This game was won on third down.
The Chargers Offense converted 14 of 19 third-down attempts against the Washington Football Team in Week 1, including 9 of 9 in the second half (not including QB kneels).
New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi had a great plan for attacking the Football Team’s heavy use of man coverage on the money down. The common theme was tight splits, stacks, and bunches.
The approach accomplished a number of objectives. It prevented Washington defenders from being able to jam and disrupt routes at the line of scrimmage. It created natural rubs or picks, generating open receivers quickly. Specifically, it gave Keenan Allen space to execute his brilliant route running. All of this enabled Justin Herbert to get the ball out quickly and neutralize Washington’s pass rush.
On this first example, Keenan Allen motioned into the backfield before the snap.
This effectively created a trips bunch to the right side of the formation.
The traffic from the front two receivers allowed Allen to operate unimpeded.
Below, you can see Allen aligned as the back receiver of a stack. Again, the alignment and route of the receiver in front of Allen allowed him to get a clean release and set up his defender for another 3rd-down conversion.
The below 3rd down sealed the win for the Chargers. This was the same play as the first one shown above, just dressed up differently with Allen aligned at the line of scrimmage instead of in the backfield.
Another effective 3rd-down look that Lombardi utilized gave Justin Herbert the option of working his bunch combination to one side or targeting Mike Williams, his big 6’4″ wide receiver, on the back side.
Below was L.A.’s go-ahead touchdown. The Chargers went with a 4×1 formation here, with Williams isolated 1-on-1:
Below, Herbert converted another key 3rd down on the final drive of the game by again targeting Williams, who was isolated on the back side of a 3×1 formation this time:
These types of plays might not look glamorous, but the ability to convert on the money down is the path to winning football. The Chargers showed this against Washington, scoring the game-winning TD on 3rd down and eating up the final 6:43 of the game on the strength of four straight 3rd-down conversions.
The Lombardi-Herbert relationship is off to a great start. The Chargers will look to keep it rolling in Week 2 against the Cowboys.