Wednesday, January 07, 2009

San Diego v. Steelers: The Weekly Matchups, the Divisional Playoff Edition

As we look forward to next Sunday's game there is one point that cannot be argued: the Chargers are a very hot team.

We really believed that the key to the recent surge by San Diego has been improved defensive play ~ Ron Rivera was someone we believed was worthy of an interview when the Steelers were looking for a new head coach (and ultimately hired Mike Tomlin), and we have a great deal of respect for his work. However, in looking at the numbers we are not sure our original supposition was correct. Since their loss in Pittsburgh back on November 16, 2008 the Chargers' defense has surrendered 340 or more yards in four of their final six regular season games, including 406 yards in the season finale against Denver. The two games in which the Chargers' defense "stiffened" they were facing Oakland and Kansas City.

Another point that surprised us was that the San Diego defense has surrendered 21 or more points in five of their last six regular season games.

Against Indianapolis last week, the Chargers gave up 366 net yards and 17 points.

Instead of improved defensive play (though in fairness they have been effective at employing a "bend, don't break" approach), it seems that the San Diego offense has sparked the resurgence. For example, in their last six regular season games the Chargers have scored 30 or more points three times. By way of comparison, they scored 30 or more points four times in their first ten games. Also, in their final six regular season games the Chargers gained 370 or more net yards five times, including 491 net yards in their final regular season game against Denver. In their first ten games the achieved that mark four times.

Looks like the Steelers' defense is in for a the bigger challenge on Sunday.

One additional statistical fact before getting to "the" numbers ~ in their history, the Steelers are 10-2 at home in the Divisional round of the playoffs.

Here are this week's numbers:

San Diego Offense v. Steelers Defense
Average total yards per game: San Diego offense 11th (349.0) v. Steelers defense 1st (237.2)

Average net rushing yards per game: San Diego offense 20th (107.9) v. Steelers defense 2nd (80.3)

Average net passing yards per game: San Diego offense 7th (241.1) v. Steelers defense 1st (156.9)

Average points per game: San Diego offense 2nd (27.4) v. Steelers defense 1st (13.9)

Steelers Offense v. San Diego Defense
Average total yards per game: Steelers offense 22nd (311.9) v. San Diego defense 25th (349.9)

Average net rushing yards per game: Steelers offense 23rd (105.6) v. San Diego defense 14th (102.6)

Average net passing yards per game: Steelers offense 17th (206.3) v. San Diego defense 31st (247.4)

Average points per game: Steelers offense: 20th (21.7) v. San Diego defense 15th (21.7)

Special Teams
Average yards per punt return: San Diego 8th (10.3) v. Steelers 31st (6.0)

Average yards allowed per punt return: San Diego 5th (6.3) v. Steelers 4th (6.0)

Average yards per kick return: San Diego 9th (24.0) v. Steelers 29th (20.3)

Average yards allowed per kick return: San Diego 14th (22.6) v. Steelers 1st (19.1)

Net yardage punting average: San Diego 2nd (40.9) v. Steelers 24th (35.7)

Opponent net yardage punting average: San Diego 27th (38.7) v. Steelers 21st (38.5)

Miscellaneous
Turnover differential: San Diego 11th (+4) v. Steelers 11th (+4)

Time of possession: San Diego 23rd (28:52) v. Steelers 6th (31:30)

Red Zone touchdown efficiency (touchdowns): San Diego 11th (56.9%) v. Steelers 15th (55.1%)

Red Zone defense (touchdowns): San Diego 15th (52.8%) v. Steelers 1st (33.3%)

Sacks allowed: San Diego 8th (25) v. Steelers 29th (49)

Some Individual Numbers
AFC Passer rating: Philip Rivers, 1st (105.5, Comp. Pct.: 65.3, TDs: 34, INTs: 11, Avg. per Comp.: 8.39 yards) v. Ben Roethlisberger, 12th (80.1, Comp. Pct.: 59.9, TDs: 17, INTs: 15, Avg. per Comp.: 7.04 yards)

AFC Leading rushers: LaDanian Tomlinson, 4th (1,110 yards on 292 carries) v. Willie Parker, 12th (791 yards on 210 carries)
Note: During the regular season Darren Sproles rushed for 330 yards on 61 carries

AFC Leading receivers: Antonio Gates, 20th (60 catches, 704 yards, 11.7 per catch, 8 touchdowns) v. Hines Ward, 9th (81 catches, 1,043 yards, 12.9 yards per catch, 7 touchdowns)

AFC Dropped Passes: No San Diego Chargers receivers are listed amongst the "top" 25 v. Hines Ward, 7th (7)

AFC sack leaders: Shaun Phillips, 11th (7.5 sacks) v. James Harrison, 2nd (16.0)

AFC Interception Leaders: Stephen Cooper, 8th (4) v. Troy Polamalu, 2nd (7)

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