Watching the game a second time and grading players is quite a task. It also set my readers up for a disappointment this week. I didn’t watch the game a second time.
There I said it and it was like ripping off a bandage. The good news is I played closer attention to certain things during the game this week. I guess after four weeks of watching the game a second time for analysis I had a hard time turning off that part of my brain.
Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch & Chris Johnson
Huff was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Doesn’t that say it all? Not quite. In fact, Huff was headed for the duds list until he forced the Philip Rivers fumble to seal the win. Tyvon Branch returned the fumble for a touchdown. Chris Johnson was being used like a cheap hooker in the passing game, until he crushed an offensive lineman attempting to recover the game-deciding fumble. His play was what enabled Branch to scoop and score. Three duds became studs on one play. Amazing.
John Fassel, Rock Cartwright & Brandon Myers
For all the abuse Fassel has taken for his special teams units, he found something in the Chargers punt protection. Cartwright blocked the first punt and it went out of the endzone for a safety. Myers blocked the second punt and Hiram Eugene was able to pick it up and score a touchdown. Fassel may be figuring out was he has in his returners. Nick Miller had a long return and there was nothing Sunday to detract from an amazing performance from the special teams units.
Coming in for the injured Bruce Gradkowski, who was 1 of 7 passing, Campbell completed 13 of 18 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. His quarterback rating was 117.6. He was sacked three times and fumbled once. If the offensive line can give Campbell enough time, this is the type of damage he can do. He will likely get the start this Sunday in San Francisco.
I’d say Darren McFadden has competition for touches. Hue Jackson must get both involved when they are healthy. Bush ran for 104 yards on 26 carries and added 31 yards in the passing game. He scored one touchdown and had 4.0 yards per carry average. Bush is averaging 4.4 ypc this season to McFadden’s 4.6 ypc. For all the offensive line’s problems in pass protection they are going a good job run blocking.
Yes, even the mighty Asomugha can make the duds list. Someone had to make the list. He allowed more catches than I can ever remember him giving up in a single game. The Raiders were playing more zone on Sunday and that could have been part of it, but better for a bad game to happen in a win than a loss. There is little doubt he will rebound or lose any respect around the league. It actually could be a positive if teams try to attack him more in the passing game.
Marshall finally figured out how to get his players to stop the run at the expense of good coverage. He used much more zone coverage than usual and was blitzing with regularity. Blitzing a good quarterback is rarely a good idea. It worked against Donovan McNabb in 2009 with a terrible offensive line, it backfired against Philip Rivers. Rivers just tossed passes to his backs if he got in trouble and threw deep passes in between the zones to his tall receivers. McNabb didn’t have these options in 2009.
I wonder how much of Marshall’s plan was dictated by his linebackers. Without Groves and Howard, his only option at linebacker with solid coverage skills was Mike Mitchell, who he went to late in the game to cover Antonio Gates. Without linebackers who can man cover, he can’t run the man-to-man scheme. Pressuring Rivers is required if you want to limit him, but with any great quarterback you must get pressure with four or disguise your blitzes. Raiders did neither on Sunday.
Zero catches. He was wide open for a touchdown and Jason Campbell didn’t have the confidence to throw it to him. The only Raiders receiver to catch a pass was Louis Murphy who caught two passes for 61 yards. That can’t happen. For all the talk about how hard he worked he’s been basically invisible. He goes head-to-head with Michael Crabtree and has the opportunity to prove to the NFL he was the better draft selection.