‘What game was Kevin Acee watching?’ and Other Non-longsnapper Take-aways from Monday’s Charger Win

Kevin Acee never impressed with his football analysis as a Chargers’ beat reporter. Writing a daily column is way above his pay grade.

Too harsh, you say? Acee’s Tuesday morning reflection on the Chargers’ pasting of the Oakland Raiders says otherwise. Whatever you make of Week 1 in the Chargers’ 2012 season — lackluster offense, the timely departure of a certain Raiders special teams member — the Bolts put forth a great defensive performance.

The Raiders ranked seventh in rushing last year.  They strutted into San Diego last November and rolled this Chargers team for a cool 191 yards on the ground.

Acee would remember because he wrote about it. Twice.

Many of those same Chargers helped limit the Raiders to 32 yards on the ground last night. And while Carson Palmer’s stat line might look decent, he was lucky not to have a pick in the second quarter, and nearly half of his completions went to running backs. The Bolts stymied an above-average NFL offense, on the road, in impressive style.

Acee, unwittingly, offers a testament to just how effective the Chargers’ D was last night.  Struggling to muster some sort of criticism, Acee posits, “[T]he fact they were on onside kick recovery away from having to hold off a last-minute drive to avoid overtime” provides cause for concern.

Only by Acee’s standards could a crazy-unlikely hypothetical scenario — existing in the mind of one lonely sportswriter — be considered a “fact.”  Acee frets over the sheer possibility of the Raiders recovering an onside kick (they didn’t), moving downfield against a defense that held the Raiders in check all night (unlikely), scoring not just a touchdown (the Raiders had none until the final minutes of the fourth quarter) but a two-point conversion — and then winning in overtime.

On the basis of which Acee concludes, “The Chargers defense has got some work to do.”

On a week-over-week basis, the line on most NFL games falls somewhere under 8 points. An eight-point victory in a game in which your offense settles for five field goals? I’m a gonna say the defense should get some credit for a job well done.

Some other gems:

“They did get stronger as the game went on….”

Right: six points allowed in the first half, and none in the second half until the late touchdown (for more, see below).

“Still, the Wade Phillips defense – think 2006, in particular — would almost certainly have gotten the ball back on the drive where Oakland finally found the end zone.”

The Chargers did get the ball back — until their rookie linebacker committed a critical fourth-down personal foul that extended the drive.  Undisciplined mistake? Of course. A sign of bad defense? Only in Acee’s crazy bizarro hypothetical world.  As Eric Weddle said, “I don’t even count the last touchdown.” Me neither.

Some other takeaways from what can only be considered a standout effort:

  • Results aside, the defense was fun to watch.  Linemen played with discipline, generating push, making tackles, and following outside plays down the line of scrimmage. The back seven flew to the football throughout the night.  Speaks to the fundamentals John Pagano says he has been emphasizing in his first year as coordinator.
  • Special teams put together a solid performance before the Raiders punt started gifting points.  Eddie Royal had a long punt return called back.  Kickoff/coverage were both solid.  Donte Rosario made the most of some bad blocking to get to Lechler on a punt attempt where the snap actually reached him.  Year two of the Rich Bisaccia Renaissance might be better than year one.
  • People are complaining about the five field goals, but you cannot take care of the ball and take chances at the same time.  I’ll take the former over the latter. In that vein, Phillip Rivers is saying all of the right things. This team wins games on the back of good defense and a conservative game plan. Plus, seems unlikely that Rivers forgets how to get creative and/or throw deep when he needs to this season.  That’s never been his problem.
  • Norv Turner seemed for a few years there like he forgot that turnovers matter in the NFL. His team seemed to remember last night.
  • Ronnie Brown looked indecisive and a half-step slow.
  • Curtis Brinkley looked like he might provide a spark in the backfield until Mathews comes back.  Brinkley showed promise in limited action last year, too.
  • The offensive line didn’t do either running back any favors, and their numbers showed it.
  • Two key drops by Antonio Gates killed a drive and a touchdown chance, respectively.
  • Gates was held on several other plays, but replacement officials seemed indifferent.
  • Give AJ Smith a bit of credit: the team game-planned well around the offensive line limitations, and the unit performed admirably. Smith also continues to get standout performances from some of his hand-picked guys: Weddle (I didn’t think, after his first few years, he would blossom like he has); Donald Butler (a controversial pick in the third round, to say the least); and other young defenders like Liuget and Melvin Ingram.

Should we assume after Monday night that the Chargers walk all over the Falcons, Saints, and Broncos?  No, but few teams do.  Those teams went to the playoffs last year.  Does Monday’s solid wire-to-wire showing inspire confidence that this team can hang with those squads? No doubt.

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