiver, catching seven passes. He only gained 42 yards on those receptions, but he was key in continuing drives. He finishes the regular season with 429 yards rushing and 605 yards receiving.
The failure of the wide receivers to separate from defenders resulted in at least two of Rivers’ three sacks. They were also a factor in several other pressures and QB hits. The receivers must do a better job at creating a target for the quarterback.
Keenan Allen had five catches for a game-high 89 yards. He set a franchise record with 1,046 receiving yards in a rookie season. Allen finished his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign with 71 catches and eight touchdown receptions.
Eddie Royal caught three passes for 34 yards and one touchdown. He also had a devastating block on a defensive back to help clear the way for Allen’s 38-yard reception in the fourth quarter.
Vincent Brown and Seyi Ajirotutu were each targeted once on throws, but neither caught a pass.
The first touchdown for the Chargers went to Green.
The second touchdown went to Antonio Gates.
Green finished the season with 17 receptions for 376 yards and three touchdowns.
Gates led the team with 77 receptions. His 872 receiving yards are the most since he finished with 1,157 yards in 2009.
The tight ends also helped Mathews’ career day by sealing off Chiefs defenders on run plays.
Rivers did get sacked three times, but the quarterback held on to the ball for long periods of time hoping his receivers would eventually get open.
Even with that built-in excuse, the line did not have its best day in pass protection. Too many times there was pressure on Rivers soon after the snap.
The group did do well in run blocking. San Diego averaged 5.2 yards per carry, and the Chiefs did not record any tackles for losses.
Cam Thomas was making plays in the Kansas City backfield.
Kendall Reyes had one sack and several QB hurries.
Corey Liuget had one sack and even more pressures than Reyes.
It was a fantastic performance for the starters, even if it was against mostly second-stringers.
Donald Butler and Manti Te’o were both in on 10 combined tackles.
It is amazing that Reggie Walker did not swat the ball out of the quarterback’s hand in overtime.
Melvin Ingram and Jarret Johnson were both in on three total tackles.
Thomas Keiser had one solo tackle and was relatively quiet.
The linebackers had a solid game. The unit improved its tackling as the season progressed. There were few glaring missed tackles.
Chase Daniels had not started a regular-season game since his final year at Missouri in 2008, yet he was able to complete 21 of 30 pass attempts for 200 yards and a touchdown.
The defensive backs gave up big plays on third down to backups.
It almost cost the Chargers the win and the playoff berth.
Nick Novak hit clutch field goals in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The coverage units make fans hold their breath anticipating the Chiefs would break one for a touchdown.
San Diego’s returners did nothing to strike fear in the opposition.
But the talk of special teams will be about Eric Weddle’s fake punt in the fourth quarter. According to UT San Diego’s Kevin Acee's recent article, the decision to go for it on 4th-and-2 from their own 28-yard line was Weddle’s.
It was a gutsy call, no matter who takes credit, but it also blew up in the Chargers’ faces as Weddle appeared to have fumbled the ball to a Kansas City defender who walked into the end zone for an apparent game-winning score. Miraculously Weddle’s helmet came off, and the referee whistled the play dead before the fumble officially occurred.
GRADE: C (Novak and the fake punt working when it should not have are the only positives)
Can you give credit for the fake punt if a player made the call and not a coach?
Yes, because special teams coach Kevin Spencer allowed Weddle to make the call.
Head coach Mike McCoy did get the win and did make the playoffs, so those are positives.
The team looked outmatched by a bunch of second-stringers, so that is not positive.
Apparently the coaches did not scout the backups and prepared as if Kansas City would play its starters, so some level of excuse is there.
Still, it would have been nice to see a little more passion from the team from the opening kickoff in a game that determined a playoff spot.