Week 11 analysis: Mexico City Monday night meltdown
The title to this week’s analysis is by far the catchiest and yet most appropriate so far of the season. Now stop me if you’ve heard this before but the Chargers yet again suffered defeat by none other than….that’s right themselves. It was a massive meltdown indeed. Well more specifically it was an offensive meltdown. In fact I will even go as far to say the defense played great and this loss is on the offense! The team found themselves in a position where they needed a big defensive stop down by one touchdown in order to tie the game up with six minutes left. Not only did the defense get a huge stop they did so multiple times. Not once, not twice, not even three times, but four damn times the defense got a huge stop only for the offense to sputter and go three and out. Needless to say the defense did more than its fair share of the lifting and came up clutch time and time again. Hell Melvin Ingram even told Rivers on the sideline “don’t even sit down cause I’m about to make a huge play!”
So if the defense absolutely did their job then one must look to the offense. The offensive line played another game without left tackle Russell Okung and instead was forced to play third round rookie Trey Pipkins at left tackle. A lot of people say they see flashes of potential in Pipkins but frankly I just don’t see it, not yet anyway. Now being that he is a 3rd round pick from a small school ideally he would be a player that the team would like to give at least 2 seasons of development time. Instead the front office did little to address the position and because of the injury bug the team has no other choice but to throw guys like Trent Scott and Trey Pipkins into the starting lineup. Miraculously Pipkins graded out with a 63.5 passing grade and 52.4 run blocking grade according to pro football focus. How he didn’t grade much lower is incredible. This is likely due to the fact that “technically” he didn’t allow any sacks. Yet he allowed four pressures on the quarterback and two of those pressures lead to Rivers being hit while in throwing motion, directly affecting the pass. One of those directly led to an interception. Now Rivers finished with 4 interceptions so I can’t blame all of that on Pipkins. Yet it is hard to ignore the fact that Pipkins kept getting beat by the same move. Pipkins is simply playing too high. This is also a term used by evaluators during the draft when talking about offensive lineman. To put it simply he is coming straight up out of his stance when the ball is hiked and ending up almost standing straight up rather than having his knees bent in his athletic stance. Kansas City’s defensive end noticed this early in the game and would simply dip under Pipkins arms allowing Clark to essentially get a free run at Rivers. Three of the four pressures where directly because of this. I partly blame the offensive line coach for not trying to correct that the first time he saw this. It’s rather an elementary fix and a part of a tackles basic technique. It is also partly on Pipkins for not being able to be aware enough to realize how and what was getting him beat. He is simply not pro ready.
Rivers had 4 interceptions in this game and 3 the week prior. That makes 7 interceptions in two games which is completely inexcusable. Now a lot of people out there are putting all the blame on the offensive line and rightfully so, however you cannot ignore the poor decision making on Rivers part. I know I know everyone will say “but, but, if Rivers had better protection he would be more calm and make better decisions”. For the most part I very much agree with this sentiment. However I cannot help but to think that Rivers is literally and figuratively letting the pressure get to him mentally. Interestingly enough numbers show that Rivers is having much more success when he has less than 2.5 seconds to throw compared to when he gets plenty of time. Maybe they should try to utilize more short routes like quick slants and ten yard comebacks. Now for the record I’m not one of the people that want to move off of Rivers. I’m simply someone who wants better poise and decision making from a quarterback who is supposed to be considered elite. The team had 4 potential game tying drives, all of which came up short. On a 3rd and 10 Austin Ekeler served as a check down receiver and had at least 15 yards of daylight because the defense elected to go all in on deep coverage. Instead of taking the easy dump of for a minimum of a 15 yard gain and a first down Rivers decided to chuck it long down field out of what I can imagine was frustration that ultimately led to his third interception. This is an inexcusable decision. On the team’s final offensive drive the team successfully drove all the way down the field and into the Chiefs redzone. It seemed as if the team was destine to tie the game leading to overtime. Instead Rivers threw a jump ball to Ekeler who ran a wheel route out of the backfield that led to a fourth interception and Brad Sorenson sealed the Chargers fate. My question is why in the world would you throw a jump ball in the endzone to a 5’8” running back? Just a few plays earlier Mike Williams made a spectacular 4th down conversion on a pass where he made a jumping catch while diving backwards. So why if you really want to throw a jump ball to the endzone why not throw it to the hot hand and a guy who is 6’4”? A potential game tying jump ball that went to a guy 8 inches shorter than the guy that should have been the first look. Seven interceptions is simply to many to blame solely on the offensive line.
For the second week in a row the play calling was also questionable. If the run game and Melvin Gordon are having so much success why do they keep forcing the pass? Yet the head coach keeps stating that this is a power run team!?!? Is this because they are trying to limit the success of Melvin? Two weeks in a row they throw when they should run and run when they should throw. This is only the 3rd game with a new play caller so I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he is learning on the fly. Hopefully the bye week will allow the offensive coordinator and Philip Rivers some time to gather themselves mentally and even physically. I almost wonder if Rivers is playing with an injury that he hasn’t mentioned to the media. One more loss and I would say that it’s time to start scouting prospects. Namely offensive lineman.