Though the Champs didn’t bring the dominant defense that the 12th man have become accustomed to seeing, the real credit has to be given to Antonio Gates and, especially, Philip Rivers in San Diego’s win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
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First and foremost, we need to give big props to Philip Rivers. He was on top of his game!
The Seattle defense put far more pressure on him than the stat-lines would suggest. Unfortunately for the Hawks, Rivers was razor sharp in his decision making.
On multiple occasions, the Seattle defensive front squeezed the pocket on Rivers, but he was able to elude the rush long enough to complete his reads and/or scramble for the necessary yards. In doing so, he picked the Legion of Boom apart with a slew of crossing routes to his wideouts, drop-off passes to his running backs and downfield passes to his tight end.
A perfect example of this was his second touchdown pass to Antonio Gates. Despite the pressure being applied by Michael Bennett to the extent that he actually got his hand on the ball and caused Rivers to bobble it momentarily, Rivers maintained his composure and lofted a perfect pass over Antonio Gates’ shoulder near the sideline in the endzone.
In fact, the supposedly over-the-hill tight end Gates was really the only Charger receiver to get anything done down the field. Time and time again, he was able to get open, especially on third down.
His one handed grab on his third touchdown was not only amazing in itself, but especially so, given that it also came on a very crucial third down. Plain and simple, it was CLUTCH!
It was really frustrating to see the aging, eventual Hall-of-Famer continuously getting open, regardless of whether he was guarded by safeties or linebackers. I am still finding it hard to understand how Gates was so successful against a defense that has successfully shut down much faster tight ends like Denver’s Julius Thomas, San Francisco’s Vernon Davis, and New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham.
Generally, Seattle is able to shutdown such top tier tight ends by putting either linebacker Bobby Wagner or safety Kam Chancellor on them. Unfortunately, whether it was due to the Chargers offensive scheme, or just an off day by the Seattle D, Gates was able to make the big play when the Chargers needed one.
When the Seahawks had the ball, they, once again, showed impressive efficiency. However, their efficiency in this particular game actually harmed the Hawks as a whole, given the HUGE time of possession advantage realized by the Chargers coupled with the 120 degree on-field temperature.
Whether it was by design, or a matter of circumstance, the Seattle offensive scheme really hurt the Hawks defense. Instead of being run heavy like we are accustomed to seeing, the Hawks relied primarily on their passing game.
As a result, the Seahawks defense was EXHAUSTED, as demonstrated by multiple players having to leave due to dehydration issues. The Seattle defense would have really benefited from additional time on the sidelines, but the offense simply didn’t afford them that benefit.
Ultimately, this was a perfect example of what the Champs should expect game in and game out. They have a target on their backs and, accordingly, they should expect to see their opponents bringing their A-game.
Though it is only one loss, and a loss to a solid playoff caliber team, I do expect the Seahawks to come out and prove that that they are still the team to beat against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.