Wow that was ROUGH! Keenan Allen romped through the Lions like... well Keenan Allen romping through the Lions. The big question was really how he did it and why it happened. Right after the game the popular question was "Why did Austin not put Slay on Allen?" Well the simple answer is because he was typically lining up in the left hand side and the slot and Slay is the right side corner. Our secondary plays a lot like Seattle's, where we have a left corner and a right corner and Slay is the right corner.
It is easy to say "Well when you are getting torn up like that its time to make a change" but its a little harder than that. This is the scheme, they have been practicing it all training camp and more or less playing it all last year. If all of the sudden half way through the first game you decided to have Slay follow their number one around the question becomes "What is everyone else's task in the secondary?" I charted all of Keenan Allen's catches and you can see them below. The notes are not complete and I don't have pictures but if gives you the idea.
|Catch||Primary Coverage||Secondary Defender||Third||Coverage||Yards||Notes|
|8||Tulloch||Quinn||Zone||8||3rd Down short of sticks|
|12||Mathis||Quinn||Man||11||Quinn was very deep and the pass was a short slant|
Let's for example take the last completion for Allen, it came on Diggs because we were in dime and Allen was in the slot. If Slay all of the sudden started following Allen around where would Diggs go? To the outside? He doesn't have a lot of practice there and to which outside receiver? Or would Wilson move outside and Diggs take the other slot receiver? And what do we do when players go in motion? These are questions that they have probably covered but haven't practiced much of and are not easy in game changes to make.
In the table above we can see that Mathis was in coverage on 7 of the 15 receptions which is a clear plurality. The first five receptions were all in the first half and the last 10 were in the second half. Six of the seven receptions that Allen completed on Mathis came in the second half, making it likely that they saw that Mathis was having trouble and adjusted during half time. This means that Austin did not have half time to adjust to this strategy combine this fact with the fact that the Chargers had the ball for 19:07 or nearly two thirds of the second half and the Lions longest drive was 4 plays and 3:22, this did not leave a lot of time for scheming. Simply put it is hard to restructure the defensive scheme while your calling plays.
So our biggest knee jerk complaint might not have been practical to do in game. Maybe Austin should have understood Mathis' limitations better or schemed differently but during that second half he did not have a lot of chance to change it. What about the first half though? Well its pretty clear that they were moving Allen around a lot with no single player being the primary player in coverage on him more than once but we can see that Ihedigbo was the secondary defender three times and Bynes was the third defender, where Allen was in his zone even though someone else had man coverage on him. This is exactly what I would have done because those are our two worst coverage players in the linebackers and secondary.
I think that this was bad match up for the team because the defense is designed to limit the big play and stop the run but San Diego is already terrible at the run and does not thrive on deep passes. So they are basically designed to excel at what our D is designed to give them. Combine that with Levy being out and forcing players like Tulloch and Ihedigbo in wider ranges. All of this gets compounded by Mathis not being able to cover Allen and the San Diego coaching staff being good enough to adjust their game plan to take advantage of it. In the future we have to hope that Levy comes back but against more traditional teams we will likely perform better.. hopefully.