With two teams still harboring aspirations of postseason play, the San Diego Chargers’ trip across country to face the Washington Redskins was always going to be an intriguing affair, and fortunately we were not let down there.
Both teams came into the game struggling on the defensive side of things, and by and large that was the tale of this one despite the scoreline not reaching inflated heights. On one hand, you had a Chargers’ team who, outside of some disconnects, moved the ball well while, on the other, you had a Redskins’ outfit that really got back to its rushing best.
Ultimately that was what saw them home, but there was one special performance that will get the attention it deserved.
Chargers – Three Performances of Note
The Three Amigos
During the game I believe it was Dan Fouts who commented that the Chargers’ passing attack runs through both Danny Woodhead and Antonio Gates. Maybe it does but for how much longer with Keenan Allen (+3.5) developing such a rapport with his quarterback? Now this isn’t a knock on the other two men (who both scored positive grades and accounted for 21 combined targets) but a reflection on the growing importance of Allen to this team. He gaffed with one terrible drop (Q4, 12:53) but showed tremendous character and talent to come back from that to have such a big impact in the final six minutes of regulation. Nothing quite highlighted his day like his double move touchdown (Q4, 4:16) that had David Amerson chasing his tail, but he showed some real veteran savvy to, with 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter, make the same guy miss, picking up the first down, and then getting out of bounds. He’s getting better and better.
An Interesting Day for Liuget
On the surface of things a -1.9 grade for Corey Liuget (chiefly on the back of two penalties that earned him a -1.8 grade) might suggest a quiet day. Instead it highlights just how mixed an afternoon he had as it was hard not to notice him on every other of the 59 snaps he played.
That’s to say that there was a lot of bad and a lot of good. Rushing the passer he generated nothing except one clean-up pressure, but did save his grade with two batted passes on back-to-back plays that threatened to have the Redskins’ fans turn on their team. Then in the run game he was continually caught off guard by the Redskins’ option-based attack that rarely had him working a man head on, instead being subjected to down blocks he couldn’t get off. Still his natural talent shined through on more than one occasion, most frustratingly the three seconds before he was flagged for a facemask penalty where he breezed past Kory Lichtensteiger as if he wasn’t there before drawing the flag (Q2, 6:40).
Like I said, an interesting day filled with highs and lows and one where the grade doesn’t really show just how involved he was.
The rollercoaster season of Johnnie Troutman continues. He was back to his best against the Jaguars but after a bye week off he was having more than his share of issues in pass protection, allowing three hits and four hurries. His role in the offense is always a tricky one, with the team seemingly happier for him to be the interior man left one-on-one with the Redskins’ big men in the middle. What’s more, the depth of dropback from his QB always ensures that he has very little wiggle room, with Philip Rivers rarely employing a seven-step drop that would leave his tackles more vulnerable and only average a dropback depth (from the line of scrimmage) of 7.75 yards when taking the ball from shotgun.
What this all means is that Troutman needs to anchor quickly against the bullrush but that is easier said than done against the likes of Barry Cofield and it did leave him vulnerable to having his blocks shed once his feet stopped moving. He ended up with a -3.5 grade here, but the fact he ended up with a -0.1 overall mark should highlight that he once again had a stellar game against the run. Many expected D.J. Fluker to be the star in that regard but in reality it’s been the left side of the line that has led the way which goes a long way in explaining why the team has rushed off the left side 116 times compared to 88 off the right side.
Redskins – Three Performances of Note
Rushing Attack Finds Rhythm
It’s hard not to like the Redskins’ rushing attack when they get the ball in the hands of Alfred Morris (+1.5). The whole team looks more sure of themselves and with a creative scheme they can really get a team on its backfoot, creating favorable matchups that they have the personnel to exploit.
And exploit they did in this game to the tune of 5.2 yards per carry even if 18 of their carries went for two or fewer yards. That’s how this team works, they don’t have personnel that will win a lot of battles head on (which made it all the more perplexing when they tried to run power on two short yardage situations) but they are quick to the point of attack and if you’re not prepared for them they will set up cutback lanes and big holes for their backs. Both guards exemplified this with Chris Chester and Kory Lichtensteiger combining for a +5.4 run blocking grade even though both left tape on the field that they won’t enjoying watching again. As it is the misdirection they’re prepared to use (most prominently their use of the option that they used on 13 occasions) gets them in positions where they can excel and that rekindling of their 2012 selves was a huge part of this win.
Ugly for Amerson
The real shame about the play of David Amerson (-3.7) is that he made one of the sweetest interceptions you’ll see all year as he broke on a ball with perfect timing to make a decent throw look much worse than it was. Sometimes you just have to applaud the coverage as much as admonish the quarterback and in that instance you really had no choice.
But outside of that play it was a rough day for the rookie. It didn’t help that the team had some communication issues but he needs to take his fair share of blame after allowing six-of-nine targets into his coverage to be complete for 87 yards. That chiefly meant Keenan Allen working on him, with the aforementioned touchdown being the lowest moment of the year for the sub package defender who was at sixes and sevens trying to adjust to a well-run stop-and-go.
Still sometimes you can play badly for most of a game and still come up with a big play and with that Amerson deserves credit for quickly peeling off his man and getting to Danny Woodhead inches (nay millimeters) before he could break the pylon. A more crucial play there wasn’t in the game, even if he almost undid it by allowing separation on the follow-up third-down play, fortunately saved by an off-target throw.
It’s not often you see performances the likes of which Pierre Garcon (+5.5) put in. It will make its way onto our Page of Fame for wide receivers once we’ve completed our All-22 review, and it was a game where the box score didn’t do justice to his brilliance. Sure 172 yards is always a good figure, but that it came on just 32 routes (an average of 5.38 yards per route run) is a testament to just how tough a time the Chargers had dealing with him.
But it’s not just the yardage that stood out. It was the catches. Featuring a beautiful one-handed grab on a ball behind him after he’d been fouled, a tough catch over the middle when sandwiched between two defenders, and another ridiculous low catch on a ball thrown so far behind him he had no right to grab. It truly was a mini highlight reel of all the good things he does included some excellent work after the catch on crossing routes when the Chargers left the middle of the field open.
A real joy to watch.
– This game featured perhaps the oddest pass interference penalty I’ve ever seen. Called on Keenan Allen (and I’ll be checking All-22 to see if any other receiver may have earned it, though given where the flag came from I deem it unlikely) he actually had no contact with David Amerson. As in the two men never came close to touching until after the ball was caught. If it’s offensive pass interference to be tackled then that could change things. Check out the play with 1:27 to go in the first half.
– The Redskins didn’t drop a single pass and missed only six tackles. See what happens when you execute on the fundamentals?
– 12.5 of the run snaps Jarret Johnson was on the field for saw him end up making a defensive stop.
Really I could only give this to one person. Though the rushing attack was key, it wouldn’t have been able to thrive without the timely contributions of Pierre Garcon.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled