Headed into the week, the Chargers rush offense was ranked 22nd by Football Outsider’s DVOA, and Melvin Gordon was second to last among qualified running backs by DYAR.
Gordon ultimately rushed for 196 yards on 32 carries with one touchdown against the Titans on Sunday, but how he accomplished it is what is important.
The production that Gordon was able to generate represents a stark contrast to what the numbers before this week and stated above would have you believe.
When you see how he was able to successfully gain yards (i.e. partly through blown assignments and missed tackles by the Titans), you may not want to completely throw out your prior opinion, rather, a slight adjustment may be more advisable.
Lets get to this week’s breakdown.
Week 9 NFL Breakdown
Tennessee: 0 San Diego: 9 (2nd 15:00) 46 YARD RUN
- Gordon is able to tear off a 46 yard run, but the outcome of this play seems to have to more to do with the play design, blocking by skill position players, and poor run defense by the Titans than the inherent ability of Gordon.
- The Chargers run a draw but seem to ISO the middle linebacker with Antonio Gates. Gates lays an exceptional block on Avery Williamson, and Dontrelle Inman is able to come in from the No. 2 spot to block safety Damion Stafford as he looks to fill the run lane.
- Watch Jason McCourty and Brice McCain on this play. They’re the two defensive backs to the field side of the formation. Even though they initially move with the flow of the play to account for their coverage responsibilities, they continue to over pursue long after the Chargers have shown their hand and the play proves to be a run. This inability to contain their run responsibilities is what allows Gordon to immediately cut to the field side of the formation and find an open lane.
Tennessee: 21 San Diego: 19 (3rd 5:35)
- The success of this play comes down to the efforts of Derek Watt (FB), King Dunlap (LT), and Orlando Franklin (LG). Even though he is driven back slightly by Jurrell Casey, Dunlap is able to angle Casey away from the run lane enough for Watt and Gordon to get through.
- The Titans may have been able to stop this play if Avery Williamson—inside linebacker—was faster to the hole. Because Williamson can’t get to the hole fast enough, Watt is able to reach him at a point far enough down field to allow Gordon to reach the end zone.
Tennessee: 28 San Diego: 23 (4th 9:51)
- Gates is motioned from the No. 2 in the Chargers’ 3×1 set to the No.1. Gates is moved into the box and this gives the Chargers six blockers to the Titans’ six defenders: an advantage for the Chargers (i.e. if the offense has as many blockers as the defense has defenders, the defense doesn’t have anyone to block the ball carrier).
- The Titans are in a full pass rush on first and fifteen, while the Chargers call the perfect counter with a draw play.
- To make matters worse for the Titans, like the first play we looked at, the Titans defensive backs over pursue the pass fake late into the play and abandon their run responsibilities. Along with Damion Stafford (#24, strong safety to the field side of the formation), Brice McCain (#23, nickel back to the field side of the formation) is again one of the culprits. Pay special attention when you watch the film to how long Stafford and McCain pursue the run after the ball has been given to Gordon; this opens up the field side of the formation and Gordon uses his ability to accelerate and picks up fifteen yards.
Tennessee: 35 San Diego: 43 (4th 2:37) 47 YARD RUN
- As the Chargers try to run the clock out on a big third and seven: Kenny Wiggins comes in as an extra offensive lineman to the boundary of the formation, while the Chargers also align two tight ends to the same side of the field. The Chargers call an inside zone run to the field, and despite the fact that he makes up for it with his physical prowess, (without knowing they play) one may doubt if Gordon makes the right (i.e. textbook) read on this play; it’s entirely possible that the play is designed to go in this direction, but a conventional read would suggest that a running back should cut to the weak side b-gap.
While Melvin Gordon was able to generate a large amount of offense for the Chargers on Sunday, his dynamic athleticism was only part of the reason for his success. As we saw above, the Titans perniciously abandoned their run assignments and missed tackles to allow yardage that another team more adept at run defense might have not allowed. The Chargers and their rush offense won’t be tested until their Week 13 matchup against the Panthers, so fans will have to wait for another test to take place.
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