Week 12 Game Recap: San Diego Chargers 23, Washington Redskins 17
What you need to know
Simply put, RB LaDainian Tomlinson carried the team to victory. His 32 yard touchdown run with just over a minute left in regulation tied the game, and his spectacular 41 yard touchdown run on the second play of overtime won it. After the game, HC Marty Schottenheimer called Tomlinson unequivocally the greatest running back he has ever seen.
QB Drew Brees was very inconsistent. For the first time in quite awhile, he faced heavy pressure from the defensive front. It clearly rattled him, and he was intercepted a season high three times. It was a far cry from his play to this point in the season.
TE Antonio Gates was a gametime decision, though most assumed he would play after practicing twice to close out the week. He was active in the passing game as far as targets, but his production was minimal. He had more drops (four) than receptions (three).
This was the 24th consecutive game in which the Chargers offense scored at least 17 points, the longest such streak in the NFL.
RB Clinton Portis provided a steady dose of tough running for the Redskins. Facing the league’s top run defense, Portis grinded out a hard-nosed 87 yards on the ground. He did a good job in blitz protection, and made a very heady play to save a fumble from Mark Brunell. Though it doesn’t show up in the stat sheet, Portis had a very solid football game.
The Washington defense dominated the league’s best offense for the first three quarters of the game. San Diego didn’t sustain many drives, and when they did it twice resulted in missed field goals. Washington got a ton of pressure on Drew Brees, forcing him into several potentially costly turnovers.
QB Mark Brunell played an efficient game. Some may question the play-calling late in the contest, as Brunell was asked to throw the ball on several occasions when Washington was seemingly trying to run out the clock. With Portis enjoying at least moderate success, one would have thought the team would put the ball in his hands. Certainly, Brunell wasn’t as good in the fourth quarter as he was early on.
What you ought to know
|QB Drew Brees, Pass: 22 - 44 - 215 - 0 TD / 3 INT, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0 (1 targets)|
Brees played what can be called his first really poor game of the season. While he hasn’t been asked to carry the load too often (besides last week), he still had been putting up terrific stats. Sunday, the Redskins’ pressure continuously got to him, forcing him into some bad passes. San Diego made an adjustment towards the middle of the second quarter, and began attacking with more quick strikes like we’ve seen from them in recent weeks. Even so, Washington was still able to get so much pressure on Brees that the passes weren’t coming out of his hands crisply. What’s more, he had to hurry the throws so a lot of times his intended receiver didn’t have enough time to adjust for the ball. That was probably the main reason for San Diego receivers dropping an astounding eight of Brees’ passes (four by Antonio Gates alone). Brees nearly connected with Reche Caldwell on a touchdown pass in the second quarter, but the Washington pressure forced a hurried throw, and the pass fell inches from the diving receiver. Brees turned the ball over three times, though he entered the game having thrown just eight interceptions all season long. On one of the interceptions, Brees was looking deep down the sideline and had the ball snagged by Carlos Rogers. Had the ball been thrown a bit further, it could have been an easy touchdown. The day could have been even worse for Brees too, as LaVar Arrington nearly intercepted a pass over the middle, and Rogers had his hands on another deep pass to Vincent Jackson, but both passes were dropped by the defenders. On the other hand, Brees did suffer his share of bad luck as well. His Hail Mary pass to the end zone at the end of regulation was tipped up into the air and intercepted by Washington. He also had another pass deflected up in the air and subsequently picked off. Brees was the targeted receiver on a pass attempt from LaDainian Tomlinson early in the first quarter, but the pass was broken up.
|RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Pass: 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 25 - 184 - 3, Rec: 6 - 29 - 0 (9 targets)|
Tomlinson saw some tough going early on. The Redskins were doing the unthinkable: holding down the San Diego passing game AND cutting off running lanes for their superstar running back. Tomlinson fought for respectable numbers for awhile, before really exploding late in the contest. He gained 84 yards on his last five carries of the game, including touchdown runs of 32 yards (to tie the game) and 41 yards (to win the game). The second run in particular was spectacular, as he broke into the secondary and ran over the DB on his way to paydirt. Tomlinson had earlier scored from a yard out after WR Eric Parker was tackled at the one yard line. Tomlinson did have a fumble early in the game, but it was inadvertently knocked free by his own teammate (FB Lorenzo Neal) accidentally running into him during a run. Tomlinson threw his first incomplete pass of the season, after his first three tosses all went for touchdowns. Tomlinson gained two yards in an odd fashion. He ran the ball for a loss of two on the play, but San Diego was called for a penalty. Washington elected to take the penalty, so those two yards were tacked back on to Tomlinson’s total.
