Hayden Fox's Assessment: Week 11
* I got to start with the offensive line. Between the Jonathan Martin scandal and Mike Pouncey coming up ill, it looked disastrous coming into today. However, this group played well today considering everything. The line gave up four sacks, but only two were on them at first blush. Eric Weddle got to Ryan Tannehill on a safety blitz and the other one RT ran out of bounds at the end of the game. In the run game, the line got good push. After last week's terrible output, the line helped out by going for 104 yards and over 5 yards a pop.
* Sam Brenner. I give the coaching staff credit for putting aside draft status and putting in the guy that they thought could do the job. Danny Watkins got in some, but Sam Brenner seemed to do okay. Good for the kid that learned just last night he was starting his first NFL game.
* Coach Turner got his name slung into the mud today, undoubtedly by Jon Martin's people. Props to him that he might be able to smile tonight after his group's effort.
* Credit must go to the offensive play calling. Mike Sherman had one of his best games of the season. While there is some criticism within this game, overall Mike Sherman gave the offense a chance to succeed. First, Sherman came out attacking through the air versus a lousy San Diego pass defense. He got the Chargers out of sorts. By passing early, he set up the run. The run game had excellent design. They ran out of the shot gun. They ran out of the pistol. They ran a reverse to Thigpen. They went Read Option. They allowed the line to get rugged and ran the rock right at the Chargers. The first part of the 4 Minute drill was tremendous. Showing confidence in the offense, Sherman attacked. They got first downs and showed they were not about to give the ball back to the Chargers. While the first part of the 4 Minute Drill was good, the last part struggled, which will be discussed in the negatives. Overall, Mike Sherman was excellent today.
* On that 4 Minute drive, Brian Hartline made a nice catch and got upfield. Alertly, he stayed in bounds. Rishard Matthews also picked up a first down of this drive.
* Charles Clay was the MVP on offense. 90 yards on 6 catches and a TD. Clay made one of the best plays of the year in the 2nd Half, running through the Chargers secondary for a TD. It was tough-minded play that has seemed to be lacking from this team this year. Great play and great game for the TE out of Tulsa.
* Ryan Tannehill made some good throws. Considering the changes up front and the trouble getting the ball to Mike Wallace, he played a solid game considering.
* Daniel Thomas had his best game of the year. He ran hard...very physical. He had 57 yards on 10 carries...5.5 a pop and a TD.
* Red Zone defense. The defense forced the Chargers to kick 2 FG's in 3 of their Red Zone opportunities. Might have been the difference in the game. One of those stops, Kevin Coyle called a perfect safety blitz with Chris Clemons and it forced a bad Phillip Rivers pass.
* The pass rush came alive in the 2nd Half. Olivier Vernon had a HUGE sack in the 4th as he beat D.J. Fluker. It pushed the Chargers back far enough that a FG attempt was not possible at the end of the series. Jared Odrick also got in on sack. Finally, Cameron Wake showed up huge on the final drive taking down Rivers and in turn forcing SD to take their last timeout.
* Brent Grimes. He had a interception in the 1st Quarter. He had strong coverage throughout the day. Alertly, he knocked down the last pass of the game in the corner of the end zone.
* 3rd down defense...kept the Chargers to 4-11.
* It was good to see Dion Jordan getting more looks...some were at defending Antonio Gates. He was around the QB some as well when rushing the passer.
* Penalties. The Fins had only 3 for 15 yards. Considering the changes up front and the distractions all week, that is tremendous stat. The Chargers on the other hand had 10 penalties for 75 yards. The Fins proved to be more disciplined.
* The team played hard for 60 minutes. That credit goes to Coach Philbin. He had the team to play for the entire game today.
* 3rd down offense. 2 of 10. Too many patterns are not going beyond the sticks. I understand that sometimes a receiver has to get the ball before sticks, run and make the first down. However, some of these down and distances are not so long that a pattern cannot go beyond the needed distance. Not good enough.
* While I waxed poetic about the early part of the 4 minute drill, the last part however, was brutal. The situation screamed for the team to run and make the Chargers use their timeouts. The team kept throwing. One incompletion killed the clock. Then, inexplicably on the 3rd down play, RT bootlegged and ran out of bounds, killing the clock again. I understand he did not want to throw a pick, but grab a seat in bounds forcing the Chargers to use their last timeout. While the drive had positives, it was mind numbing how it came to an end.
* Bogging down in the red area on the opening drive was tough. After a stellar drive, the team could not come up with the necessary plays to punch in an opening TD.
* Ryan Tannehill's interception. The DB's baited him well, but the turnover was turned into a TD for the Chargers. The pass before that, could have been a pick six the other way.
* RT under throwing a wide open Mike Wallace.
* Mike Wallace's body language when his QB misses him deep.
* John Jerry's two false start penalties. For the guy that has played the most of the group, he cannot be making those penalties.
