Saturday, December 18, 2010

Making the Grade: Niners-Chargers, Week 15

Playing on short rest and without TE Antonio Gates and WR's Patrick Crayton and Malcolm Floyd, Phillip Rivers connected with 8 different receivers, including the return of the Vincent Jackson Chargers fans remember, as the pair and the Chargers D steamrolled San Francisco, 34-7 on Thursday night. Here are my grades for the game:

Quaterback: Save for the 28-13 debacle vs. Oakland, Rivers has been dynamite all season long. He may not break Dan Marino's single-season milestone of passing for 5,000 yards and he may not win the MVP this year, but he has become only the 3rd QB in Chargers history to have three consecutive season in which he has thrown for over 4,000 yards (Dan Foust and John Hadl). Rivers completed 19 of 25 passes for 273 yds. and three TD's...all to Vincent Jackson. A

Receivers: No Patrick Crayton, or Malcolm Floyd, or Antonio Gates? Doesn't matter when you're no.1 receiver Jackson returns to pick up the share of the load. The bridges may have been burned for good thanks to the dispute he had with A.J. Smith in wanting a bigger contract and holding out for most of the season, but tonight he shined by doing what he does best: using his height and speed to out maneuver cornerbacks, and he did that 5 times for 112 yrds. The supporting cast - Randy McMichael in for Gates with 5 catches for 55 yds., Darren Sproles with 5 catches for 30 yds., and Kelley Washington with 2 catches for 49 yds. - all contributed. The lesson: anyone who's open for #17 to throw to is a threat. A

Running Backs: We know the Chargers are a pass-happy team - they're ranked no.3 in total passing yards in the NFL - but they've finally found balance in passing and running the ball, something they didn't have last year. Mike Tolbert and rookie Ryan Matthews carried the ball 17 times each and combined for 102 yds. and one rushing TD by Tolbert. Its far and away the running game Charger fans remember, but its doing the job in becoming a complement to the fantastic passing game. B+

O-Line: One of few complaints I have about Thursday Night's game: first half, Rivers was getting constant pressure from the Niners linebackers and front four in the first half, and had issues most of the night trying to create lanes for Tolbert and Matthews. A good game in protecting Rivers and giving him enough time, but opening holes for the running game was a bit of a a disappointment. Then again, you your team wallops on the opposition 34-7, what do you have to complain about? B

I'll have my grades on the Chargers D and the rise of an upcoming star later on in the day.

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