This was definitely an exciting game, with the Chargers improbably making the playoffs (with some help from Ryan Succop and the NFL officials) in a wild race for the last AFC playoff spot. They came away with a 27-24 overtime victory, though it has to be concerning heading into the playoffs that this game came down to the wire in a must-win home game against the Chiefs’ backups, with Kansas City locked into the fifth seed.
Both teams will be on the road as wild card teams next week, with the Chiefs playing Indianapolis, a team they lost to 23-7 in Week 16, while the Chargers travel to Cincinnati. And as with the Chiefs, San Diego too suffered a loss against their playoff opponent as they lost to the Bengals in Week 13.
Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
Having played just garbage time snaps in his career as a backup for the Saints and earlier this season, this was our first chance to see Chase Daniel play meaningful regular season snaps, and the results were mixed. Things started off extremely poorly, when on his first pass of the game and in the face of pressure, he threw what should have been an easy pick-six for Donald Butler, who couldn’t hang on to the pass. However, he bounced back on the very next play to hit A.J. Jenkins for a 48-yard gain. For the rest of the game, he played about how you would expect; mostly short passes – just two of his 28 aimed passes traveled farther than 20 yards in the air – with some good, but not spectacular plays. While his grade (-2.2) wasn’t overly impressive, he still had the Chiefs in position to win on the road against a Chargers’ team in a must-win game. Plus, QBs have won while playing (and grading) worse.
Usually relegated to a reserve role at defensive end, or at least a non-full time role, Allen Bailey played every defensive snap for the Chiefs and had a great +4.1 performance, particularly on the ground. We’ve seen glimpses of this before, notably in Weeks 5 and 12, so it comes as no surprise that he’s capable of a game like this. Five of his eight tackles counted as stops, while he also picked up two pressures as a pass rusher. Neither Chad Rinehart nor Jeromy Clary could keep up with Bailey as he forced cuts and collected his stops, proving a general nuisance in the run game. He even forced a hold on Clary at one point (OT, 14:33), setting back the Charger offense in overtime.
Potential Depth Issues
While the bulk of the Chief starters were out, we got to see some of the depth behind them. In the case of the offensive line, it wasn’t necessarily good. That was the case on the interior, particularly center Eric Kush and left guard Rokevious Watkins, though they struggled in different areas. Run blocking was an issue for Kush, as he was routinely handled at the point of attack by the Charger line, notably Cam Thomas; take a look at 9:44 of the third quarter and 9:43 of the fourth for a sample of that. Conversely, Watkins held up fine in the run game, but had a rough time in pass protection (one sack, three hits, one hurry) with both Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes giving the second-year player trouble. That was the case at 9:55 of the first quarter, when Liugut was too quick on his outside rush, getting into the backfield for the sack.
San Diego – Three Performances of Note
As an offensive lineman, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be invisible, and you could say that was the case for both Charger tackles D.J. Fluker and King Dunlap. In more than 70 combined pass blocking snaps, neither allowed a single pressure (though the Chiefs came close a few times, including Josh Martin at 6:30 of the fourth vs Dunlap), the first such occurrence this season. In fact this was the second straight pressure-less game for Fluker, who appears to be ending his rookie season on a high note, though you have to consider his competition in the last two weeks. Either way, it’s still been impressive for the rookie, who also did some nice work at the second level in the run game.
Butler a Bright Spot
While Donald Butler started the game well, making a great break on Daniel’s first pass, he couldn’t finish the play, dropping a probable pick-six. He also had a mishap later in the drive, failing to read the run on Knile Davis’ 17-yard touchdown run (1Q, 13:24). That was about as bad as it got, though, outside of some trouble with FB Anthony Sherman, as Butler went on to grade at +2.8 for the game while collecting 11 tackles and six stops. His play at 2:55 of the second quarter was particularly impressive, as he beat tackle Donald Stephenson inside to drop Davis in the backfield. It will be interesting if this carries over into the playoffs after Butler’s largely subpar regular season.
Shaky Pass Defense
Even against the Chief backups, the Chargers still showed continuing issues in pass defense outside of Eric Weddle, particularly from corners Richard Marshall and Shareece Wright, both of whom graded below -2.0 overall. Wright allowed a reception on all four targets, including Kansas City’s longest play of the day: a 48-yard pass to Jenkins (1Q, 13:39). Including that play, three of the four catches went for first downs, while Wright also picked up an illegal contact penalty and missed a tackle.
Likewise, Marshall also picked up an illegal contact penalty on a double move by Jenkins and missed a tackle of his own on Dexter McCluster’s short touchdown reception (1Q, 5:12). He otherwise allowed two catches in four targets, but without getting his hands on the ball, his negative plays were enough in 40 snaps in coverage to finish with a negative grade.
– Still showing some rust in his return from an ACL injury, Melvin Ingram graded negatively in 49 snaps, his most since returning in Week 14.
– Phillip Rivers completed just three of 10 pass attempts over 10 yards in the air.
– Geoff Schwartz has shown that he can play all over the line this season. He’s seen time at RG, LG, and in this game he saw all of his 51 snaps at right tackle, grading at +2.9 to bring his season grade up to +18.1.
PFF Game Ball
While we’d like to give this one to Ryan Succop for his miss to send the game into overtime, Eric Weddle gets the nod for a rounded, +2.7 performance.
Follow Thomas on Twitter