Don't Kill The Mellinger

Chiefs-Chargers Rewatch: It didn’t need to come down to last play

Updated: 2013-12-19T21:37:30Z

By SAM MELLINGER

The Kansas City Star

- We talk all the time about how small the difference is between wins and losses, fortune and broke, laughter and tears, but Sean Smith’s left hand was roughly two inches from knocking down Philip Rivers’ game-winning touchdown to a young man named Seyi Ajirotutu.

- Without knowing assignments, it looked like Smith was expecting safety help on that play, too. Demps had a guy over the middle, too, and was late coming over.

- The Chiefs, presumably, had the wrong personnel on the field or just wanted more time to make sure about the play when they called timeout with 1:28 left. Andy Reid, whose clock management was routinely trashed in Philadelphia, called the timeout with 15 seconds left on the play clock. There’s nothing wrong with calling timeout there, but there’s no logical explanation for not letting the clock run down to minimize the time you give an offense that’s been destroying you.

- That said, if you give up 78 yards in 53 seconds … when you know that only a touchdown can beat you … at home … and you pride yourself on defense … you deserve to lose with shame.

- One overlooked part of that last drive: Woodhead juked Sean Smith along the left sideline for about 15 extra yards.

- He looks the part, but Dexter McCluster is no good with short passes near the line of scrimmage. He can get down field and find openings, and he can be dangerous in the open field as a punt returner. And when he does that, he’s an effective weapon. But those quick passes to the flat where he’s supposed to beat a bunch of guys … uh-uh.

- Donnie Avery ran a perfect route on that first touchdown. Just perfect. Turned the corner’s shoulders, didn’t stayed out of the safety’s help … just a beautiful route.

- As president of the Save Jamaal Charles Club, I must admit he’s holding up well through 11 games.

- Speaking of McCluster, had a touchdown on that punt return late in the second quarter if he got by Weddle. Chiefs scored a few plays later, on the pass down the left side to Avery and then Charles straight up the middle for the touchdown.

- The Chiefs were really good on offense, so I’m not trying to take anything away, but man the Chargers appeared confused about the rules of pass interference there for a while.

- The All-22 tape will have a better look, obviously, but the most encouraging part of Alex Smith and the offense Sunday is that the Chargers were — at least in my eye — the first team to so blatantly challenge the Chiefs to do something downfield. There were a lot of plays where the receivers are one-on-one, with little safety help. Smith and the offense made them pay.

- I may have forgotten to carry the 1, but by my calculations, Rivers’ passer rating on cross routes was 1,734.4.

The importance of Hali and Houston is the focus of the game column, but consider the following…

Chargers first drive, Hali and Houston both healthy.

First down, Tamba beat the right tackle, short screen no gain.

Second down, Houston and Tamba both beat their man. Ball knocked down by Bailey.

Third down, Tamba beat the right tackle, nearly a sack.

Three and out.

Chargers second drive, Hali and Houston both healthy.

Chargers got a field goal, key play being the cross route to Keenan Allen (Rivers also missed Allen in the end zone, when Allen had a step or two on Cooper).

Chargers third drive, Hali and Houston both begin healthy.

Rivers goes to safety valve because of pressure.

First down on another crossing route to Allen beating Cooper.

Tamba gets hurt, Zombo has some nice pressure in relief.

Chargers punt.

Chargers fourth drive, Houston healthy.

Houston had, basically, a sack. Didn’t count because Rivers fell across the line of scrimmage.

Punt.

Chargers fifth drive, where Houston gets hurt.

The play after Houston is hurt, Rivers has all day, finds Allen.

Touchdown to Woodhead in the corner of the end zone, Rivers has all sorts of time, made perfect throw.

Then, on San Diego’s first drive of the second half, they snapped at 14:16, and Rivers didn’t throw it until 14:11. The ball was underthrown, but Royal made the adjustment over Cooper and caught for a long gain that set up a touchdown.

Again, the Chargers scored three points in the 28 minutes or so before Houston’s injury, and 38 points in the 32 minutes or so after his injury.

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