Film Study: What Went Right and What Went Wrong On Monday Night

As you know by now, the Chargers lost a devastating game to the Broncos on Monday night. Today I want to highlight a few things that may not have shown up in the box score, but will be crucial for the rest of the season going forward. After going back through all the film, I identified 3 things that went right, and 3 things that went wrong. Since the team no doubt deserves to be commended for some things they did, including having the resolve to fight all the way back from a 24-7 deficit, let's start with the positive.

What Went Right:

1. Spencer Pulley

In a game in which the rest of the offensive line looked shaky at best, Pulley looked great at times. Watch here on the very first play from scrimmage, as Pulley (#73) does a great job of twisting his hips and turning his man to his left, blocking a second defender in the process while sealing off a gap with his body that allows Melvin Gordon to break his explosive 21 yard run. Although Gordon didn't get much on the ground in the game, it wasn't Pulley's fault, as the second year UDFA consistently displayed great technique and consistently won his match-up.

Although he wasn't exposed to the Broncos' dominant edge rushers like the Chargers tackles were, he held his own in pass protection against interior linemen. Here he does a nice job on 3rd and 2 seamlessly switching between defenders, first engaging the nose tackle, then switching to engage DE Shelby Harris, then back to the nose tackle, giving Philip Rivers a small window to throw through and hit Keenan Allen for the first down.

Almost all of the pressure on Rivers was coming off the edges all night, which wasn't Pulley's fault and ultimately he looked above average in the run and pass game. Overall, his performance looks even more promising given Pulley's lack of experience heading into the game. He had logged just 207 career snaps heading into Monday night and showed well in a prime time road game against an extremely tough defense. There's plenty of reason to be excited about Pulley's future going forward, especially on a night where the rest of the line mostly struggled.

2. Joey Bosa & Melvin Ingram

Both Bosa and Ingram were fantastic, routinely beating both of the Broncos' tackles, LT Garrett Bolles and RT Menelik Watson, making plays in every facet of the game.

Bosa is best known for his elite pass rushing skills but does a great job here against the run as well. The man attempting to block Bosa on this play is Bolles, who tries to go low and cut block him, but Bosa(#99)shows great technique by recognizing the dive and hurdles the low block to hunt down C.J. Anderson and wrap him up around the line of scrimmage.

On the Broncos next drive,  on a 1st down near midfield, Ingram absolutely embarrasses Watson, casually tossing him aside with one arm while landing a big hit on Trevor Siemian, forcing an incomplete pass. Ingram is incredibly quick on his feet, having Watson thinking he's going outside him the whole time, only to cut back inside with such ease that Watson stands no chance.

Later in the game it was Bosa's turn to embarrass Watson, who desperately tried to tug on Bosa's jersey to no avail as he blew past him and sacked Siemian. Corey Liuget going unblocked up the middle because Anderson oddly didn't even try to pick him up gave Siemian nowhere to go and allowed Bosa to wrap him up.

Ingram did have a crucial roughing the passer penalty late in the 4th with the Broncos up by 3 to push Denver into field goal range, but redeemed himself just two plays later with a sack of Siemian to push them back into a difficult field goal attempt which Brandon McManus would then miss. With the Broncos facing 3rd and 13 from the Chargers 19 yard line, Ingram again dominated Watson (noticing a theme?), not even needing to attempt any sort of move or elusive maneuver and simply pushing him straight back until releasing right into Siemian.
They were everywhere, flying all over the field, and Siemian will certainly be seeing them in his nightmares when they next meet at the Stubhub Center in week 7. Overall, it was a great game from Bosa and Ingram, and it will be fun to watch them dominate and make opposing tackles' lives miserable all season long. For the Broncos, it looks like Watson has the potential to be a liability all season long and will be a great match-up to exploit in the second meeting between these two teams.

3. Keenan Allen's health

Overall it was a relatively quiet night for Allen statistically, registering five catches for 35 yards and a touchdown, but he showed he is fully healthy and recovered from his ACL tear. Allen was receiving plenty of double-teams throughout the night from the league's toughest secondary, and was clearly Rivers' go to man receiving a team high 10 targets. Allen's route-running looked good and his cuts were crisp and its clear he's going to get heavy volume from Rivers all year.

He did have one bad drop on a 3rd down early in the game, but that didn't shake Rivers' confidence in him moving forward. Monday night figures to be his lowest receiving yardage of any game this season if those 10 targets stay consistent, which they should. If Allen can stay healthy he should be a force this season, and with Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin stretching the field and making safeties nervous vertically, Allen should be able to absolutely clean up in the intermediary game, which is where it looks like the Chargers will be using him most often. There's not a ton to breakdown in Allen's film, but here's another look at his touchdown just for fun-

Allen does a great stutter-step at the goal-line, tricking the cornerback into thinking he's going outside just for a moment before dashing inside setting up an easy throw for Rivers.

