ReFo: Cowboys @ Chargers, Week 4
The big day on the scoresheet for Phillip Rivers lined up well with his PFF grade as he turned in a game full of consistent work on standard throws that was topped by a handful of on target downfield strikes. His performance led San Diego to their second win and helped down the Cowboys who were looking to extend their lead in the NFC East.
The Dallas loss didn’t knock them from their spot at the top the NFC East, but this was one they might have been counting as a ‘W’ before letting their 11-point halftime lead slip away.
Here are three performances from this Week 4 game that caught the eye:
Dallas – Three Performances of Note
All Over the Field
An eventful day for Sean Lee ended with him securing the top overall grade among Dallas defenders, much of it hinging on his play in coverage. Balancing his catch-and-run touchdown on a ball Rivers fluttered while absorbing a Jason Hatcher hit was the vision of Lee trailing a streaking Antonio Gates toward the end zone two quarters later.
While those two plays are stuck in most heads, Lee’s effort against a screen at the 10:23 mark of the second quarter was a thing of beauty and one that should be counted among the day’s best. Knifing through blockers with a lightning-fast read, he reached the point of the hit in a blink and set it down for a 2-yard loss before the play had registered.
It was those same instincts that led him to six other stops on the afternoon and enough good work from start to finish to limit the effect of the one big downgrade on his book.
Goin’ Carter’s Way
San Diego sent 10 passes at or under Bruce Carter’s coverage (-2.3 vs. pass) on Sunday and nine of them found home – and the one that didn’t was dropped. Not all were egregious plays on his part, but taken together they produced two touchdowns, three first downs, and in one instance before the half, improved field goal position.
The two scores by Danny Woodhead showed Carter in different lights; the first as a coverage linebacker that was just done in by a step and a well-placed ball, and the second as one fully unaware of the threat he was up against. This was Carter’s second such day with a coverage grade dragging him down and he’s now atop the leaderboard for 4-3 OLBs with his 35 targets, 25 catches allowed, and 268 yards each setting the bar.
As a Unit
The Cowboy O-line has heard its share of questions lately, but against San Diego in Week 4, it seemed as if all noise was blocked out and they could just settle in and play. Four of the five starters graded in the green (all earned positives in run blocking) and as a group, they kept Romo clean, allowing just two sacks and seven hurries on 44 pass blocking opportunities. Rookie Travis Frederick (+2.6) put in his second consecutive positive day to build on his Week 3 performance against St. Louis.
San Diego — Three Performances of Note
In a game that featured 48 first downs – 35 coming through the air – it’s no surprise to find there was a certain amount of efficient, bite-sized production that helped these teams march. For the Chargers, that came in the shape of a slew of under-the-coverage completions. Philip Rivers (+3.7) let loose passes targeted under 10 yards 28 times… and hooked up on 26 of them.
Not only serving to better position toward or beyond the markers, these chip-away shots also set up more damaging downfield strikes as the space between coverage levels widened. Given Rivers’ overall numbers, he’s bound to look good any way you chop it, but a glance at his Accuracy Percentage for the game tells the story: 92.3%, with a drop, two throwaways, and a batted pass factored in.
Change-of-pace, do-it-all, utility player Danny Woodhead (+2.3) leaves an impression. The eagerness with which he hits holes is only made more astounding when his relative size is considered. Often disappearing amongst the giants battling to snare him, Woodhead darts and shoots and finds a way to fall forward at full speed.
On the game’s statement drive as San Diego went 80 yards in 5:28 to open the second half, Woodhead took the tag from Antonio Gates who had just battered Dallas with a pair of body blows before landing a 26-yard haymaker. Woodhead followed in kind, slicing up the middle twice, he then finished by flashing another gear on a wheel route for the score on his way to matching +1.1’s as a runner and a receiver.
Butler Didn’t Do It
A couple of flags didn’t help his cause, but even without them, linebacker Donald Butler (-3.5) logged his second significantly red day of the young season. This one was based around his work in the run game more than anything else as four different Dallas blockers got the best of him at one point or another on just 16 snaps of run defense. Perhaps the missed tackle on the game’s first play would have been Butler’s summary moment if he hadn’t gone thoughtless long enough to collect a late hit penalty for scraping a Cowboy off the pile long after a third-quarter play had wrapped.
– Charger rookie Mante Te’o started the game but played just 14 snaps and graded +0.4 overall.
– Coming into the game as the league’s top 4-3 DE duo in the pressure department, Demarcus Ware and George Selvie added another sack, hit and five hurries to the season tally.
– When pressured, Rivers was 6-of-12 for 101 yards and a +0.4 grade. When not pressured, he was 29-30 for 300 yards and a +3.6 grade.
PFF Game Ball
There’s no doubt that his whistle-to-gun performance was the tip on the field, Philip Rivers takes home the game ball.
Follow Rick on Twitter: @PFF_Rick