Football fans were treated to an unexpectedly strong Oakland Raiders defense Monday night, and the San Diego Charger offense was the recipient of some old school smashmouth football that was reminiscent of the silver and black’s glory years in the '70s and '80s.
Without question the additions of Greg Ellis and Richard Seymour had a tremendous impact on this success, but many other defensive players also stepped up Monday night.
Compared to last year’s defensive effort, what was noteworthy in game one was the strong push the Raiders got at the line of scrimmage and the number of tackles made near or behind the line of scrimmage. An analysis of the NFL Gamebook tackling statistics yielded the following insights.
Tackles for loss
Not counting sacks, the Raiders recorded four tackles for loss, one each by Greg Ellis, Nnamdi Asomugha, Tyvon Branch, and Thomas Howard.
Richard Seymour is a man of his word. On Saturday he promised that Monday night you would find him in a No. 92 jersey on top of the quarterback. The Raiders recorded three sacks, two by Seymour and one by Ellis. This is a significant accomplishment given the reputation of the Chargers' offensive line, which only gave up 25 sacks all last season.
In addition, the Raiders continually collapsed the pocket around Philip Rivers (affecting his timing and footwork) and registered five quarterback hits. Frustration over the silver and black pressure eventually led Rivers to commit a taunting penalty in the third quarter.
Tackles near the line
There were 46 tackles by the defensive unit, 16 of these for gains of three yards or less, a vast improvement over last year's efforts. Fortunately what we didn’t see this game, compared to last season, was a large number of tackles being made by the front seven way off the line of scrimmage.
An excellent push by the front line and overall effective defensive scheme, particularly in the first half of play.
The defensive line was making tackles where you would expect a good defensive line to make them, near the line of scrimmage and in the backfield. By my count the line registered 16 tackles. Great job by this group, but too bad that Desmond Bryant, who was in on several plays, did not get to register his first NFL tackle.
One other interesting statistic was that Tommy Kelly only had one tackle in the game, even though he often appeared to be in the thick of things. Last year he averaged 3.5 tackles a game. In comparison, Gerard Warren was in on three tackles.
The linebackers recorded 19 tackles and seemed to be much improved against the run. Thomas Howard and Ricky Brown led the effort with nine and seven tackles respectively.
Kirk Morrison was noticeably absent from the tackling column with only two tackles, both recorded in the second half. He is normally a tackling machine and averaged 8.5 tackles a game last year to lead the team. Unsure if the drop-off in game one was due to the strong line play, the Chargers' play selection, injury, defensive scheme, or some other factor.
The defensive backs accounted for 21 tackles, of which nine were for 10 yards or more. This is not totally unexpected given the Chargers' downfield passing attack. Tyvon Branch and Chris Johnson were in on nine and eight tackles respectively and were seemingly all over the field.
Some great hitting near the line by our DBs, with Asomugha dropping shifty Darren Sproles in open space for a two-yard loss on one play, and Johnson absolutely leveling Sproles at the line of scrimmage on an ill-advised (for Sproles) dump-off pass.
Whether it is the new coaching scheme, the addition of two stalwart defensive linemen, or both, the Raiders' tackling in game one was a source of pride, not embarrassment, for the Raider Nation. The defense constantly pressured Rivers, manhandled the Chargers' touted offensive line, punished their runners, and swarmed around their ball carriers.
Your thoughts on the Raiders' tackling performance in game one?