The Chargers put up 30 on the Seahawks in San Diego, and the word of the day became “exposed.” But is this an accurate description of what happened on Sunday?
Wouldn’t you know it, the Chargers actually threw in Richard Sherman’s direction and lived to tell about it, unlike Green Bay who decided to cut the field in half and not put the ball up anywhere near him in Week 1. Keenan Allen had success against Sherman on a few slant routes. He got Sherman going outside, forced him to turn his hips, and then cut inside underneath him. This is the route that has always given Sherman trouble. Yet despite the publicity that this and the few other completions against Richard Sherman created, they were not the reason the Chargers scored 30 points.
Three by One:
The formation that had the most success for the Chargers on Sunday was a 3 by 1 set. This meant three receivers to one side with the fourth isolated to the other side. The Chargers didn’t always put a wideout on the one-receiver side, though. Instead, as the below picture shows, they often put tight end Antonio Gates to this side. All three Chargers touchdowns came out of this formation.
Why did this work? It isolated Antonio Gates on either a linebacker or a safety. In the red zone and near the goal line (where the three Chargers touchdowns came from), most defenses tend to play lots of man coverage concepts. Bringing 3 wideouts to one side, as a result, forces cornerbacks to follow. This is why Richard Sherman, who generally doesn’t travel with receivers and stays on the left side of the defense, was aligned in the slot on the right as you can see above. Two of Gates’ touchdowns came from this exact alignment, while the third one came with Gates aligned to the opposite side and the three receivers aligned to Sherman’s normal side. On all three touchdowns, Gates had a favorable matchup on either slower or smaller defenders.
He may be the ugliest thrower in the league, but man is Philip Rivers good. On Sunday, he was spectacular. Rivers was seeing the field clearly and throwing with great anticipation. He seemed to constantly be throwing the ball with defenders either in his face or draped off of him. He had pinpoint accuracy on all of his passes. Rivers was in total control of the offense and his execution was nearly flawless.
So did the Chargers discover a blueprint? Did they find a one-size-fits-all game plan to beat the Seahawks? Don’t be silly. They played with flawless execution and Philip Rivers had one of the best games of his career. That’s a blueprint to beat every team in the NFL. The Chargers didn’t expose the Seahawks. They simply got a big win against a great team.