Here, I'll look at my 6 keys to the game, and see how we measure up.
Take away his safety blankets: This has mostly to do with Antonio Gates, but it's important to know that he isn't always his safety option. Last year Gates was injured, and Darren Sproles was his favorite checkdown option. This year, he has a healthy Gates, Ryan Mathew, and Mike Tolbert as his primaries, but how many receptions did his TEs and backfield get in the last game against the Vikings? Well their their TEs (Gates 8 for 74 yards, and McMichael 3 for 20 yards) and RBs (Mathews 3 for 73 yards, Tolbert 9 rec. for 58 yards and two TDs, and their FB Hester with 3 rec. for 13 yards) combined to get 26/33 of River's receptions. Yards and TDs wise, his backfield and TEs are responsible for 238 yards out of 335 total yards of Philip Rivers, and Tolbert himself caught both of River's 2 TDs (3 TDs if you want to count his rushing, but that's not receiving from Rivers). Taking away Gates, and his checkdowns, should be key this game.
I start out with saying this has mostly to do with Gates. gates ended up with 0 catches. that's right 0. We have won that battle. RBs Tolbert and Mathews combined to get 15 Rec. for 135 yards, and McMichael had 1 catch for 6 yards. Thats 141 yards out of River's 378 yards. So we took care of his checkdowns alright, but getting rid of Gates was key in this, and we have done that.
Spread them out: The Chargers boast an very very good front seven. We must do what we always to best. Spread them out. Use 3 WR sets, 2 TE sets, add in a few runs if need be but we must create as much receiving options as possible. We must spread their LBs apart, and create mismatches, while having our OL try and hold 3-4 man rushes. Our TEs will pose a great mis-match for them, as well as danny woodhead in the backfield. Couple that with Welker and Branch, and we should be fine. Spread their defense out, and limit blitzes.
We did just that. We spread them out nicely today. We got those mis-matches and Brady expertly executed and capitalized on pretty much all of them. I have said our TEs will pose a great mismatch for them, and they come out combined 11 receptions for 148 yards out of Brady's 423 yards, and ALL THREE of Brady's TDs. What I did not expect Branch and Welker (especially Branch who had 8 receptions for 129 yards) to have THIS kind of game against the Chargers. Even Ochocinco got in a couple of receptions for 45 yards. We did a great job spreading them out, and dissecting them.
Create Turnovers: Last game Rivers was intercepted twice against the Vikings, and he is arguably going up against a much better passing defense. I don't know if we will get two turnovers, or two INTs for that matter, but creating turnovers will be key if we want to make a big difference this game, and get out on early leads. Its' way too dangerous keeping the Chargers in the game.
How many turnovers did we get? Oh right, 1 fumble, and 2 INTs. And a couple of those were near the end zone if I'm not mistaken. If we didn't get those INTs, this game should be much closer than it is right now. Keeping the Chargers at 21 points while turning it over 3 times (4 if you count the 4th down run at the goal line) just says how great their Offense really is, so getting these turnovers was vital for our win.
Keep Brady up: Isn't this an obvious one? Well yeah of course, but when you are against a top defense who can get after the QB, we need Brady to dissect them, and we cannot afford to let San Diego have their way with our OL and knock Brady off his socks. It will be tough to get Brady out of his rhythm, but it can certainly happen, and against the Chargers that is something that CANNOT happen.
Brady was sacked only twice today (Phillips and Butler). He was hit a few more times as well. But what was great is that he didn't let it get to him. San Diego did not have their way with our OL, and Brady had enough time to dissect their defense almost every drive, carving them up for 423 yards and 3 TDs. Brady was Un-Rattled by the hits, and he tore their defense apart. Our OL did it's job in the end.
Running game: We all know that we must be a balanced team. This is the last obvious one I will use, but again, it's very important for this game. If we go pass happy, the Chargers will figure us out, and intercept Brady. They are pretty much known for giving Brady trouble, so we HAVE to try and run the ball. Unfortunately, last time we played them, the top rusher for BOTH teams was Danny Woodhead for 24 yards (This also means we have stopped their running game quite nicely). If we can get a running game going, it will keep them honest, and we should have a much easier time carving up their defense.
We did a pretty good job running the ball today. Law Firm got 70 yards on 17 attempts and a TD, and Woody got 12 yards on 4 Att. Even ridley got a couple runs for 9 yards. We ran over 20 times today, but our offense was not very balanced, and the Chargers secondary was not as good as I expected it to be against us. We thre for 40 times, and Brady completed 31 of them. We ran the ball, but our offense was more of a 65/35 pass/run ratio. Maybe even 70/30. We passed because t was working. We ran the ball when we felt we should in order to catch them off guard. Thats about all I can really ask for our offense, and it only helped in passing against their defense.
Red Zone defense: This is perhaps THE most important thing of the game. Hand in hand with keeping Brady up I suppose. Let's face it, we all know Rivers can drive down the field, as well as our team. Red Zone defense will be KEY in beating the Chargers, because we must prevent them from getting TDs, and keeping in pace with the Patriots. On our side of the ball, it will be very difficult to score against them in the red zone. When it all comes down to it, whoever does the best in the red zone, that team will likely win the game.
Red Zone efficiency's:
Chargers- 2/4 50%
Pats- 4/5 80%
It is clear that getting 3 turnovers helped with limiting Rivers to only 4 red zone trips, only completing 2/4 red zone TDs, out of 3 overall TDs. Scoring in the redzone was the most important victory today. Although San Diego was 50% in the redzone, they were only 10 points behind us, and we had 5 CHANCES in the redzone, and we had to get points out of 4 of those to stay ahead of them.It shows that we could not settle for field goals against San Diego, and its nice to see that we got 4 TDs out of this game (plus a 2-point conversion), and only 2 field goals.
So out of all of these factors, we have won basically all of them, but possibly being balanced with our runs and pass, but then again, against san diego passing is the way to go to make sure you stay ahead of them. We played a great team, but we capitalized a lot more than they did. Now lets move on to the Bills next week.