After one of the least fun Patriots preseasons in recent memory, finally the real season is upon us. Every year I joke "wake me up in the AFCCG" but honestly it's how I feel. Admittedly, it's a slight boost because the Divisional Round game is always a battle. Playoff football is the real deal baby. It's do or die. Win or cry. You've used up all your throw away exams. This one counts, and if you fail this test, you fail the course. Simple as that. Class is officially in session
The Chargers were my nightmare scenario if we're being completely open with each other. If the Texans had beaten the Colts, that means Houston comes to The Razor to be carved up worse than my cheeks shaving with this p.o.s. 'Dollar Shave Club' Bic knock offs. Then the Chargers get to crush the Chiefs again, meaning we host the AFCCG and we sleep walk to the bowl. All is well.
Unfortunately, because they STINK, the Texans had to go and fudge everything up. Now the Colts get to be murdered by Patty Homie and we have to play a "wildcard" team who has a better record than us. Thank the old gods and the new its at home, because if this was in LA then this post would be headlined "Patriots 2019 Draft Preview."
Flip Rivers is having a career year but he has never beaten Tom Brady in 7 tries. Maybe he's due? Or maybe he should just roll over at midfield and let Tom pet his tummy. I'm thinking the latter. But I didn't want the Chargers because they have an explosive passing attack, one of the best (albeit banged up) running backs in the league, and two electric pass rushers. GIVE ME ALL THE SNOW IN THE WORLD PLEASE.
Let's put our Thinking Caps on and have a look at some of the things the Chargers did against the Ravens that had success, so when Bill reads this blog he will know what he has to stop.
On offense the Chargers have a stable of running backs of all varieties, they have a red zone threat in M Williams, a deep threat in T Williams (and kind of T Benjamin [From? THE U]), a does everything guy in Keenan Allen, and the cherry on top of this sack tap sundae is they are getting Hunter Henry back. I'm sure he will be on a snap restriction but it wont take him more than 15 plays to make Dev wish J-Mac ate him in the womb.
While all these guys are valuable, Keenan is really their go to. He had 97 catches this year for 1,196 yards. They like to get him the ball in space and watch him dance. He runs a billion dig routes per game (number approx) and even if he sees a lot of Gilmore you know he's going to get his touches.
Here's a beautifully designed play they ran against the Ravens. They go 5 wide, empty backfield. That's Keenan, T Williams, and Gates (Henry) split to Flip's left. Then you've got M Williams and Eckler to his right. The Ravens are showing some pressure but Flip don't care.
And here's why. It's a screen pass and the ENTIRE OLine releases! All five of them! To the bottom of your screen, Eckler checks his route likes it's designed for him. M Williams is running a clear out route, and the Right Tackle, Right Guard, and Center all fly out to block for Eckler. Meanwhile, T Will and Gates (Henry) are already setting up blocks for Keenan on a WR screen. Plus the Left Tackle and Left Guard are firing off that way. The Chargers have the faith to snap the ball to Flip and then literally leave him protected by no one. Full jail break rush, but they know he can get the ball out on time.
Now you've got your stud Keenan Allen with the ball, four blockers in front of him, and only 3 DBs ahead on a big third down. That equals an easy conversation.
Later in the game the Chargers were going for a 2pt conversion. They have a different set up. Shotgun, with Eckler in the backfield. Keenan and M Williams split to the left. But similar plays come out of different formations all the time. It's a part of a teams offensive philosophy. And the Ravens know this.
On the snap, Keenan instantly cuts inside for another WR screen. They only need 2 yards and he's tough to bring down in space. We ran a similar to play to AmenBROla for the second two point conversion during the Falcons comeback.
I know this image sucks because the camera is panning too fast, but look how hard the Ravens DBs bite on this screen!!! Both of them jump the route like fire ants to my exposed ankle that one time in Fort Myers!
Which needless to say led to this. NUDITY.
So we know the Chargers are going to run a lot of screens, pick plays, dig routes, and crossing patters to get Keenan the ball with room to run. All I ask is that we aren't lulled to sleep by the monotony, and make sure we cover the plays off the plays.
The scariest thing for me from the Chargers defense is how willing they are to drop guys into the secondary. They played most of the Ravens game with 7 DBs on the field! SEVEN!! Bill said they usually play 6 against us, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this look again on third downs. It's because they have so much faith in their front four to get home. Melvin Ingram is a beast, and had two sacks against Baltimore. Both plays had one thing in common.
On the first one, it's a third and long, and they line him up over a guard. Joey Bosa is also lined up over a guard right behind him, but I've circled Melvin.
With only four rushers coming, the OLine gets to double someone. They choose to double Bosa, the other interior rusher. The TE, who lined up in the backfield, is going to release for a check down, so he isn't much help to anyone.
And as you can see, Melvin uses a spin move to dust the left guard and beeline straight for Lamar Jackson, who spent more time on his knees last Sunday than a Catholic altar boy. Whoa, whoa, whoa take it easy! I mean they pray on their knees a lot! Not...ya know...
On his next sack, Melvin is lined up over...would ya look at that. A guard again. This time Bosa is lined up in the more traditional left end position, but that doesn't change Melvin's approach.
The Ravens line decides to block Bosa one on one, and even though they were always going to double one of the interior rushers, inexplicably they left Melvin in single combat. This is a battle he wins handily, on his way to depositing Lamar Jackson in the turf again.
This sucks because this exact situation was the death of us during the strip sack that shall not be named. When the Chargers have us in obvious passing downs, I expect them to move Melvin and Bosa over our guards early and often. I fear the entire flow of the game is going to be determined by the play of Shaq daddy and Joe Thuney, with a little David Andrews mixed in there. James White, and Sony for that matter, are fantastic at blitz pick up, and I know Tommy will need their help. Also look for a lot of Gronk and Dwayne Allen staying home, or at the very least chipping some edge rushers on their way out, because Tom is going to need time to let routes develop when he's staring out at 7 DBs. If our line does their job, the Chargers will be forced to send more guys and then Tom can pick apart that secondary.
The only other thing I wanted to point out on the Chargers defense is the play of Derwin James. He's a rookie safety who made the Pro Bowl and had a 100 tackle season. Any dude who can look at Lamar Jackson on this third down:
And make this first down saving tackle:
Is not someone I'm thrilled to line up against. He led the team with 15 pass break ups and 3 picks. Consider he just out ran Lamar, I don't see how Gronk finds any separation all night in man to man coverage.
Every time we play the Chargers it's a tough game, with few exceptions. We always win, but it's rarely fun. Frankly I hate this match up so much I don't care how we get it done as long as we have a game next Sunday. It also sucks that we play Sunday instead of Saturday because now when I pass out in a pool of my own urine from too much beer and wings, I have to wake up and go to work instead of waking up and doing it again. But for my boys, I wouldn't have it any other way.
PS: "Kick the ball to Desmond King one time and kill yourself" - Derek Rose
PPS: We KNEAD every inch of that snow so start your weather dances right now