With results on Sunday going their way, the San Diego Chargers needed a win against the Oakland Raiders to keep their playoff hopes alive. While it wasn’t always pretty It was mission accomplished and they’re now front and center in the intriguing (if not confusing) AFC Wildcard picture.
For an Oakland outfit that was expecting to flop, they can at least hold their heads high with some victories and plenty of competitive showings, despite the issues they’ve had at quarterback that have led to them starting an undrafted free agent. Purging themselves of some personnel mistakes and bringing in some shrewd signings has given them a foundation they can build on, making this offseason crucial in the teams development.
Let’s look at some of the most noteworthy showings.
Raiders – Three Performances of Note
It’s that time of the year where journeymen veterans are playing for their future. They know in a fickle league they need to put their best foot forward so that the scouts and personnel evaluators can’t miss them. In that regard Pat Sims (+7.2) duly delivered with a career best grade, highlighted by some persistently excellent work in the run game.
You don’t often see defensive players at any position make 10 tackles against the run in a single game, let alone a defensive lineman, but Sims was that man on Sunday with an impressive seven of them resulting in defensive stops and three being tackles for a loss. He started off strong, getting push on Chad Rinehart before shedding to make the stop in the backfield (Q1, 10.26) and while he slowed down in the second half it really was a quite brilliant performance that is unlikely to get the credit it truly warranted.
Is McGloin The Man?
Those looking for a short answer are not going to be pleased. The rookie certainly had his problems in this game (-1.7) but it was a decent rebound considering just how bad he was against the Chiefs last week. As with most young quarterbacks (and QBs in general) he has issues when pressured, where he only completed 2-of-11 attempts for 14 yards and could only average 3.7 yards when hurried by the Chargers blitzing fronts.
That said there were glimpses of talent and playmaking that will at the very least ensure this undrafted free agent is with the team next year. In an age of what have you done for me lately, it’s worth mentioning that McGloin has done far more than you’d reasonably expect out of any player with his stock and outperformed some considerably higher drafted quarterbacks in the process.
Punishing yourself with Penalties
It’s that old Raider way isn’t it? They seem to invite the yellow flags from officials and this game was no different as they were flagged a frankly ridiculous 16 times. They ranged from the completely stupid (Mike Jenkins knocking a ball out of the hands of Ryan Mathews on the sideline after the play), to the frustrating (two defensive offsides for Lamarr Houston and a neutral zone infraction for Justin Hunter), to the completely avoidable (an illegal formation for covering the tight end on a play that officiating errors meant they had to line up for four times with three of the occasions saying the TE covered). It was lazy and ill disciplined and it’s about time that the organization got a grip on it.
Chargers – Three Performances of Note
While the work of the corners in San Diego has been somewhat less than exemplary throughout the year, they will be encouraged by the partnership of Eric Weddle and Marcus Gilchrist, who combined for a +8.6 grade in this one with two very different games.
Gilchrist was the more active of the two with his three defensive stops tied for the lead on the team (further enforcing how impressive the numbers of Pat Sims were for the Raiders) including a tackle for a short gain on third down that prevented the chains being moved (Q1, 12.24). It was Weddle though who made the memorable plays including his spectacular interception that seized the momentum away from Oakland (Q2, 4.05) as well as turning five pass rushes into two quarterback hits and a hurry. The duo have been and will be tested more, but they’ve been a bright spot on a poor defense.
Penetrating the Pocket
One improvement that will aid all areas of the team is in their pass rushing. Unfortunately our 11th lowest ranked pass rushing outfit are failing to generate pressure and it’s telling that of their 15 quarterback disruptions six of them came from their safeties. That meant a very quiet day for both Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes, with just two hurries between them (both for Liuget). The hope was that getting Melvin Ingram back would offset the early season loss of Dwight Freeney, but there are only flashes from a player working his way back to full fitness, and while his sack and two hurries earned him a positive grade, this is a team crying out for more.
In revamping their offensive line the Chargers have clearly set out to physically impose themselves on the opposition up front. Nowhere is that more evident than at both tackle spots, with the team home to our top ranked run blocking left tackle in King Dunlap as well as the ultra aggressive and at times impressive (only not when at left tackle) D.J. Fluker.
Dunlap will at times get beaten off the snap and when he does it looks ungainly and not very easy on the eyes (such as his whiffs with 9.19 to go in the game and on the first play of the third quarter). But when he gets his hand on a defender, whether at the line of scrimmage or at the second level he’s got too much power and too nasty an attitude for a defender to get in on the play. Nick Roach felt his wrath on more than one occasion which left the middle linebacker scurrying backwards as the play passed him by.
As for Fluker, he was arguably the most consistent from the snap of the ball onwards (he was flagged for two false starts). Much like Dunlap you get the sense he really enjoys himself when his role sees him work off a double team and to the second level. There’s very little that can be done when he locks his block on and the end result invariably sees the smaller linebacker taken to where Fluker wants him to go. His grade this year has suffered for his spell at left tackle but it’s been a hugely encouraging first year.
– Philip Rivers only completed two passes over 10 yards in the air the entire game.
– Over his last four games Lamarr Houston has only picked up six quarterback disruptions.
– Of the Raiders’ eight missed tackles Tracy Porter missed four of them.
While his team lost there was little else Pat Sims could have done. It was the kind of performance that if a bigger name had it would warrant more attention.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled