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Keys to the Game: Chargers vs. Cowboys

Posted Sep 27, 2013

Here are the keys to this week's game between the San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys.

Here are five keys to the game heading into Sunday’s match between the San Diego Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys:

1.  Who’s Up Front? – As noted on Thursday, the offensive line is in a state of flux (link).  Injuries have prevented Jeromey Clary, King Dunlap and Chad Rinehart from practicing this week, and according to Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, it is still up in the air who will suit up in the trenches for the Bolts on Sunday.  Last week, the team was forced to finish the game with only one player, Nick Hardwick, at his regular position.  Because reserves such as Mike Harris, Rich Ohrnberger and Johnnie Troutman rose to the occasion, and because of the preparation those players have put in from day one, the team  has faith they can step in if needed and that includes Philip Rivers:

“I think they feel confident because at least they have been in there as part of the mix. It’s not as if they just ran their cards on the scout team for three weeks and now they’re going to be in our offense. They’ve gotten to practice it over the past few weeks. A few of the guys that are going to be called on are veterans, who have played a bunch of games. We’ll be fine. Certainly you hate to have guys injured at those spots, but guys will have to step-up and go, because Dallas doesn’t care. They are going to go like always, so we have to be ready to go.”

 

2. Improve Tackling – Head Coach Mike McCoy lamented poor tackling by his defense against the Tennessee Titans.  Simply put, he says the team needs to do a better job getting back to the fundamentals, starting this week against the Dallas Cowboys.  Defensive Coordinator John Pagano says tackling is one of the first things players learn when they  begin to play the game, and they need to get back to the basics in order to do a better job bringing down the ball carrier:

“It’s something that we need to do a better job of. It’s fundamentals. It’s being fundamentally sound. It’s going out there and being able to wrap your arms around the defender. It’s being able to come to balance and keep your proper balance. There is going to be great players in this league that make people miss. We understand that, but it’s coming in with the right technique and leverage of getting them down on the ground.”

 

3. Create Turnovers–Tackling isn’t the only area the defense is looking to improve in.  The team needs to do a better job creating turnovers.  Except for Jahleel Addae’s fumble recovery on the final play in Philadelphia when the Eagles were lateralling the ball in desperation, the team has not forced a turnover since Cam Thomas’ interception on the very first play of the season.  According to Pagano, just like every week, the Bolts are emphasizing the need to create turnovers:

“It’s a point of emphasis every week. It’s one of those things that you talk in rookie minicamp about creating turnovers. It’s a mindset of going after the football and working fundamental drills, which we do day-in and day-out. It’s something our guys are working on. We had two opportunities last week and you get the ball on the ground or in the air and you have to go after it. I don’t think there is any panic setting in with the turnovers; we just understand we have to do a better job of going after the football. When we do have the opportunity to get it, we have to make the play.”


4. Stay Balanced in the Run Game – The three headed rushing attack of Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown has been impressive to date.  The Bolts have a trio of backs capable of coming in and being effective, allowing whichever runner is in the game to be fresh.  Since the day he arrived, McCoy has said he believes a number of talented backs is imperative when it comes to the run game, and that’s exactly what the team has shown early on in the season.  Ken Whisenhunt recently explained the running back rotation and why it’s been successful:

“A lot of it is package driven. We go in there with a lot of different personnel groups and we have different guys playing in different spots within those groups. If we’re having success with that group then whatever the rotation is, those guys are going to get more plays on any given Sunday. We certainly are conscious of the fact that Ryan is running the ball very well and we’re trying to get opportunities for him to do that. But, Danny has been playing well for us. Ronnie Brown has been playing well for us. It’s really a good problem to have to be honest with you.”

 

5.  Rattle Romo– The best way to disrupt the passing game is to get pressure on the quarterback.  The Bolts are talking about the need to get more sacks, as they have the sixth fewest in the NFL with 6.0.  As a result, McCoy wants to see his team get to Tony Romo early and often:

“Whenever you get to the quarterback with a four man rush or added pressure, that makes it a lot harder. The best coverage in the back end is a good pass rush.”

 

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