Chargers Report Card: Week 1 Houston

The San Diego Chargers went into a hostile environment and came out victorious against the Houston Texans. A steel rod in a cartoon couldn't have bent more than the Chargers defense but they came up with the timely stops and caused four turnovers. The offense came on strong down the stretch with contributions from a number of players to eek out the win.


Drew Brees had one of his finest days as a professional. It was a day that the faithful had hoped for a year ago. He hit most of his targets, save the occasional overthrow. His maturity was evident as he looked off receivers instead of keying in on them as he had in the past. His play fakes were better than at any time in the past and with a great running back behind him, he sold the play well. That was a crucial part of his development that he lacked a year ago. Brees never tried to take too much and hit his receivers in spots where only they could make the reception. Where Brees was terrible a year ago on third down, he was a Champion on Sunday.

Grade: A


LaDainian Tomlinson showed his determination in the waning seconds of the game. Needing a final first down to seal the game he would not be denied. Everyone knew the ball was going to the best and he executed. Tomlinson's assault on the Chargers record books continued and he continued to come up big in the running game. It was the eighteenth 100-yard game of his career and looked like he could have done a whole lot more if it was needed. He wasn't his usual self in the receiving game as he was shadowed any time he went wide. Credit the Houston defense for limiting that aspect of his game.

Grade: A-


Eric Parker and Reche Caldwell came up empty in the first half. Parker had a ball drop off his fingertips – possibly overthrown or he should have caught it depending on your perspective. Caldwell had a drop in the first half and the groans began. Parker came back with two receptions, including a beauty of a catch in the back of the end zone. It was similar to another one he had two years ago – the difference was this one was called a TD and the other one wasn't (it should have been reviewed back then). Caldwell came back with a record game – all in the second half. He torched Dunta Robinson and has always had the ability to get open. If he continues to catch the ball…

Grade: B


Take away the penalties and Antonio Gates' game was flawless. Even though they did count, Gates performed the part of an All-Pro. He was the leading receiver in the game and only one receiver in the league out gained him on Sunday (David Terrell). His four penalties can be chalked up to his amped up attitude. He knew he was going to make plays and when the call was designed for him he was open. It didn't matter who was in coverage. He got separation.

Grade: A-


Surprisingly, Mike Goff had the worst game of any lineman. His pulls were weak and he missed several assignments. Shane Olivea, the lowest drafted rookie to start on Sunday, played admirably. Nick Hardwick had a great game from the center spot. Toniu Fonoti played well but did get busted up along with Roman Oben on the one sack they allowed. Both missed their assignments on the play. Overall, they provided solid protection to give Brees time to throw and opened up running lanes for Tomlinson. They will need some work on outside running as most of the yards in the running game came inside when they could man up.

Grade: B


The zone blocking scheme the Texans employed worked wonders against the Chargers defensive line. One body was needed against Jamal Williams which freed up a lineman to take on a linebacker. Dave Ball, who supplanted Adrian Dingle, had some pressure but was driven off the line during some runs. Igor Olshansky showed promise in his first start but he is still working out the kinks of shedding blocks. His strength alone is making plays. DeQuincy Scott was quiet. This unit will need to conquer this zone blocking scheme if they hope to compete against the Broncos later this year.

Grade: C-


Everyone made a play at one time or another. That is the point of the 3-4. Steve Foley was the best player on the field. He was a hair away from making ten more plays that could have changed the game. On each of his turnovers, he had help – signs of a swarming defense. Randall Godfrey caused the fumble he pounced on and Donnie Edwards was the reason for the interception. Godfrey played well, if not spectacular. Edwards, in his first real action, was over everywhere it seemed but did show signs of rust. Tackles he had that normally stop runners in their tracks were getting that forward lean. Ben Leber seems to be a second away from breaking out and therefore was quiet. He missed an assignment on a screen play that went for a huge gain. Zeke Moreno made a great stop at the goalline but wasn't on the field a whole lot. The unit is still having problems covering backs, whether they line up wide or come out of the backfield.

Grade: B


Jerry Wilson had a great game. Including last year he has forced more fumbles than the rest of the Chargers defense combined. He has also gained a step. Last year his coverage was a tad bit slow but he seems to know his cornerbacks better this year and has been in position to help them over the top. Terrence Kiel looked great in run support and recognition and is coming into his own. Sammy Davis and Quentin Jammer got beat far too many times. Rarely were they on the heels of their coverage and Texan receivers kept their routes short to get open against the two corners who seemed afraid of getting beat deep.

Grade: C


Mike Scifres was not as sturdy as he had been in the preseason. His kicks had the hang time but weren't as deep as he has shown in the past. One didn't pass the test and was returned for a big gain. Nate Kaeding was weak on kickoffs. When he got the ball up it landed short and the coverage was there. When he pounded it deep it was on a line and the returns were huge. Several coverage team members left their lanes, including Micah Ross. Kaeding was money on his field goals. Wes Welker was ordinary at best. Perhaps he was still suffering from what he learned on Saturday. His record eight NCAA punt returns was tied by Oklahoma cornerback Antonio Perkins and Perkins has the rest of the season to take the lead. Parker had one chance to show his mettle on punt returns and got 13 yards in.

Grade: C-


Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron deserves some credit. He went downfield more than he ever has in the past. Perhaps the offseason work of Brees gave the coach more confidence or maybe Cameron realized that the only way to win was to get the ball deep and relieve some of the pressure up front on Tomlinson. Either way it worked to perfection. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips made some adjustments at halftime and they defense proved to be much better. His substitutions also played a role. He put the right personnel on the field when the team needed a big play and got more aggressive when their backs were against the wall. Marty Schottenheimer prepared his troops well. Besides the penalties, they took advantage of what Houston gave them.

Grade: B

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