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05 Jan 2018

Word of Muth: L.A. Finale

by Ben Muth

The Los Angeles Chargers hammered the Oakland Raiders this past Sunday 30-10 to finish the year on a high note and end up with a winning record. Considering the Chargers started 0-4, and then were 3-6, getting to 9-7 is a heck of a way to finish 2017. They couldn't climb all the way out of the hole they dug at the start of the season and make the playoffs, but there's reason for the dozens of Chargers faithful in L.A. to be excited for next year.

It was a team win for Los Angeles (you don't win by 20 points in the NFL without everyone contributing) but I thought the offensive line really stood out. The Chargers ran it well, and gave Philip Rivers plenty of time to throw the ball, allowing only one sack. It was nice way for a unit that struggled early to finish off the season.


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This was L.A.'s first touchdown of the game, and fumble luck does not do justice to what happens here. But even disregarding what happens after the fumble, this is a well-blocked play that goes for 11 yards before the running back (Melvin Gordon) gets touched.

This is a wham play where the fullback (Derek Watt, 34) trap blocks the defensive tackle (Justin Ellis, 78). He does a fine job, but I really like what the back side of the Chargers line does. Let's start with Joseph Barksdale at right tackle (72) doing a nice job of cutting off and covering up the slanting edge player (Khalil Mack, 52). Barksdale is on his third team, but he really is a decent player. Not a star or anything, but a mid-level starting offensive tackle. Here he gets pretty good vertical push on the slanter and lets Gordon make his cut tight off his block -- too tight, in fact, for the unblocked blitzing safety (Karl Joseph, 42) to make a play (though this is a bad play by Joseph).

I also like the double-team between center Spencer Pulley (73) and right guard Kenny Wiggins (79). They do a great job on the defensive tackle (Eddie Vanderdoes, 94) and the Will (Marquel Lee, 55). I really like how Pulley steps into the double-team while keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage so he can climb quickly to the linebacker. He just bangs off Vanderdoes to help his guard and uses the contact to redirect himself to his man at the second level.


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This is the second play of the second half. It is just a simple trap play that pops pretty good. Barksdale is good again here -- he does a quick swim to get the defensive tackle (Vanderdoes) upfield to make the trap block easier, then really gets good movement shoving the linebacker (Nicholas Morrow, 50) down across the play. He plays with really good power.

Wiggins at right guard doesn't look particularly athletic, he might get away with a hold, and he almost tears every ligament in Pulley's knee, but he tried hard and his man (NaVorro Bowman, 53) didn't make the tackle. Wiggins was probably the weakest link for the Chargers this year and if Matt Slauson or Forrest Lamp are back and healthy next year I wouldn't be surprised to see him out of the starting lineup in favor of Dan Feeney, who replaced the injured Slauson earlier in the year.

Speaking of Feeney (66), he does a good job on the trap block. People always think of trap blocks as these big de-cleaters, but this is plenty effective. He has a good target and gets his head across in the hole. Nice block from the rookie, who played well enough to get a full year in the starting lineup next year in my opinion.

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This is the next play, actually. It's a single-back power play, and I love Russell Okung (76) here. Look at how he displaces the defensive tackle (Denico Autry, 96) a full gap before climbing and getting just enough of the linebacker (Bowman) to spring the play. Okung probably had his best game of the season the first week I watched L.A., so the rest of his season was a bit of a letdown. Still, Okung was consistently good and had the kind of season L.A. was hoping he would when they brought him in.

Wiggins looks much better moving here than he did on the previous play. This is a good job of pulling across and swallowing the linebacker (Morrow) in the hole.

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And I wanted to finish with this play because holy hell is that a punch from center Spencer Pulley. I kept rewinding it to see if maybe the defensive tackle (Mario Edwards Jr., 97) got stepped on or tripped, but I really think Pulley just took his soul with two hands to the chest. Pulley wasn't great this year; he's probably the only guy other than Wiggins who won't be a guaranteed starter next year. I imagine he'll have to compete with Slauson. But this is an insane play that absolutely needed to be shared because to me it is perfect.

That'll do it for this week. Since the Saints are the last team left standing, we'll be covering them until they get bounced or until they win the Super Bowl. Either way, I'm looking forward to the ride.

Posted by: Ben Muth on 05 Jan 2018

6 comments, Last at 10 Jan 2018, 5:04pm by atworkforu


by anotheroldguy :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 12:39am

1st gif: "I also like the double-team between center Spencer Pulley (73) and left guard Kenny Wiggins (79)."
Looks like 79 is the right guard.

Last gif: "I kept rewinding it to see if maybe the defensive tackle (Mario Edwards Jr., 97) got stepped on or tripped, but I really think Pulley just took his soul with two hands to the chest."

I've been staring at that and I'm mostly convinced that the left guard gives him a little punch/pull with his right hand at just the right time to unbalance the DT outside his right leg. Most of the power is from Pulley but the DT literally doesn't have a leg to stand on. Does that seem plausible to you?

by Vincent Verhei :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 4:46am

Looks like 79 is the right guard.

Good catch. Thank you sir. That has been fixed.

by Raiderfan :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 1:08pm

Good article, as always.

by jtr :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 1:52pm

Antonio Gates never gets any credit for his blocking, but he holds his own on the third play here. It's even against Khalil Mack, one of the strongest damn dudes in the whole NFL. He doesn't exactly lay a whooping on Mack, but he keeps him wide enough for the play to go right off his inside hip.

by Laserblast :: Sun, 01/07/2018 - 6:12pm

Wiggins is a FA, and also pushing 30. I think he said he wants to get paid, so I'm guessing he goes to another team. Slauson is also a FA, so we'll see. It all depends on where Feeney (LG or C) and Lamp will play (RG or RT).

Feeney was definitely promising.

by atworkforu :: Wed, 01/10/2018 - 5:04pm

Normally I love this column, but....

I think your really missed on the first play. It's a debacle from the Chargers point of view that they were very lucky on... before the crazy fumble. Here's my analysis:

Wham blocking is usually done with some sort of angle to give the lighter FB/TE some sort of advantage over a much heavier interior lineman. Watt (34) is a good young player, but he is giving up 100lbs to Ellis(78) and it shows. Watt gets no movement at the point of attack, and Ellis is ready to shed his block if Gordon (28) comes anywhere near the designated point of attack. Left Guard (66) is not much better, as he whiffs on Bowman(53) who would be ready to clean up if Gordon somehow got past Ellis. Left Tackle(76) gets something of a seal on the hole, but is on his knees. His block is a barely acceptable one, but better then the blocks by 34 and 78.

Gordon, to his credit, sees this catastrophe looming and decides to cut it all the way back... right into the backside contain provided by unblocked safety Karl Joseph. This really should be a TFL of about 2, but Gordon's vision and Joseph's poor angle combine to spring for a 12 yard run, before hilarity ensues.