I took a look at the Chargers' win over the Giants last week, and here are 10 things I noticed:
1. What a drive in the final two minutes by Philip Rivers and the offense. Textbook. Eight plays, 80 yards, 1:46 off the clock. Rivers went 6-for-8 for 75 yards, completing passes to five different receivers. The Chargers didn't even have to use their final timeout. If this one comes down to the final two minutes, look out.
2. The Chargers' defense wasn't really impressive. Eli Manning completed 25 of 33 passes for 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was 15-for-17 for 129 yards in the first half. Most of Manning's throws were intermediate routes. The Giants really did not go down the field much. Their longest completion was a 29-yarder to Hakeem Nicks on a wide receiver screen. Steve Smith killed San Diego in the first half with seven catches, but made just one reception after halftime.
3. The Chargers looked vulnerable against the run also. Brandon Jacobs averaged 6.1 yards per carry. New York put together three long drives (12 plays for 60 yards and 7:23 off the clock; 16 plays for 76 yards and 10:35 off the clock; 10 plays for 60 yards and 4:42 off the clock).
4. San Diego did have five sacks. Shawne Merriman had two, including a big one late in the fourth quarter, rushing up the middle. Linebacker Shaun Phillips was also very impressive. He had a sack, blitzing Manning from the edge, and forced a fumble. Among the defensive linemen, Luis Castillo was probably the most effective pass rusher, although he has just two sacks on the season.
5. If you think Brian Westbrook has lost a step, wait 'til you get a look at LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers running back had 12 carries for 22 yards. His longest carry went for a gain of 5. Granted, there didn't appear to be a lot of room, but Tomlinson has averaged 3.1 yards per carry or less in four of six games this season.
6. Vincent Jackson, on the other hand, is a beast. It's one thing to be tall (6-foot-5). But it's another thing to know how to use that size. Jackson did an excellent job of getting in front of Giants defensive backs and making plays. Forty-two catches for 722 yards and seven touchdowns on the season.
7. Antonio Gates was the most-targeted receiver last weekend. He ended up with five catches for 67 yards, but should have had a bigger game. Gates had a couple drops in the second half or he could have easily hit the 100-yard mark. Still, a couple very impressive plays. One was a 30-yard gain, most of which were yards after the catch. The other was a ball he caught at the 45-yard line. Gates then dragged a Giants DB 6 yards to pick up a first down on the final drive. Gotta wonder how Sean McDermott plans on accounting for Gates, given the Eagles' injuries.
8. After the Eagles-Giants game, we talked about the difference in Donovan McNabb and Eli Manning in terms of throwing to receivers who are covered. Well, Rivers is more in the Manning mold of allowing receivers to make plays even if they're not open. But he's also much less prone to mistakes. Rivers was a plus-23 in touchdowns to interceptions last season and is a plus-eight this year (14 TDs, 6 INTs). Against the Giants, there were several instances where he let his playmakers try to win one-on-one battles.
9. The Chargers hit on some big plays, including their first TD, off play-action. Again, a big test for the Eagles' linebackers and secondary here.
10. Darren Sproles is another guy to account for. Probably the biggest play on the Chargers' game-winning drive was a 21-yard pass to Sproles. He went into his route out of the backfield, and Rivers found him to set up the score to Jackson.
Bonus: With 3:14 left in the game, the Giants had the ball at the Chargers' 4-yard line, up 17-14. From there, New York was whistled for a holding penalty, had to settle for a field goal and were gashed during the final two-minute drill. The Chargers flat-out stole that game at the end.