What Went Wrong:

1. Miscommunications/ Mental Errors / Composure Issues

As I laid out in my game preview, one of the Chargers keys to the game was going to be avoiding the mental errors that often come along with playing in a road, prime-time game. The Chargers certainly did not avoid those errors, and may have committed more than even I expected, and I was expecting plenty. This was perhaps perfectly encapsulated by the Chargers getting a false start penalty before they had even snapped the ball once, setting themselves up with 1st and 15 from their own 6 yard line for their first play.

These lapses continued throughout the game, with the Chargers seemingly never being able to get the play in on time with everyone in position and knowing their assignment. Rivers seemed to be scrambling to get the ball snapped to avoid a delay of game on just about every play, and there were multiple times when a timeout had to be burned because of the dwindling play clock. Of course, it is extremely difficult communicating in such a loud environment and it is impossible to avoid those mistakes completely, but it is essential to not commit as many as the Chargers did on Monday night.

It wasn't just the play clock where the Chargers had trouble communicatin. For example on a crucial 3rd and 10 play with less than 4 minutes left, Antonio Gates thinks the screen pass for Benjamin is intended for him, and when it sails over his head appears confused and fails to block LB Brandon Marshall, who tackles Benjamin behind the LOS.

The aforementioned roughing the passer penalty is also something you just simply can't let happen in the 4th quarter of a one score game if you hope to start winning them, even though Ingram redeemed himself moments later and got bailed out by McManus, because that won't always happen.

2. Linebackers In Coverage

Kyle Emanuel was exposed multiple times on Thursday night, most notably on a crucial 4th quarter play. On the first play of their drive with the Broncos up by 3 and 7 minutes left, Denver surprisingly threw the ball. The Chargers seemed to be expecting the run and Emanuel got torched and blown past by tight end Virgil Green on a simple seam route. It's a hard route to cover one on one for a linebacker but in that situation you simply can't allow yourself to get beat over the top, let alone by three steps, and if Siemian hadn't under-thrown the ball and caused Green to slow down it might've gone for a touchdown and essentially ended the game.

He wasn't the only linebacker to struggle in coverage. Later, on third and goal from the six, the newly acquired Hayes Pullard inexplicably gives Bennie Fowler a 3-4 yard cushion *in the endzone* giving himself zero time to close and allowing Siemian a huge window to toss an easy touchdown. The Chargers show an all out blitz on the play but actually only rush three, dropping eight into coverage and still somehow having not one but two receivers wide open in the endzone within 2.5 seconds of the snap.

The linebackers struggled in coverage throughout the game and they're going to need to either get better in a hurry, or Gus Bradley is going to have to start scheming up ways to hide them better.

3. Third Down Defense/Missed Tackles

The Chargers showed an inability to get off the field on third down throughout the game, routinely letting Siemian beat them. In the first three quarters, Siemian was 7/10 for 69 yards on third down, picking up first downs on all 7 plays on which he completed passes. Allowing a mediocre quarterback like Siemian to convert third downs at a 70% clip is unacceptable.

At other times there were missed tackles left and right that allowed the Broncos to extend drives. Take a look at this third quarter drive with Denver looking to make it a three score game. After a Joey Bosa sack sets up second and 19, Emmanuel Sanders gets open for what should be an 8 yard completion, with two defenders in position to make the tackle, to set up a very difficult 3rd and 11. Incredibly neither safety Jahleel Addae or Casey Hayward are able to make the tackle because Addae comes running in and crashes into Hayward, tackling him instead of Sanders. Sanders would then cutback across the field, outpacing at least 6 defenders, and pick up the first down which would lead to a McManus field goal and make it a three possession game, a score which would eventually be the difference in the game.
There were plenty of other missed tackles throughout the game, as there will be in any game, but for the Chargers they seem to come at especially inopportune and back-breaking times.

OK, that's my take. Overall it was far from spectacular, but you can't expect too much more from a team going on the road in prime time in week one in one of the toughest places to play in the entire league. They looked quite sloppy at times, but so did most other teams still shaking off rust in week one. The team showed heart and fight that they not might've under Mike McCoy. As the graphic on the ESPN broadcast showed, the Chargers were 1-135 when trailing by 17 or more in the 4th quarter all time, and yet they almost pulled it off. There's plenty of stuff to clean up, but there's plenty of reason for optimism too. The season is young, on to the Dolphins.


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