The high-flying San Diego Chargers clinched the 2nd seed in the 2009 AFC Playoffs this week. The team is loaded with talent on offense. The following is just one example of how the Chargers use Antonio Gates and the threat of the run game to totally confuse defenses.
Game Scenario: Philadelphia Eagles vs. San Diego Chargers. Week 10. Second play from scrimmage. 2nd down and 1 yard to go.
Antonio Gates is lined up wide at the top of the screen. Vincent Jackson is at the bottom. LaDainian Tomlinson is lined up in the backfield. The Eagles come out in their conventional 4-3 look with all three linebackers clustered in the middle poised to stuff the run on 2nd and short.
The Chargers also have second string tight end Brandon Manumaleuma on the field. This is a classic heavy formation well-suited for power running. At the bottom of the screen is 6’5″, 240 pound wide receiver Vincent Jackson who is capable of running Asante Samuel right off the field. At the snap of the ball, left guard Kris Dielman pulls and the Eagle linebackers shout, “Pull, pull, pull.” Take a look at Philip Rivers. He has a lot of options right now. Dielman has begun to pull, but Rivers is still looking down field. He can hand off to LT. He can throw a quick hook to Vincent Jackson.
And that is precisely the challenge of playing this team. They have so many options and most of them are equally viable. You have to respect every fake — and that makes you play off balance. Look at all 3 Eagle linebackers. They are in exactly the same position. Each is in the midst of an off-balance retreat. They realize that Tomlinson is not getting the ball and that Rivers has the ball in a clean pocket with zero pass rush. (Rivers also executed the fake perfectly. He actually turns his back from the line and does a complete turn before finding his target.) What’s worse — Antonio Gates is running a slant with no underneath linebacker support against a cornerback!
It doesn’t get much worse than this on the 2nd play from scrimmage.
Right now, San Diego is doing the little things right and getting great results.