* The run defense was awful. They gave up 159 yards for 5.9 per carry. The LB's are most to blame. They take horrendous angles and simply miss tackles.
* Giving Antonio Gates a free release into the end zone for an easy score. It created an easy pitch and catch for Rivers and Gates.
* After the great Clay TD run, the defense goes on to the field and yields a drive that leads to a long FG. The defense failed to keep the momentum after the great run by Clay.
* Nolan Carroll dropped a would-be pick on the goal line. The ball hit him in the hands. The Chargers cashed in 3 points on the next play.
* The faded lines from the soccer field looked terrible. Not as bad as the infield cut out from the baseball field years ago, but the soccer lines looked shabby.
* Folks, enjoy the win. I killed the team this week and gave up at times today. I have seen the team wilt in big spots too many times. It is okay to criticize, but some people are poo-pooing the win. That is ridiculous. My goodness guys...enjoy the win. All things considered, that is a solid win.
* The Fins are back in the Wild Card hunt. I was killed in my assessment last week by some posters by simply stating that the season was not over after the Tampa Bay loss and that actually the season was on the line today versus San Diego. Turns out I was right. The Fins got a ton of help in the standings...again...this week. They are 5-5 with two games left with the Jets. The competition behind the Fins have some tough games as well. 8-8 could get the last seed into the playoffs. While I do not think the Fins will win next week, for it is a bad match up across the board, it is still a non conference game. Regardless of the outcome versus the Panthers, the following week at the New York Jets will be huge. Through all the turmoil, suspect play, questionable coaching and a tough schedule, the Miami Dolphins are in this thing.
* I was very happy to see the team play hard tonight. We did not see that all that much versus the Bucs. Today, the team played hard and that is a credit to the players, but mostly Coach Philbin. When I rip Philbin for the team being listless, he in turn deserves praise when his team plays hard.
* I trashed the defense in the GDT quite a bit. Some might be warranted, but other times not. While they frustrate me to no end at times, when it was all said in done, the Chargers got 1 TD and 3 FG's. At the end of the day, it is about points scored and yielded. Today, they kept a pretty good offense under 20 points. Credit to them.
* More big plays are needed. They need to get more turnovers and have a large turnover differential each game. On offense, they need to have bigger plays. Wallace and Lamar Miller can deliver those, but they have to start to come through when given a chance. Big plays are a way to supplement an offense that battles with consistency.
* The team needs to have better killer instinct. The great play by Charles Clay yelled for the defense to step up and make a play...to find a way to keep momentum. However, the defense allowed 3 points by the Chargers. The week before, it was reversed. After a Jimmy Wilson interception, the offense had a chance to step on TB's throat with a TD...they did not as they settled for a FG. The team MUST get better here. It is up to the coaches to get the players to see those critical situations. It is up to the players to make the necessary plays to knock an opponent down.
* While the offensive line did nice work today, the Chargers do have a weak front. That should not take away from the what the guys did today. However, it must be pointed out that next two defensive fronts (Car and NYJ) are loaded and coached very well. The line has to have its best personnel available and find ways to improve.
* Sam Brenner did a nice job, but what does it say when he starts ahead of a late preseason free agent pick up in Danny Watkins and a 3rd round pick in Dallas Thomas?
* How bad has the run defense got? They were #3 overall two years ago and are sliding to the bottom half of the league.
* Reshad Jones has been ordinary to bad since his contract extension. A signing that I supported, has not worked out. More is needed from him. It is time for him to do the little things that made him an impact guy last year.
* I know he is trying, but Dimitri Patterson's groin injury is frustrating. What is even more frustrating is that Nolan Carroll is the "next man up". Carroll should be the guy based on the roster, but that does not mean he is very capable. Carroll seems to make a play, but gives up a big one thereafter. His dropped pick today is like a turnover...especially that deep in SD territory.
* Corey Liguet is a dirty player. That was cheap shot on RT that thankfully kept a TD drive alive after a Hartline fumble. I think he got Peyton Manning low last week.
* While the Fins got the attention about the issues on the Oline, the Chargers had almost as many.
* Sad turnout of fans at Sun Life. I give credit to Mr. Ross that he keeps the games on TV. With that said, the fans that were there were awesome. They seemed into it. Good for them. I wish the team had more local support.
* Unfortunately, this week will be the biggest week of distractions. Not only is a loaded Panthers team coming, but so is Ted Wells. The team will be focused on what this Martin mess is going to bring. The media will be back and there will be leaks everywhere.
* Jonathan Martin is a snake. I will keep saying it. How he brought this team into this fiasco is beyond me. His grin from ear to ear at the Stanford/SC game is galling. BTW, thank you SC for beating his school. I guess he was a loser twice this weekend. The Fins are 2-1 since Martin walked out on his team. There are a lot of people that deserve static for some shortcomings in Miami, but make no mistake about it, Jon Martin is the root for the current ills of this team.