Pressure Points: San Diego Chargers

We’ll begin this week’s edition of Pressure Points by pointing out that the Chargers, up until being manhandled by the Falcons, were (statistically speaking) regarded by Football Outsiders as among the league’s most the solid, well-rounded teams. As of week 2, FO had them as the 10th most efficient overall, 11th most efficient on offense, 12th most efficient on defense, and 12th most efficient on special teams.  As a result of their performance last Sunday, the Chargers now rank 22nd in overall efficiency, 21st on offense, 20th on defense, and 10th at special teams. I have little doubt that the Chargers are unhappy with how they played against the Falcons and will be seeking to rebound and re-establish themselves as a well-rounded, quality team this Sunday.

Because the overall focus of these articles is to draw attention to potential soft spots of our upcoming opponents, let’s also take a moment to consider the Chargers 2-1 record and how they arrived there. More specifically, how strong was the Chargers start of the season? Well, if you consider the strengths/weaknesses of their first two opponents, I suppose one might reasonably question how much they actually accomplished by beating the Raiders and the Titans. As of week 2, Football Outsiders ranked Tennessee 31st on offense, 28th on defense, and 13th on special teams. The Raiders, as of week 2, were 15th on offense, 25th on defense, and 32nd on special teams.

Now before you jump to the conclusion that the Chargers’ first two wins are entirely attributable to the fact that they faced weak teams only to be exposed in week 3 by what appears to be a very strong team, let’s not overlook the 800 lb gorilla in the room. In spite of a feel-good, rallying win over an 0-3 Saints team, Football Outsiders nevertheless ranks the Chiefs 32nd in overall efficiency, 24th in offensive efficiency, 30th in defensive efficiency, and 28th in special teams efficiency. In other words, as things currently stand, the Chiefs appear to be exactly the kind of team that the Chargers have enjoyed success against. To put it bluntly, in almost every aspect of their game, the Chiefs must either improve immediately or face a season of disappointment, humiliation, well deserved criticism and dashed expectations.

Capiche?

With all that out of way, we’ll begin this by focusing on Phillip Rivers. Three games into the season, FO ranks Rivers 20th in both DYAR and DVOA. Rivers QBR is the 15th best in the league. His TD/INT ratio is 4/3, he owns a  67% completion rate and he’s so far thrown 109 passes for 664 yards.

In this instance, I feel it helps to add a little perspective. As of right now, Matt Cassel is 25th in both DYAR and DVOA, and 16th in QBR. Cassel’s TD/INT ratio is 3/3. He has a 60% completion rate and has thrown 128 passes for 738 yards.

Put simply, 3 weeks in, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that Rivers is putting up somewhat pedestrian numbers and perhaps the Chiefs ought to consider his presence as something  manageable… as long as they step up and do their jobs that is. As we’ve seen in past years, the best way to manage Phillips is to harass him because that’s when he’s most likely to start making mistakes. Whether the Chiefs are up to that task remains to be seen.

Examining the Chargers’ Offensive Line stats, we see that they currently rank 13th most efficient in pass protection; so, if past performance is any indicator, hassling Rivers won’t be particularly easy. As far as the run game goes, the Chargers, while 20th overall, are the 25th at the 2nd level (5 – 10 yards). They do however rank highly in short yardage situations, so keeping them 3rd and long as much as possible should probably be a key objective for the Chiefs. As far as lanes and gaps are concerned, the Chargers have been very effective (6th best) when they run between the guards but, everywhere else, they rank in the bottom half of the league.

Definitely also worth noting here is that the Chargers starting left tackle is a rookie free agent, Michael Harris, who’s filling in for Jared Gaither, who missed nearly all of training camp and the first three games due to a lingering back problem. He did, however, suit up for practice this week so whether or not he is ready to go for Sunday remains to be seen. I’m guessing Gaither will not be 100% and most likely not starting if he suits up.

Moving to the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers are below average in a number of areas based on Football Outsiders’ stats. They are 20th against the pass. Their defensive line ranks 27th in beating pass protection. They rank 29th against #1WRs, 24th against passes to RBs, and 18th against “other (e.g., slot) WRs.” If Cassel can be protected and is accurate, there may be opportunities to find success with the likes of Bowe, McCluster, Charles and perhaps even Copper in the passing game.

