Dissecting The Charger’s Loss In Miami
Nov 17, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) is sacked against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins won the game 20-16. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Sunday was another tough loss to swallow. It has left us all wondering why this offense can’t score touchdowns, and settles for mostly field goals. Let’s start by admitting that the defense (the secondary, in particular) couldn’t cover a one-legged sloth, and couldn’t tackle a stationary dummy. Corey Liuget made a huge mistake after drawing a roughing the passer penalty. That ended up negating a turnover, and lead to a Miami touchdown. Still, when you look at the fact that Miami was held to just 20 points (4 scores on 10 drives), that isn’t an insurmountable lead. However, scoring 16 points on 10 drives (1 TD, and 3 FG’s) will not win you games. In that regard, I put most of the blame on the offense. Let’s look at what the difference in the game was.
Looking at the stats, the game was actually pretty even. In fact, the Chargers were better, or were even, in almost every category. The one category that stands out like a sore thumb is that San Diego had 10 penalties for 76 yards. Miami only had 3 penalties for 15 yards. The Chargers played an undisciplined game yesterday, and it cost them the win. In addition to Liuget’s unacceptable penalty, Thomas Keiser had two offside calls & a neutral zone infraction. That’s 3 penalties on one player! Lawrence Guy was also caught offside. On offense, Gates lost fifteen yards on a big reception for a facemask penalty. Rivers made an illegal forward pass in the red zone that put us on the 9 yard line, instead of the 5. The penalty cost us a down, to boot. Clary got called for holding, pushing us back 10 yards. Keenan Allen topped it off with a taunting call on the next play, which cost them 15 yards, and we punted.
You can say that the last one on Keenan was a tick-tack call. However, you MUST maintain your composure, and get back to the line for the next play. This was a must win game, and the team had already been penalized NINE times. In short, both veterans & newbies alike couldn’t keep their cool on Sunday. That is on the players, not the coaches.
Penalties were rampant on the defensive side of the ball. We gave Miami 1st & 5 four times, and erased a much needed turnover. Aside from that, nobody could tackle, and we kept giving up big chunks of yardage on first & second down. To put it in perspective, Miami only converted 2 out of 10 third downs. However, the Dolphins converted a ton of first downs ON first down. They didn’t seem to need 3rd down conversions, because they kept getting them on first & second down. Last week the Dolphins ran for TWO yards! This week, they ran for 104 yards on 19 attempts, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. The Dolphins ran three backs, and none of them finished below 4.3 yards per carry.
The Chargers front seven could not contain Ryan Tannehill, either. He looked a lot like Jake Locker did, at times. He had 4 runs for 21 yards, and averaged 5.3 yards per attempt. This team has got to get better at defending the run, and containing mobile QB’s. We are worlds away from where this run defense was last season. I won’t even get into the passing defense too much. Let’s just say that Tannehill converted 15 first downs through the air. The only way this team seems to do well against the pass is if one of the opposing receivers drops the catch.
Ryan Mathews & Ladarius Green:
Ryan Mathews was phenomenal in this game. He had 127 yards on 19 carries, and averaged 6.7 yards per carry. When he gets over 20 carries, and racks up 100+ yrds, we usually win. Whisenhunt, ironically stopped him at 19 carries, and 127 yards. I guess we will never know why. (Is that why we lost? Hmmmm). Never the less, what a performance by RM24! He, once again, showed that he has turned a corner. He was easily the best player on the field. He has had three big runs in the last two games. These are the runs that we have all been waiting for. Before River’s pass to Vincent Brown was picked off, and ended the first drive, Mathews was given the ball 6 straight times for 41 yards. Woodhead ran for 7 on the next play, and it was clear that they were a one-two punch that Miami was struggling to stop. I guess it’s just typical that after all that success running the ball on the first drive, Vincent Brown runs a bad route, and Rivers pass goes to the only player on the field he should be avoiding… Grimes. Green also had another impressive game, and finished as the top receiver with 4 catches for 81 yards. So, yeah… can we get us some more Mathews & Green, please?
Red Zone Offense:
The Chargers went to the red zone just three times in this game. Both Green & Mathews put the team into the red zone all three times. After Johnny Patrick’s first quarter interception, Green caught a 32 yard pass, which put us at the Miami 17. Woodhead then ran for 5 yards, and Mathews got a rare red zone carry for 7 yards. Gates finished it off with a TD grab. THAT’S how you score in the red zone, folks!
In the second quarter, Mathews ran for 15 yards, and then another 8 yards on the next play to put it on the Miami 19. Then, John Phillips made a 13 yard grab, which put them at the 6. Mathews was run up the middle for just a yard. But, instead of sticking with him, or running Woodhead, they switched to the pass again. Rivers automatically got penalized 5 yards for an illegal forward pass to Gates. He should have just hung onto it, and ran it in for a TD, or to the one yard line. The ball got moved back to the 9 yard line, the down counted, and they were forced to throw to Brown for another incompletion. We settled for a game tying field goal.
Mathews later broke off a 51 yard run, which again put us on the Miami 19 yard line at the end of the 3rd quarter. However, he was immediately pulled from the game. They ran Woodhead for a yard, passed to Green for 4 yards, and threw an incompletion to Keenan Allen. They settled for the field goal again. But, at least they gave Green a shot at a red zone play, I guess. It was Green’s only one of the game down there. Ryan Mathews was given just 2 red zone opportunities for all of his hard work.
I can’t really bitch a whole lot about the red zone coaching. They called it perfectly on the first attempt. Philip screwed up the second attempt. However, instead of going Woodhead/Green/Allen/field goal, I would have run Mathews in the third red zone possession. Especially, after he just broke off 51 yards. Perhaps they thought he might be too tired after that absolutely clutch play he made? They did spread it out to different players this week. Some plays were successful, and others were not. The bottom line is that there really weren’t many to go around. There were only 12 red zone plays run, to be exact. Furthermore, there weren’t any ran after the 14:52 mark in the 4th quarter. Perhaps that was the bigger red zone problem this time. I pretty much credit that final stat to the o-line, who allowed 3 sacks in the final quarter, after playing admirably for most of the game.
The red zone play breakdown is as follows. What are your thoughts? Could the coaching & play calls been any better this week? I feel the loss can be blamed on pretty much everyone, honestly. Not just the coaches. Onward, and upward to Kansas City!!!!
Red Zone Plays
(2) – Nick Novak = 2 FG’s
(2) – Mathews = 2 runs – one for 1 yard / one for 7 yards
(2) – Woodhead = pass for 5 / run for 1
(2) – Gates = pass for a 5 yard TD / one TD called back for a Rivers penalty
(1) – Phillips = 1 pass for 13 yards
(1) – Green = 1 pass for 4 yards
(1) – Allen = 1 pass for zero yards
(1) – Brown = 1 pass for zero yards
Keep Bolting Toward Excellence!