So here we are, days after Sunday’s match-up between the Chargers and the Falcons with a final score of Chargers 3 – Falcons 27. What a horrible game to watch for us Boltheads.
Last week I was hyped about the 151th straight game the Chargers finished with at least one touchdown score – second longest streak in NFL history! This time they left the field with three points on the board, without getting into the end zone… Ugh!
So, not as much fun as last week. Anyway, let’s take a closer look at the Bolts’ defense, special teams, and offense, and grade their performances.
Just like many other fans, I painted this game in week three as the first REAL test for the Chargers defense. And how did it work out? They failed the test against a highly skilled offense. Atlanta converted eight of their first 10 third-down attempts, including seven in a row!
It’s just too bad because after the awesome first drive by the Falcons (80 yards and one touchdown), the Chargers’ defense seemed to get it together by forcing two straight “three and outs.” Unfortunately, the Chargers’ offense wasn’t able to score on their drives, but we’ll get to that later.
With their second touchdown drive, the Falcons pretty much made it clear who would go 3-0 into week four. The stats of that drive impressively demonstrated the strength of Atlanta’s power offense: 17 plays, 96 yards, five for five on third-downs, and nearly eight minutes time of possession.
Matt Ryan had too much time to complete passes to his receivers. Although he was sacked two times – once by Vaughn Martin and once by Antwan Barnes (a very important one on third-down in the third quarter) – the Falcons’ O-Line did a solid job on keeping the pass rush away from their quarterback. This means Ryan was able to complete 75% of his passes and to throw for 265 yards and three touchdowns.
Besides sacking Matt Ryan twice, were there any other positive aspects of the Chargers’ defensive performance to point out? Well, I guess it’s fair to mention Atari Bigby’s 15 tackles here. But again, what will people remember from Atari Bigby’s game in week three? Of course – that painful holding penalty just when Ryan got sacked by Antwan Barnes at third-down (in second quarter). So, instead of three and out, the Falcons had another first down.
Not to forget about the run defense. They were able to stop Michael Turner in the first half, but in the second half (more precisely in the last quarter) he just gained way too many yards on the run, which also led to his touchdown in the fourth quarter.
But hey, what about turnovers? Well, Antoine Cason decided to set a positive mark on the Chargers’ defensive side of the ball and intercepted a poorly thrown pass by Matt Ryan intended for Tony Gonzalez. It’s actually the first time Matt Ryan has been picked off this season. But honestly, it was way too easy for Cason to catch that ball, because Matt Ryan just didn’t see him (at least that’s my guess).
Defense Grade: D (they had their moments)
What’s there to say about the special teams’ performance in week three’s match-up?
Good news – they didn’t suck as much as the defense (and offense), but can we describe their performance as solid? Not too sure about that, because what sticks out the most? Of course that “awesome” punt by Mike Scifres in the fourth quarter. Usually when everything seems to go wrong, he is the guy you can rely on. But not this time! He kicked it off the side of his foot and it went out of bounds at the 29-yard line. With only three plays the Falcons scored their fourth touchdown of the day.
But there was also positive news about Mike Scifres to tell: With his first punt of the day (49 yards), he reached an impressive milestone of 500 career punts. Not bad Mike, not bad! But please no more crappy punts, okay? Thanks.
Something else to mention here? Oh yes – Richard Goodman had a solid game. Don’t get used to that phrase, because you won’t hear it again. But Goodman had a nice kickoff return of 31 yards. On the following drive the Chargers started at their own 36-yard line and ended up with their only points of the game – Nate Kaeding with a 41-yard field goal.
So there was good and bad in the Chargers’ special teams’ performance.
Special Teams Grade: C
Which word is more appropriate to get started with this section?
Ouch! Ugh! – or just: NOOOOO…?
As I mentioned above, it was the first Chargers game without a touchdown score after a streak of 151 games with at least one touchdown.
It’s not that much fun to do, but let’s take a closer look at the (crappy) performance of the San Diego Chargers offense.
Philip Rivers and his guys were stopped early in the game. Except for a first down with some nice broken tackles by Ryan Mathews, nothing special really happened on the Chargers offensive side of the ball. To make it short: In the first quarter there was only one unit on the field deserving the name “offense“ (it’s your time to make a guess…).
The second quarter started off pretty good for the Chargers. Malcom Floyd had two nice catches for two first downs. Philip even completed a pass to Robert Meachem for a first down (heeey!!). And Ryan Mathews showed again he is back. He is back… yeah right, but unfortunately he also brought along his proclivity to fumble the ball.
Without a doubt, this fumble killed the Chargers’ momentum in the second quarter and allowed Atlanta to start their awesome 96-yard touchdown drive. But it would be too easy to just blame No. 24 for the lack of scores on the board. Aside from his painful fumble, he actually had a decent game.
But if not Mathews, who’s to blame the most for that disastrous Chargers offensive game?
Well, in my opinion the weakest position on the Bolts offense was the O-Line. They failed to protect Rivers from the Falcons; pass rush and they couldn’t buy him enough time in order to connect with his receivers. Philip got sacked just once (by John Abraham), but only because he moved out of the pocket and rid himself of the ball very quickly (out of bounds or into the hands of the opponent).
And I’m actually tired of saying it, but Mike Harris is not able to protect Rivers’ blind side. He is an undrafted rookie and he clearly is not ready to play as left tackle in the National Football League. So how long do we have to wait for Jared Gaither to come back onto the field? It’s so frustrating!
But the pass rush came from all angles. This means, just like last week, Jeromey Clary on the right side again did not have a decent game. And sad as it is, but this time also Nick Hardwick has to be mentioned on this side of the list.
It has been very tough to watch the Chargers passing game. Philip Rivers had some poor pass attempts – two of them ended up in turnovers. He overthrew M80 Malcom Floyd a couple of times and again had trouble connecting with Robert Meachem. But when he actually put the ball where it needed to be, his receivers Antonio Gates (bad game!!), Malcom Floyd, and also Robert Meachem could not make the catch. Only early in the second and third quarters did the Chargers offense could show that they are able to move the ball.
Anything positive to point out here about the Chargers offensive performance?
Well I liked that play-call in the early third quarter, when the ball was handed over to Mathews in the backfield by Rivers and No. 24 again handed it over to Eddie Royal, who ran from the left side of the field to the right and finally to a nice first down.
And sure Jackie Battle again left a huge positive mark with his rushing big play in the last quarter – 52 yards, longest run so far for the Chargers in this season.
But the fourth turnover caused by Dante Rosario’s fumble with two minutes and 11 seconds remaining on the clock in the fourth quarter proved one last time that this Chargers offensive performance was one of the absolutely worst in recent history (if not actually the worst).
Offense Grade: What can I say? They failed: F
Is it possible to take away something positive from that horrible game day?
Well, the Chargers kept their underdog role. I honestly think this can be an advantage as the season goes on.
And to use Takeo Spikes’ words after the game: “I am thankful, that game happened at this point of the season – it was no division rival and no playoff spot is lost…”
Yeah maybe that’s a good way to look at this painful loss.
Chiefs are next! So – BOLT UP!