Sunday, 29 September 2013

NFL 2013 Week 4: Chargers 30, Cowboys 21

My greatest concern this summer, that we wouldn’t have any protection for Philip Rivers, that he'd be caused to decease by one of many jailbreaks of defensive linemen swarming their way through a rough sieve, has been allayed somewhat in the first four games.  Our offensive line, made up of a veteran Pro Bowler at centre (Nick Hardwick), a 2013 first-round draft pick at right tackle (D.J. Fluker), and assorted holdovers and retreads everywhere else, is actually doing a creditable job.  They’re downright competent, keep Philip upright and in a position to win games, contrary to last season, and we can run the ball, contrary to everything that's happened since LaDainian left.

So yeah, with a no-name journeyman offensive line, we’ll be in most games, and not as I feared in the hunt for the first overall pick.  I'll go ahead and give credit to Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and O-Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris for molding an effective unit out of spare parts, keeping it together while injuries strike, and designing their game plans to account for that.

Left Tackle King Dunlap was out, replaced by second-year undrafted free agent Michael Harris, and both putative starting guards Chad Rinehart and Jeromey Clary were also injured.  During the game, sub Rich Ohrnberger was injured as well, so Steve Schilling, who's spent two seasons with the team but was a late cut at camp this summer, and who was re-signed this week, had to step in to finish the game.  With all this turmoil, Philip was sacked only once, and the ground game piled up 112 yards.  Like I said, competent.

O.C. Whisenhunt has changed the playbook from yesteryear, when Philip and Drew Brees before him would let fly deep down the field to Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, Antonio Gates and Chris Chambers.  That worked because we had a stellar offensive line, with Pro Bowlers Marcus McNeill and Kris Dielman on the left of Nick Hardwick.  With those guys protecting him, and with his physical receivers overmatching smaller defensive backs, our QB could bomb away with confidence.  Nowadays though, without that complement of weapons at receiver, and to make the O-line's job easier, Coach Whisenhunt is dialing up short passes to get the ball out of Philip's hand much quicker.  And it's been working.  The passing game yielded 400 yards and three touchdowns.

There were other bright spots.  I had to notice how well Eric Weddle played, seeing as how he was assigned to cover Cowboy Tight End Jason Witten, who was shut out of the game.  Jason Witten was on the squad of an opponent in one fantasy league.  Like I said, had to notice that, I was expecting him to burn me like he usually does.  Nice job Eric.

The receiving corps is getting in sync with Philip.  Antonio Gates looks like the Pro Bowl version of old, but the young ones also chipped in.  Keenan Allen caught five balls for 80 yards.  Danny Woodhead got two touchdown grabs.

Now we're not going to get carried away with this win.  We may have run into the only other team that is more un-'clutch' and more of a crushing disappointment to its fans than ours.  The Cowboys are like a British roadster from the sixties, superficially appealing but poorly designed and fundamentally unreliable.  We caught them at home, had a good day, chalk one up in the win column, and now need to get ready to deal with those reprobates from Oakland next week.

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