While 5th overall in defensing the run, the Chargers nevertheless appear to have some exposure against the run. For example, they rank 32nd against power running and are 20th in stuffs. Their weakest spots on the line appear to be the B gaps, where they are 27th on the left side and 21st on the right. Interesting enough, it also appears that their apparent vulnerability on the left side has not been well tested by opposing offenses. The league average attempts to the left B gap is 14% of carries while the Chargers have so far only dealt with their opponents targetting that gap at a 10% rate.

To summarize, on offense, the Chargers main vulnerabilities appear to be: 1) a quarterback with a tendency to make mistakes when pressured, 2) running outside the guards, 3) getting to the second level, and 4) left tackle. On defense, the Chargers appear to be vulnerable against 1) #1 WRs, 2) passes to RBs and “other WRs, ” and 3) runs that target the B gaps, particularly the left B gap.

Those are the Chargers’ pressure points. Addicts, let’s hear your thoughts on what the Chiefs need to do to beat the Chargers.

Topics: Kansas City Chiefs

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  • ArrowFan

    Hali and Huston on D and JC on O with some big passes to Bowe. I would like to also see Nate get a couple carries.

    • DoubleD

      Either Hali or Houston, or both, need to have big days. Houston is playing really well and so the Chargers would be wise to account for him on Sunday. Of the two, I’d say Hali is well overdue to show up and be the game changer.
      I also would to see more blitzes coming out of our secondary. Berry, in particular, comes to mind.

      • KCMikeG

        Agreed on Hali being due and the dolt OL is very suspect. I see big days for them both!

  • ArrowFan

    The sea of red.

  • KCMikeG

    Nice work DD! Any way you can get this to RAC? Hopefully he has someone like you doing the math. Rivers will be pressured and if WE are LOUD & PROUD he will be crying another River at Arrowhead.

    • DoubleD

      Lol RAC stopped taking my calls after reading the opinion piece that I ran last week.
      I’m looking for Hali to deliver some major punishment come Sunday.

  • Timmyyyyyyy

    I’m thinking the D figured some things out against New Orleans, especially in the second half. They looked like the defense from the last few games of last year. Not sure why they started so terrible 2 years in a row. I look for them to continue where they left off in the big easy. As for the offense.. It would be splendid if cassel would throw deep and actually hit somebody in-stride ala Kevin boss in week 1. The stop, turn-around, catch or stop, leap, catch-and-get -killed is taking it’s toll. I swear every ball thrown to breaston is a poor throw so far and he gets immediately crushed. Can we get a nice deep ball that our receivers can run under at least once a game please. Go Chiefs!

    • DoubleD

      Ok, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The Chiefs secondary was leaving Saints receivers open all over the place, Brees just wasn’t seeing them apparently.
      On offense, I’ve think you’ve got it all backwards. Our problem is not really with the long ball because when you’re successful at putting together some decent sustained, clock eating drives like we have this season, deep passes aren’t as essential. For instance, other than in the most important category, scoring touchdowns, our drive stats are actually better than San Diego’s. Also, let’s not overlook the fact that 91 yard run by Charles is, in just about every way, far better than a quick strike deep pass. Getting off a big run like tends to represent more of a breakdown of an entire defense and can be far more demoralizing than having one safety or cornerback blow coverage which results in a big pass play.
      No, the one area where we’re really struggling is punching it in when we get inside the red zone. I don’t feel that’s really a Cassel accuracy or throwing distance problem, that an offense execution issue. The OL needs to do a better job of opening lanes and protecting Cassel and the WRs, TEs, etc need to get more physical at the line, run proper routes and get open. I’d say our WRs are still playing way too soft which ultimately affects where are they on their routes and which in turn leads to incompletions. I’m not excusing Cassel’s flaws, I’m just saying when it comes to red zone execution, it’s not fair to hang it all on him.

      • Timmyyyyyyy

        Great article btw, DD. And, thanks for your response to my delirium. Cassel actually wasn’t terrible against n. o. Just some of his throws were getting the receivers killed. But aside from that he was very much one of the main reasons they pulled that game out. I agree that the chiefs have been very limp inside the red zone. Thank goodness succop was feeling it last Sunday!

  • steve james

    Who will be our power back? Nate? Sounds like the game will hinge on that. I wish I could be there to help them screw up the count and get more delays of game.

    • DoubleD

      Dontari Poe lol.
      Seriously though, I imagine we’ll probably get a better look at Eachus this Sunday in place of Hillis.

    • KCMikeG

      I hope we can see some Cyrus Gray. All of our backs can run between the tackles and have the speed to the outside too.

