Watching the game you couldn’t help but feel like Kansas City fumbled this one away before it really even got started. Their first two drives ended with turnovers and the first quarter wasn’t even nearly done before they were 17 points behind. That score neutralized the Chiefs’ running attack and Matt Cassel made too many mistakes to give them a chance.
That is not to say that the Chargers didn’t deserve this win. San Diego was all over the field on defense in the first half and was quite frankly dominant. An offensive lull in the second and third quarters when the Chargers weren’t able to run the ball effectively allowed the Chiefs a glimmer of hope, but that was quickly stamped out early in the fourth as Ryan Mathews and Jackie Battle ran the ball down their throats to make it 34-13 after a third Chiefs fumble.
San Diego – Three Performances of Note
A Much Needed Win
Last season saw right tackle Jeromey Clary (+3.6) put up only three positive performances all year en route to his worst performance since PFF starting grading. If the past two weeks are any indication, he may be in for a superb comeback year. Clary’s draw on Sunday may have been his hardest all year, as he faced sophomore sensation Justin Houston who was coming off of three straight games of at least three combined hurries, hits, and sacks. For the day, Clary denied Houston of any of those stats in an excellent performance. After being handed the lead early, all the Chargers needed to do was work the clock and run an efficient offense. Clary’s lights-out play allowed them to do that.
Eric Weddle on the back end is about as consistent as they come in this league. Weddle snagged his second interception of the year on the only time he was targeted in the game. It is getting to the point where quarterbacks are taking note of where he is and throwing away from him because of his ball-hawking abilities — Weddle has been targeted only 10 times and given up only 39 yards. Last year he led the league in quarterback rating against at only 25.8, and he is picking up right where he left off with a rating of 37.1 so far in 2012. It’s sad that he doesn’t get the same recognition as guys like Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu because he doesn’t make flashy hits or returns, but Weddle belongs in the elite safety category nonetheless.
Biting on the Fake
Antoine Cason plays right cornerback in a Chargers’ defense that keeps each corner on their respective side of the field no matter where the wide receivers line up. On Sunday Dwayne Bowe only lined up on Cason’s side 34 times, but they were certainly enough to make Cason wish he could have followed around Jonathan Baldwin or Dexter McCluster. Bowe beat Cason five times for 90 yards and a touchdown. The trouncing culminated when Cason bit hard on a shoulder fake and let Bowe get behind him for a 29-yard touchdown. Given that Cassel had missed Bowe deep on an early double move it won’t be long before more teams try the same trick on the former first-round pick. It was just a game to forget for a player who has had success against the Chiefs in the past (positive grades three out of past four games).
Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
A Slow Recovery
In this day and age ACL injuries don’t have the serious career implications that they once did. A torn ACL is devastating, but fans expect the player at full strength the next season. Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, Eric Berry doesn’t seem to be back at full strength just yet. Berry was exposed all day by tight end Antonio Gates. The Chiefs’ star safety was more than a few steps behind most plays and was out of place in man coverage. When all was said and done he gave up 97 yards (59 to Gates) on seven of seven passing and committed two pass interference penalties. This was a performance reminiscent of a rookie year where he was put in positions he was always going to struggle with, and while learning on the job will make him better in the long term, it hurt the team in this one.
The Whole Backfield
Coming into the game all the talk was about Ryan Mathews’ fumbling problem. Who knew it would be the Chiefs’ backs that would cough up the ball three times? The good news is that Jamaal Charles and Shaun Draughn don’t have a history of fumbling problems (never more than two in a season). The bad news is that the attention to detail just wasn’t there. Charles, Draughn and Cyrus Gray combined for a -3.9 pass blocking grade on a measly nine attempts in as pathetic an exhibition of blitz pickup as you’re likely to ever see. The three whiffed multiple times on the Chargers’ athletic linebackers and had little semblance of proper form. Other teams will take advantage of this in the future if the Chiefs’ backs aren’t able to correct it.
While all around him were losing their heads, step forward Dwayne Bowe (+3.0) with the kind of performance you expect from an elite receiver. The only way the Chargers could stop him required the use of the referees flags as he drew two defensive pass interference and another illegal contact call. Yet that only limited his impact, and not by much. He regularly got separation and twice put double moves on Antoine Cason, one of which resulted in a touchdown and another that should have (but for an overthrow) resulted in a big gain. With an erratic quarterback and few others stepping up in the passing game, Bowe’s 7 of 12 balls caught for 108 yards didn’t do him justice.
– Who needs to blitz? Cassel threw three picks and completed 53.1% of his passes without the Chargers sending the heat.
– The Chargers didn’t even try and go deep, throwing 16 of 22 passes within 10 yards and only one pass over 20.
– Antonio Gates picked up 2.46 yards for every route he ran.
This ball goes to right tackle Jeromey Clary for putting up an all-around solid game when they needed it most. There was a lot of buzz regarding Justin Houston coming into this game, and a lot less leaving it because of Clary’s performance.
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