Sunday, 8 December 2013

NFL 2013 Week 14: Chargers 37, Giants 14

Want a foolproof system that will make your bookie hate you?  Bet on the Chargers when they have King Dunlap dressed and healthy and starting at left tackle.  I've gone on about this all year, about what a big difference Mr. Dunlap makes, but the postulate proved true again today as the Chargers easily defeated the New York Giants 37-14.  

The Chargers had all their starting offensive linemen available today, and they kept their best player, quarterback Philip Rivers, upright and unhurried for most of the game.  As a result, the offence rolled, piling up first downs, yards and points.

Philip Rivers, who we might have thought had lost his gifts over the last two seasons, has taken to Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt's new system like a duck to water.  The short, quick passing game is a big change compared to the big-play offence we were used to when we had Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd going deep seemingly every play, but it's perfectly suited to Philip's waning arm strength (or did we imagine that too?) and the journeyman offensive line.  

Journeyman probably doesn't apply to D.J. Fluker though.  I was skeptical with the pick last spring, since I didn't think it was wise to pick the fourth-best tackle with the eleventh-overall pick, especially one who was slated to play the right side, while we had a crying need on the left.  The giant kid has been winning me over though.  He is just massive, naturally so, with a big body through the hips and legs, but unlike other monster tackles he's not a jiggly guy with lots of fat on him.  And it shows in how he plays, he's relentless, even in the fourth quarter.  While rookies tend to fade when faced with the pro schedule for the first time, he's still going all out and still very effective.  In the run game, he just plows tacklers out of the way.  Cross our fingers, that kid will be a Pro Bowler for a decade.

Ryan Mathews is another bright spot, in that he seems to be finally becoming the running back he can be, based on his pure ability.  He didn't fumble today, and he racked up 100 yards and a touchdown.  Further, he's no longer tap-dancing behind the line of scrimmage, side-slipping and looking for a boulevard, he now runs decisively, follows his blockers, and dives into the hole, always getting positive yards.  Quite a change from the previous incarnation who used to supputate three yards behind the line of scrimmage, waffling until opposing tacklers came to harvest his collarbones.  

The defence didn't have to perform miracles, with a healthy lead early on, but it was a good sign that Cam Thomas, Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes made an appearance on the stat sheet, and were disruptive in Eli's kitchen.  Donald Butler and Manti Te'o were, probably not coincidentally, effective, racking up tackles and an interception.  The backfield, usually a black hole, made plays today, with Shareece Wright nabbing an interception at the end to seal the game.

So an enjoyable win for our Chargers, but one which in the grand scheme of things will only serve to harm our position in the 2014 draft.  Indeed, there are too many teams in front of us jockeying for a post-season berth for us to hold out any reasonable hope for playoff action.  Let's hope that we don't regret feelgood wins like this one too bitterly when our number comes up at Radio City Music Hall next spring.

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