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Sun., Mar. 08, 2015 1:30 PM PDT
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Keenan Allen Reflects Rookie in Title Only
Just a month ago, Keenan Allen stood quietly at his locker and answered question about what it's like to be a rookie on the biggest stage.
Those questions aren't posed any longer. Allen wasn't just the best receiver for the Bolts on Sunday -- he was the best pass-catcher on the field, and statistically, one of the best in the league.
Looking like a top-flight receiver is easier said than done against the tenacious Chiefs defense, a unit has surrendered less than 200 total receptions coming into Sunday's game and routinely tossed good receivers around through the first three-quarters of this season.
It was Allen who played the role of the physical enforcer against the Chiefs' secondary, though. The game plan called for Allen to run his routes in the most dangerous area for receivers -- in between the hash marks. Where some receivers would flinch, the rookie flourished, gaining the majority of his 124 yards on crossing routes right through the teeth of the Chiefs' secondary.
“It was all man coverage with the press,” said Allen after the game. “That’s what I like to go against. I can work and release off the line of scrimmage and make a guy miss – that's what I’m good at.”
Someone should’ve told the Chiefs. Against press coverage, Rivers targeted the rookie on third down three times in the game. He caught two of his passes for first downs and missed a third by an inch or two.
Few receivers -- let alone rookies -- can make the kind of catch Allen did in the second quarter on third down. Rivers' pass was behind him, but Allen reached back with one arm over the middle. And with that arm, he secured a pass right in front of Chiefs' cornerback Marcus Cooper and broke two tackles.
“That’s what I did in college,” said Allen. “I don’t see why I can’t do it here.”
He ran for 16 yards on the play and moved the chains. A few plays later, the Chargers cut into the Chiefs' two-touchdown lead with a score of their own.
In the second half, Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers shaded Allen out wide on third down. Unfazed, Allen darted over the middle, separated from Flowers, and dove for a tough catch, losing his helmet in the process.
It was Flowers who picked the lost helmet up -- a sign of respect usually saved for a veteran, but given to a rookie in title only.