  • Chiefswatch

    “… and Cassel is accurate” lol

    • DoubleD

      Okay, let’s take a moment to qualify what we mean by accurate. Can’t one make the argument that a 60% completion rate is at least more accurate than not? Rivers, as I’ve noted, currently has a 67% rate. Is that significantly different? Also worth noting I think is the fact that Cassel has so far thrown more passes for more yardage than Rivers this season. On top of that, Cassel has rushed 6 times for 51 yards compared to Rivers 2 carries for 12 yards. Factor in also the protection for Cassel (11 sacks) with that for Rivers (6 sacks). All considered, of the two, which would you say has been the more valuable, more effective quarterback after the first 3 games?
      Look, I am certainly no Cassel apologist, but I think it’s fair to say that even though he hasn’t been particularly wowing anybody with a bunch of glitzy, deep strikes to open receivers (and specifically which of our WRs are regularly getting separation deep btw?) he at least seems to show that can keep his cool and be pretty effective in spite of constantly playing under unfavorable, undesirable, come from behind, circumstances so far.
      It might sound cliche, but having to play from behind is when all quarterbacks, good or bad, are most prone to getting sacked and throwing inaccurate passes. Just the nature of the beast my man.

      • Chiefswatch

        I was not attacking you just making jest at the statement. Accuracy by reading stat lines can be a bit misleading. They do not account for throws to receivers versus backs, nor 5 yard throws versus 15 yard ones. Rewind that last game and tell me that Cassel is accurate. Just because Dexter can jump high doesnt mean the ball tossed was accurate. Cassel takes far more sacks than he should because he cannot think as fast as other QBs. Has the protection been top notch? Not by a long shot but I do not fault the Oline for all those sacks, nor should you. Regularly you hear even the announcers saying that sack was on Cassel not the line. Carries??? That is the choice of the QB and I do not think Rivers has ever been keen on trying to run for a first down when he sees the opportunity. If you remember Cassel against us as a Patriot, it was his legs that really did us in. I was surprised that he never scrambled since becoming a Chief, perhaps Daboll reinstated that scrambling mentality. We are are 1-2 and nearly 1-3 because of a whole host of reasons but we nearly lost to NO because of Cassel (interception – killing Dexter – missed throw to wide open recievers). Regardless I was not comparing him to Rivers (who is a way better QB anyway) I was just saying the guy is not accurate. If you say he is with a straight look on your face I would like to know what you and mike, Cassel’s gay admirer, are smoking…

        • KCMikeG

          Wow. You may not have attacked DD but you certainly have stooped to a new low in lowbrow comments. There really must be something wrong with you to need to attack someone by calling them gay. Not surprising though since you can’t address the facts. Get some help.

          • Chiefswatch

            Here is some of the Cassel chat during that last game where you think he did so well. Each of these comments is from a separate poster including one from our great Patrick Allen.

            “And overthrows the leaping WR by at least 6 inches.”

            “He never even looked at anyone else. ”

            “I agree stares them down and stretches them out, so they are vunerable. No team is going to take the Chiefs seriously in our passing game, and that hurts the run. The running game is suppose to open up the recievers, but none of the teams we play take Cassel “The Donkey” Seriously because he can’t throw the ball, and they know where he going to throw it because of his eyes”

            “I thought that’s who was throwing to, the fact is that he missed so bad that it looked like he was throwing to the other receiver.”

            “I was yelling at the TV… def should have passes to Charles! ”

            So lets combine those thoughts with yours and what do we have??? Mediocre. He makes just as many shit throws as good ones and actually I am quite sure there are far many more shit ones that ones that are over 15 yards. Do me a favor and tell me when the last good game he had was…. I will save you the time. Colts last year. The worst team in the league mind you.

            Stop responding to my posts and I will yours. You started this with the personal attacks dude, dont pretend I went there first. You lost all respect from me as a man when you knelt down like a little coward to Danny. I could just see the piss running down your pansy little leg…haha I think I laughed for 30 minutes.

          • KCMikeG

            I never attacked you personally – only your comments. That’s the difference between myself and “fans” like you and danny. You are even calling me names when replying to other posts. See it how you want as I’m sure you will but I never said anything as pathetic and disgusting as you just did. Sad thing is that we are supposed to be on the same side here. Pretty twisted that you would get 30 minutes of pleasure from your imagined victory. Get some help. Enough said and you won’t see any more of my time wasted on your comments. I look forward to none of your either.

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