|WR Eric Parker, Rush: 1 - 13 - 0, Rec: 7 - 98 - 0 (11 targets)|
Parker really picked up the slack for the obviously less than 100% Antonio Gates. Parker was thrown to a whopping (for him) 11 times, and responded with over 100 total yards from scrimmage. Parker had several huge receptions in third and long situations, and nearly put an early stamp on a good performance with a near-touchdown. On an end around, Parker was tripped up inside the five yard line and tackled at the one. Tomlinson scored on the next play.
McCardell was targeted quite a bit, but the results weren’t there. He joined in the San Diego drop party, missing one pass that was catchable. He was targeted on a deep pass in the end zone, but was unable to come up with the reception. Had the ball been thrown better, he may have.
After injuring his foot and ankle last week against Buffalo, there was some question as to whether or not Gates would even play this week. He suited up and started, and was in for nearly every play, but clearly was affected by the ankle. He seemed to be moving around well in warm-ups, but the game situation was far different. He dropped four of his nine targets, including three in the first half. He didn’t record his first catch until midway through the second quarter, and was phased out of the offensive gameplan towards the end of regulation in favor of Eric Parker. Just when Gates owners had resigned themselves to a goose egg, however, he broke free for a 24 yard reception on a TE screen up the right sideline. The pass was the longest pass play of the day for either team, and Gates really seemed to have his burst and speed on the play. In fact, had he had a little better balance, the play could have gone for a dozen or so more yards. That play should give Gates owners some positives heading into next week’s matchups.
Kaeding had two missed field goals that nearly proved very costly. Granted, the missed field goals were from 42 and 46 yards so they weren’t exactly chip shots, but the conditions in Washington weren’t terrible or anything, so the kicks should have been made. He did later partially redeem himself by nailing a 47 yard attempt in the fourth quarter.
Clinton Portis didn’t bust loose for any huge gains (his longest run of the game was just eight yards), but he did earn tough yardage between the tackles. Portis has historically played very well against the Chargers, and despite his meager YPC average (less than 3.0), he actually played very well. San Diego also gave up a 13 yard touchdown run to Rock Cartwright on a play where they seemed to have no clue as to what was going on. Cartwright waltzed into the end zone completely untouched. Still, the Chargers held Washington to under 100 yards and fewer than three yards per carry, so from a statistical standpoint, they had a solid afternoon.
The Chargers were unable to force Mark Brunell into any turnovers, and to make matters worse their vaunted pass rush mustered just two sacks. On another day, two sacks might suffice, so long as a team is getting good pressure on the QB. But those were two of the only times the Chargers were able to get anywhere near Brunell, as he often had all day long to throw the football. San Diego was especially vulnerable on screen passes wide, though after much success Washington sort of abandoned that approach. On the TD pass to Santana Moss, the Redskins kept eight men in the box to help block (plus Brunell, which makes nine). That means just two receivers went out and ran routes, and one of them (Moss) was still able to get open enough to score a touchdown. Still, for much of the second half the Chargers were able to stifle the Washington passing game, as the Redskins completed just seven passes after halftime. DE DeQuincy Scott left the game with a lower leg injury, according to NFL.com.
|QB Mark Brunell, Pass: 17 - 27 - 194 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - -1 - 0|
Brunell had about the most average day an NFL quarterback has ever had. He didn’t make glaring mistakes, he was never really close to being intercepted, and didn’t have any really poor decisions. On the flipside, there was nothing spectacular about his play, and he didn’t do much to enable his team to win. The Redskins rarely sustained drives, and punted nine times compared to just 15 first downs. The inability to move the football falls squarely on Brunell, though as mentioned above, with the type of game he played it’s tough to say he’s the main reason for the loss. Simply put, he had an average game against a below-average pass defense, and his owners should have expected more.
