The comforts of home were supposed to be what the Chiefs needed to bounce back from their first loss of the season, but even the Arrowhead crowd couldn’t push them to a win after both ends of their edge rush were removed from the equation. The Chargers kept pace and scored last in a second half that swung each way a number of times, keeping their playoff hopes alive and stinging their division rivals in the process.
Here are a handful of standout performances from Sunday’s AFC West battle that left the Chargers pleased and the Chiefs reeling.
San Diego – Three Performances of Note
A Top-5 quarterback per our grading in each of the four seasons from 2008 to 2011, Philip Rivers fell off in 2012 in what some feared was a sign of the crashing end to his effectiveness in the league. Truer, it turns out, was that though there was an end on the way, it was simply that of the San Diego offensive scheme that had run its course. 2013 has brought renewal for Rivers and even with the new passing game being built around under routes, crosses, and swings, the opportunity for timely strikes remains.
Rivers connected for three touchdowns in this game, one being a 60-yard catch-and-run by Ladarius Green, while the others were shots into the end zone in the final minute of each half. The first of those two passes closed the scoring gap before halftime and was placed well to sneak in to Danny Woodhead who, as he does, had lost a linebacker on his way up the sideline. The second was a game-winning beam placed between a converging corner-safety pair in the game’s final minute when a field goal wouldn’t do.
With a few Week 12 games still due in, Rivers is sitting among the league’s three best-graded quarterbacks overall and has the top spot when looking just at his grade as a passer.
All-Good for Allen
Rookie receiver Keenan Allen has found a home in the Charger offense, obviously comfortable running the routes asked of him — the bulk of what he’s been targeted on being ins, slants, and crosses – he continued on this week. Using those routes to generate six first downs, he operated well despite who was assigned to track him, catching balls on five different defenders. Seven of his nine receptions were logged against Kansas City corners with mirrored success enjoyed when facing Sean Smith and Marcus Cooper – 3-of-4 for 44 against Smith and 3-of-4 for 59 against Cooper.
On San Diego’s final drive of the first half, Allen collected four catches and topped the stretch with a one-handed snare (Q2 0:29) reaching back to bring it in nonchalantly as he crossed the middle of the field before buzzing on for 16 yards to set up the Rivers-to-Woodhead score.
Unaccustomed to seeing red grades splattered on his player page, what stands out about Eric Weddle’s 2013 season is the inconsistency when held up next to prior seasons. Our top-graded safety in 2012 – and Top 5 the two seasons before – this was his fourth game in the red this year and he’s currently looking up at 21 other safeties in the overall grades at the position. While his work against the run was a strength last season, this year it’s been a source of drag as he hasn’t quite been the same force. Illustrating, his Run Stop Percentage of 2.6 is currently 30th among safeties, down from a 7.3 mark that led the league in 2012.
Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
Replacement Right Side
With rookie right tackle Eric Fisher and fourth-year vet right guard Jon Asamoah both missing the game, the Chiefs went with an all-new right side in Week 12. Donald Stephenson made his second start of the year at tackle and Geoff Schwartz his third at guard. The pair walked away with the O-line’s two highest overall grades for the week. Stephenson earned the majority of his positives as a run blocker (finding regular joy moving Kendall Reyes around) while Schwartz’s pass blocking (one hurry allowed) got him into the green.
The start (+2.1) was a departure from Stephenson’s work so far this season and miles in the opposite way from his last opportunity to log a full game (a -6.7 day against Tennessee in Week 5). Seeing a strong effort on the right edge had to make the Chiefs’ staff happy as they’ve marched through a year-long struggle at the spot waiting for the rookie to settle in. As for Schwartz’s job stepping in for Asamoah, it was more of solid fitting for solid as Asamoah has put in a Top-5 right guard season so far and his fill-in was on par.
Lost on the Edge
With 122 total pressures combined, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston hold the two top spots among 3-4 outside linebackers in the pass rushing havoc department. The dual edge threat has been major part of the team’s defensive foundation – the same that has carried the Chiefs to one of the league’s top records. First-half injuries unplugged that edge charge as both Hali (ankle) and Houston (elbow) were lost and the D was left with a Moses-Zombo combo trying to fill some huge shoes and ending with a single pressure between them on 55 combined pass rushes. It’s too early to know how long the destructive duo will be gone, but it’s likely they’ll not be available to face Denver in Week 13. Not something the suddenly slipping Chiefs wanted to see.
Flowers, Smith & Cooper
A day spent chasing Charger receivers left the Chief trio each with over 100 yards on their books, a total of 213 yards after the catch, and passer ratings allowed that wouldn’t make them proud (Cooper 116.7, Flowers 153.3, Smith 158.3). It wasn’t Rivers’ most dominant day of accuracy, but the Chief corners made no plays on the ball, gave up 17 catches and found themselves trailing on touchdowns twice in the game’s final eight minutes – plays that proved the difference. With the Hali-Houston issue up front and the Broncos up next, the prospects of another showing like this will be a major worry.
- Providing pressure from the inside in his highest snap total of the year (51), Chief defensive end Allen Bailey supplied six hurries.
- A pair of Chargers logged three special teams tackles, one of which was kicker Nick Novak.
- Alex Smith’s passer rating fell from 125.9 when not pressured to 42.1 when faced with a rush (13 drop-backs).
PFF Game Ball
In a game without a monstrous performance from any one spot, Keenan Allen’s nine catches and +2.0 grade get him the game ball.
Follow Rick on Twitter.