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Keys to the Game: Chargers at 49ers

Posted Aug 23, 2014

Here are your keys to the game between the Chargers and 49ers.

Here are five keys to the game heading into Sunday’s preseason game between the San Diego Chargers and the San Francisco 49ers:

1. “Who’s Going to Step Up?” – That is what Head Coach Mike McCoy is asking himself heading into the third preseason game.  More game-planning traditionally goes into this week’s game , and McCoy has a plan for every single one of his players.  So while the goal is to come home with the W, it is equally imperative they step up and show the staff they deserve to be on the 53-man roster:

“You always play to win.  That’s what every team does.  But we’re into that third preseason mode also of (having) a certain rotation we’re going to use.  We only have so many weeks before we get to the 53, so there are certain players we want to see against certain personnel groups or packages…There are still things we want to run that we haven’t run and get a look at on tape.  We’ll put players in a position to succeed and see who’s going to step up. There are only so many opportunities left to show us what they can do.  We’re going to have some tough decisions to make.”

2. Stop the Run – The good news is that the Chargers have given up the fourth fewest yards through the air over two preseason games, surrendering just 171.0 yards per game.  Unfortunately, they’ve struggled stopping the run and face another stiff test this week in the 49ers.  Not only do they possess a strong stable of running backs highlighted by Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde and LaMichael James, but quarterback Colin Kaepernick is one of the best in the league at using his feet.  The Bolts gave up five touchdowns on the ground last week, including four by quarterbacks.  Kwame Geathers knows they will need to shore up their run defense to get the win:

“We’ve got to go out there, play our football and number one , stop the run. Like coach says, first thing is we’ve got to stop the run.  We worked on that a lot each day this week at practice, and I think we’ll be able to do a better job this week."

3. Convert on Third Down – The Chargers led the league a year ago in third down conversions.  However, they weren’t as successful in that department in Seattle, converting only 8-of-14 attempts.  That included a pivotal stretch of three straight third down failures, and a pair of three-and-outs, which turned the tide of the game as the Seahawks scored 17 straight points off those punts.  Ladarius Green explained the need to improve in that area to succeed at Levi’s Stadium:

“For what we want to be we have do better than we did last week.  That’s what this game is about; getting new sets of downs and moving down the field.  But even if we do punt, we can’t go three-and-out.  We have to get into a better position to punt and win field position.”

4. Tackle and Bring the Heat – Defensive Coordinator John Pagano was blunt in that the Chargers need to improve at tackling and pressuring the quarterback in 2014.  Those are the two areas he was most disappointed in last season, so the Bolts have been zeroing in on those two critical aspects.  Pagano stressed seeing those improvements starting this week:

“It’s tackling and pressuring the quarterback.  Those are two things we didn’t do a great job of last year.  I thought we did late in the year that really changed for us.  And getting the guys back healthy late in the year was big.  But it’s just going out, making sure you’re technique, fundamentally sound, and (playing with) unbelievable effort.  But those two things are things we need to do better as a defense.”

5. Offense Needs to “Be Efficient, Be Disciplined” – While exact snaps have yet to be determined, many starters expect to see their most significant playing time of the preseason when they hit the Bay.  That includes Antonio Gates, who entering his 12th season knows what it takes to win in this league.  In order to beat the 49ers and be successful come the regular season, he hammered home the need to improve in a number of areas.  More specifically, the Bolts need to operate efficiently and with discipline:

“We’ve got so many things that we need to be focused on from a team perspective.  That’s kind of our focus right now.  We need to focus on being efficient (and) being disciplined in what we do offensively.  And that’s mainly our focus going into the season.”

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