Portis did a good job, despite sporting a 3.0 YPC average. He fought for the tough inside yards, and it was evident early on that there wasn’t going to be much running room to the outside. The Redskins attempted to grind it out with the running game in the second half, with limited success. It wasn’t Portis’ fault that San Diego was stacking the line, yet Portis still managed to get three and four yard runs with some consistency. His owners would obviously have liked him to find the end zone, which he very nearly did in the first quarter. Portis was targeted by Brunell on a deep pass in the end zone, but had the ball bounce off his hands. It would have been a very difficult catch for someone who isn’t a wide receiver, as the pass was right on the sideline of the end zone. That said, it was a catchable ball. Portis lost three yards rushing on a play that was called back for holding.
Cartwright’s only touch of the game resulted in an easy TD run. Cartwright may have only had one touch, but that is still one more touch than San Diego defenders got on Cartwright during the run. The hole was so big he could have done cartwheels into the end zone.
|WR Santana Moss, Rush: 1 - -8 - 0, Rec: 6 - 65 - 1 (6 targets)|
Moss was dropped for an eight yard loss on his first touch of the game, a run. He quickly made up for that by posting a quick touchdown reception midway through the second quarter. Moss was one of only two receivers running routes on the play, yet still managed to get open. He made a nice move in the secondary to badly beat Bhawoh Jue on the play, and then broke Jue’s tackle to get himself into the end zone. Despite the quick start out of Moss, he was unable to sustain the momentum into the second half. He had two more receptions, but on his only two targets of the half. Washington really turned to the run in the second half, and Moss wasn’t a very big part of the offense. Moss had a fumble early on in the game, but it went out of bounds just before any Chargers were able to pounce on it.
Jacobs had a couple of third down receptions but nothing spectacular. He wasn’t targeted in the end zone, and never came close to busting out for a long reception.
Cooley was quiet, as Washington opted to slow the tempo in the second half and attempt to grind out a win. Thus, Cooley’s involvement in the passing game (or anyone else’s for that matter) was limited.
Royal’s name is mentioned here more for the negatives he had than anything. His offensive production was next to nothing, and he dropped easy passes all over the yard, including one for a potential first down late in the fourth quarter.
Hall missed a field goal attempt from 53 yards out that would have put Washington up with 35 seconds left to play in regulation, but the kick was wide. Jets fans everywhere knew that Hall was going to miss.
For most of the game, the Redskins did a bang-up job on containing RB LaDainian Tomlinson. And then, he simply took over. Washington was burned for two late touchdown runs, one from 32 yards out to tie the game, and another from 41 yards out to win in on the second play of overtime. The final stats do not indicate what a solid job Washington did in containing Tomlinson for much of the afternoon, but the fact is they had opportunities to tackle him on each of his two long runs and all they accomplished was to briefly grab a fistful of jersey.
Early on, the Redskins got a ton of pressure on QB Drew Brees. They hurried his passes, forced him into some bad decisions. Of course, the Redskins were also helped along by eight San Diego drops, most of them easy catches. Still, on several of those drops, the pressure on Brees was so intense that he had to throw the ball before he wanted to, and before his receivers were ready. This likely resulted in a lot of bad timing, which led to the many drops. They held superstar TE Antonio Gates without a catch until midway through the second quarter, and never allowed he or Brees to beat them downfield. Then just as suddenly, the pressure ceased. The Redskins backed the pressure off as the game wore on. Though their defensive statistics got better with three interceptions, their actual impact on the San Diego offense was lessened. The Chargers moved the ball much more easily, and would have won this game by two touchdowns in regulation had it not been for some bad decisions by Brees to throw the ball into traffic. Redskins’ cornerbacks intercepted Brees three times, the first three interceptions by Washington cornerbacks this season. Washington nearly came up with picks on two other plays. LB LaVar Arrington seemingly picked off Brees on a pass over the middle. The play was initially ruled an interception, but after review the call was overturned and correctly ruled incomplete. Later, CB Carlos Rogers leaped for a deep pass from Brees and had it in the air momentarily before losing control upon falling to the ground. LB Marcus Washington played an exceptional game. He was the only player who didn’t bite on the early pass play from Tomlinson to Brees, and later sacked and assisted on a sack of Brees twice. He also deflected a Brees pass up into the air that resulted in an interception by CB Shawn Springs. S Sean Taylor played WR for at least one play, but his role was to serve as a blocker. DL Joe Salave’a came up lame after a Tomlinson run. He was seen limping on the sideline, and was replaced in the lineup by Cornelius Griffin. NFL.com simply stated that Salave’a had aggravated a foot injury.