Chargers' Problems In The Run Game Start On First Down

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As BoltHype famously documented last season, the Chargers are ridiculously predictable on first down. Last year, opposing defenses had it easy; they could smell a run play simply by looking at the Chargers' personnel groupings on first down. Lorenzo Neal and Brandon Manumaleuna on the field at the same time was all but a guarantee the playcall was a run play, and yet even after adding two extra blockers to the play, the Chargers were disgustingly ineffective.

Here we are in 2008 and not much has changed - the Chargers still all too often run Ladainian Tomlinson on first down usually resulting in a no-gain. This puts the pressure on the passing game to now come up with a 10 yard play. Should that pass fall incomplete, the Chargers are forced to take another shot downfield or to try something underneath. Without establishing a good rythm in the first half, the Chargers usually conceed too many points to the opposition. The second half rolls around and behind on points, the Chargers' offensive gameplay switches to "catchup mode" and the running game usually goes out the window.

To demonstrate how ineffective the Chargers are on first down, lets take a look at all of the Chargers' first down plays against the Falcons in Week 14. Using the play log from NFL.com, we can see an obviously problem running the ball on first down. The Atlanta Falcons' defense sold out on first down, daring the Chargers to pass. And as we can clearly see, when the Chargers did pass on first down they were very effective. Of course, by the time the second half rolled the Falcons made it a two score game and the Chargers gameplan changed to compensate.

TOMLINSON ON FIRST DOWN

FIRST HALF
1-10-SD 22 (14:56) 21-L.Tomlinson left end to SD 22 for no gain (50-C.Lofton).
1-10-ATL 41 (11:55) 21-L.Tomlinson left end ran ob at ATL 40 for 1 yard (56-K.Brooking).
1-10-SD 31 (4:44) 21-L.Tomlinson left guard to SD 31 for no gain (71-K.Biermann).
1-10-ATL 20 (3:09) 21-L.Tomlinson right end to ATL 18 for 2 yards (56-K.Brooking).
1-10-SD 21 (14:55) 21-L.Tomlinson up the middle to SD 23 for 2 yards (56-K.Brooking).
1-14-SD 4 (9:17) 21-L.Tomlinson up the middle to SD 1 for -3 yards (94-K.Moorehead, 36-L.Milloy).

SECOND HALF
1-10-SD 6 (9:30) 21-L.Tomlinson left end to SD 3 for -3 yards (23-C.Houston).
1-10-ATL 45 (9:05) (Shotgun) 17-P.Rivers pass short middle to 21-L.Tomlinson ran ob at ATL 34 for 11 yards (22-C.Jackson).
1-10-SD 20 (7:33) 21-L.Tomlinson up the middle to SD 24 for 4 yards (99-J.Jefferson).
1-10-ATL 31 (12:45) 21-L.Tomlinson right end to ATL 31 for no gain (50-C.Lofton). PENALTY on SD-61-N.Hardwick, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at ATL 31 - No Play.
1-10-SD 19 (2:46) (Shotgun) 17-P.Rivers pass short left to 21-L.Tomlinson ran ob at SD 19 for no gain (23-C.Houston).


RIVERS ON FIRST DOWN

FIRST HALF
1-10-SD 33 (13:54) 17-P.Rivers pass incomplete short right to 85-A.Gates.
1-10-SD 49 (12:45) 17-P.Rivers pass short left to 85-A.Gates to ATL 41 for 10 yards (36-L.Milloy, 56-K.Brooking).
1-10-SD 20 (5:56) 17-P.Rivers pass short right to 22-J.Hester to SD 29 for 9 yards (36-L.Milloy, 56-K.Brooking).
1-10-SD 1 (:57) 17-P.Rivers up the middle to SD 5 for 4 yards (98-J.Anderson).

SECOND HALF
1-10-SD 33 (14:51) 17-P.Rivers sacked at SD 30 for -3 yards (71-K.Biermann).
1-10-ATL 45 (9:05) (Shotgun) 17-P.Rivers pass short middle to 21-L.Tomlinson ran ob at ATL 34 for 11 yards (22-C.Jackson).
1-10-ATL 34 (8:42) (Shotgun) 17-P.Rivers to ATL 34 for no gain (92-C.Davis). FUMBLES (92-C.Davis), and recovers at ATL 31. 17-P.Rivers to ATL 31 for no gain (92-C.Davis).
1-10-ATL 24 (7:16) 17-P.Rivers sacked at ATL 30 for -6 yards (95-J.Babineaux).
1-10-ATL 12 (6:08) (Shotgun) 17-P.Rivers pass short right to 89-C.Chambers to ATL 10 for 2 yards (22-C.Jackson).
1-10-SD 19 (2:46) (Shotgun) 17-P.Rivers pass short left to 21-L.Tomlinson ran ob at SD 19 for no gain (23-C.Houston).

December 1, 2008

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5 comments:

Anonymous said... Dec 1, 2008, 3:08:00 PM

Wow you'd think the coaching staff would have caught on to this by now...embarrassing.

arnie said... Dec 1, 2008, 3:58:00 PM

you now see the full results of a completly coached Norv Turner team. prdictable and unimaginative.
it makes me wonder if we would have been better off keeping Brian Schottenheimer as OC when Cam left?

Anonymous said... Dec 2, 2008, 7:50:00 AM

Running game misses Neal much more than anticipated. Suggest they move Malamanuo (sorry about the spelling) to fullback. He would provide a large blocker for the run game, able to catch passes out of the backfield, and provide solid pass blocking when called upon. Might as well do some experimenting since the season is lost anyway.

Joe Fiorentino said... Dec 2, 2008, 11:55:00 AM

These are some telling numbers Rob. It's truly amazing that adjustments haven't been made. While the players are still to blame, Norv is guilty of not switching things up.

Norv, you better mix things up, because if we lose to the Raiders on Thurs, I'm 100% done with you.

dlpro619 said... Dec 2, 2008, 8:29:00 PM

What the hell happened to our team? If we get rid of Merriman after the 2009 season it's gonna be a big mistake. A.J Smith better realize that fact.

Chris from footshapers.com
"you know I got sole"

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