Football is here. We’ll have to wait a few more days for the Chargers – but we’re back. The opening game of the season gave us an entertaining match that, for the most part, lived up to expectations. Initially, it looked like it’d be a blowout – as the Bills were making the Rams D look silly. Then, in the second quarter, I really thought the Rams had a solid shot to win this one. But, ultimately, the Bills provided an example of what winning teams do. And, as the Chargers are certainly in the “upper echelon” group with the Bills, Chiefs, and Bengals – game one should be a lesson. From one MVP-caliber QB to another – here’s what I saw that can be teaching points for the Chargers.
Chargers Lesson #1: Adjustments
Despite eventually getting blown out, what worked for the Rams in the second quarter changed up their coverages. They disguised looks that Josh Allen was previously play-changing like he could read their mind. But then, once they switched up their schemes, it was like Allen lost all confidence. Forget Ramsey, forget Donald. No, Raheem Morris gets the credit there. Let’s say Derek Carr comes out slinging it like Josh Allen was. Please, please take note of how to adjust from the Rams Q2 efforts. However, before we knew it – Josh Allen & Ken Dorsey made the necessary adjustments themselves! It was incredible to see the difference between Q2, then Q3 & Q4. It appeared as if the Bills Offense was figured out. Nope. As all great teams do, the Bills adjusted to the Rams’ adjustments! That’s what Super Bowl winning teams do. They continue to adapt throughout the game. After all, this is the NFL, and players/coaches pick up on things pretty quickly. So if the Chargers can keep the game plan fluid, play to what’s working – and change what’s not working, we’ll end up like the Bills. Victorious.
Chargers Lesson #2: Take What the Defense Gives… then Attack
One thing we saw in the first quarter was the perfect balance between taking what the Defense gives you, and doing what you want. Even the check-downs were getting them 5 yards or so. The short-to-mid level routes kept drives going like clockwork. Sure, they hit a bit of a slump in the second quarter – but, then what happened? The Bills found out what the Defense was keying in on, and the exploited their weaknesses. So, what did they do? Take what the alignments gave them. It was clear in the second half that the Rams were playing a coverage-heavy look, trying to shut down Allen, Davis, and Diggs – which opened the gates for Singletary to do his thing and gain solid chunks per carry. The Bills came out slinging, not taking home run balls – but, to me, that seemed like an apparent goal of the Rams D – take away the big plays (like we all saw in the AFC Championship game). And, the Chargers have very similar weapons to do so. We all know Herbo is a shot-taker, he likes the long ball, but it’s what we do between those deep shots that matters.
Chargers Lesson #3: The Run Game
After the second quarter shut down, the Bills returned to the run game in the second half. Whether it was Josh Allen scrambling, or feeding Singletary – the adjustment was clear, and it worked. It was as if the Rams weren’t expecting it – like running the ball was totally foreign! Let’s say Herbo isn’t having the first half to his gold standard, if we can switch it up to the run, and run effectively – we’ll be solid. Plus, as we saw in the case of the Bills – that also helped loosen up the passing game! The balanced attack of the second half allowed Allen only to get sacked twice the whole game – TWICE. Lastly, it also opened up the floor for Allen to run the ball as well. Lastly, and what proved to be most importantly, the effectiveness of the run game – including Josh Allen – opened up the deep balls. Granted, Josh Allen got hit 11 times, but that’s from the scrambling – which we don’t expect Herbie to do a lot. If Justin needs to run, we saw in the Pittsburgh game that he is willing and able.
Chargers Lesson #4: Put the Pressure On
Matthew Stafford was pressured 19 times last night. That’s higher than any game all last season. And, it’s clear that it affected him. Who wouldn’t be affected by behemoths running straight at you? It’s imperative that the Chargers get some pushback on the Raiders’ abysmal O-Line. The Rams had a new starting Left Tackle – and it showed. Ironically, while the Raiders’ Left Tackle is pretty solid – they do have some new pieces on their O-Line this year. Let’s take advantage of that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for Renaldo Hill to bring the house. What I am asking for is full-speed ahead effort from the guys up front. Then, maybe a linebacker here and there. If we can’t accomplish this, then we’ll likely see Carr & company stretch the field and air it out. Let’s call a spade a spade – the Raiders receiving corps is stacked. They might not the deepest, but certainly boasting a top-notch top-three. We can’t give Derek Carr the time to operate back there. So however we need to do it, let’s do it.
All in all, clearly, the “surprise” of the run game proved to be the ultimate downfall for the Rams in Week 1. And, conversely, If the Chargers can stop the Raiders running game on Defense, they can keep in on the Raiders’ passing attack, hence, the safeties can sit back and keep the potential long balls to Adams, Renfrow, and Waller at bay. We’ll need Ekeler, Spiller, and Michel to run effectively to open up the Defense for our MVP candidate to do his thing. Lastly, as long as we get some defenders in the face of Derek Carr, we should be able to hold Waller, Adams, and Renfrow all in check. If we can come out as efficient as the Bills did, then adjust – we’ll start the year 1-0, and be on our way to the season we’re all hoping for.
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