One reason Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers offense has been so successful this year has been their up-tempo, sometimes no-huddle offense. By getting to the line of scrimmage with plenty of time still on the play clock, Rivers has been able to read the pre-snap defense, look at the coverage, and adjust the play if needed. This has allowed him to exploit mismatches and know when Danny Woodhead and Antonio Gates have favorable matchups, and he’s certainly taking advantage of it.
Woodhead and Gates have been uncoverable when matched up against linebackers. On Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, Woodhead scored two touchdowns, both working against linebacker Bruce Carter. Gates had a touchdown catch and run of his own working on linebacker Sean Lee and had one the week before working against Tennessee Titans linebacker Zach Brown.
Woodhead, the shifty running back and slot receiver, is quicker than fast and understands how to get open to move the chains. However, on Sunday, he proved to be more than a security blanket and check-down receiver for Rivers as his two touchdowns were scored while running deep routes. This gives Woodhead even more of an advantage in the future as linebackers covering him now have to account for him going deep as well.
Gates, who is as healthy as he’s ever been, has shown that he still has the physical tools to get it done at age 33. Against the Cowboys, Gates had the speed to get to the deep ball and catch it in stride for the touchdown, despite Rivers admitting that he initially thought he overthrew him. The week before, Gates out-physicaled Brown and showed great body control to get two feet in bounds for the touchdown.
“When you get him matched up, I’m not sure if he’s ever covered,” Rivers said of Gates.
The Chargers will need big games from Woodhead and Gates moving forward with Malcom Floyd out for the season. Floyd was the Chargers’ primary deep threat, but Woodhead and Gates both proved on Sunday their abilities to stretch the field and get deep as well. If they continue playing like this, the Bolts will be just fine.