Nine touchdowns in his last two games to no interceptions. It isn't Daunte Culpepper or Peyton Manning out there throwing to Moss or Harrison, it is Drew Brees spreading the love to his bevy of receivers. Simply awesome and even better with LaDainian Tomlinson at half strength. The one mark against him was taking the sack before halftime which left points on the table. We finally found out that Philip Rivers can hand off with the best of them and his kneel-down technique is second to none.
Two point one yards per carry. Think the bye week came soon enough for Tomlinson. On the plus side, the team did not need him. Jesse Chatman continues his torrid pace, averaging 7.3 per and Michael Turner got his first carries of the year. Turner ran hard and showed an ability to break a tackle or two in mop-up duty. He ended the day with 17 yards rushing.
Keenan McCardell is becoming a force, already. Just three games into his Charger career he is becoming a go-to guy between the twenties. He creates separation and is smart with his running style. He can also throw a pass, although it went incomplete. Eric Parker suddenly looks like a number two – the same one many envisioned he would be to begin the year. Turns out he needed that extra training from a veteran to turn up the heat and become that player. Kassim Osgood got some late looks and rewarded the fans and his team with a thrashing of Mike McKenzie. A cartoon could not have drawn up the smackdown any better. Tim Dwight showed his nifty moves on a reverse that was the longest play of the game.
It was 1987 when three touchdowns were scored by one player, Tony Martin. It was 1980 when a tight end accomplished the feat. Gates has been simply awesome and actually appeared to catch a fourth touchdown from the McCardell pass. His quiet demeanor is lost on the field as he is ferocious in everything he does, from route running to blocking. He was double-teamed for most of the day and still finds a way to come through.
Shane Olivea is a dominant right tackle in pass protection. He was vocal during the game, telling Charles Grant to look elsewhere for sack number 8.5. And the kid was true to his word. Give Mike Goff the ball! He should line up in the backfield. The man is a truck and had to be gang-tackled on his advance of a fumble recovery. You don't hear Roman Oben's name often because the pressure coming from his side is rare. Toniu Fonoti has arrived and could be one of the best up-and-coming guards in the NFL. Nick Hardwick continues to shine up front and the unit is doing a great job on the blitz pickups – a perceived weak spot. They do need to continue to work on run blocking and are not effective pulling. That is keeping the running lanes between the tackles and limiting the potential for success.
Holding Deuce McAllister to less than four yards per carry is a great way to cap a solid first half of the year and the line deserves credit. Most impressive was the emergence of solid pressure up front. Even when they knew that the ball would be in the air a lot in past games, the Bolts were not getting the necessary pressure up front. On Sunday they were in Aaron Brooks' face and in it a lot. Adrian Dingle, though his stats don't reflect, was in the backfield a ton, as was DeQuincy Scott.
Remember why the team wanted to bring Steve Foley in? Schottenheimer called him the prototypical linebacker for the 3-4 and Sunday was why. He dominated rushing from the edge and was a key reason the defense had so much success. Shaun Phillips provided some pressure as well and forced an interception to be thrown. Donnie Edwards and Randall Godfrey mopped up any scraps the line left for them.
When there is pressure up front, the job of the secondary becomes easy. The wide receivers for New Orleans accounted for just six receptions on the day and Joe Horn had just two of those. Great job by all members of the secondary. The only person they could not cover was Eddie Lee, I changed my name to Boo because I liked it, Williams.
Not a whole lot of work for the punt team. One punt, one inside the twenty, no return. Nate Kaeding was perfect on two field goal attempts but had two bad kickoffs. One didn't go inside the New Orleans twenty and another landed out of bounds. If the game was close they could have been crucial mistakes that cost football games. The fake punt was a thing of genius and turned into a catalyst for the offense.
This game was a potential trap. The Saints are a better team than what they showed and if the Chargers were lax the score could have easily been the other way around. Marty Schottenheimer got it through to the team that this was just another leg on the journey and his team responded with another collected effort. The offensive and defensive playcalling remains aggressive, even with the lead. Marty-ball has been replaced and the results have been more than promising.
Chargers Report Card: Saints week 9
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