In the NFL these days, pressuring the quarterback is a must.
While the San Diego Chargers rank seventh in total defense, their Achilles heel this season has been their lack of producing sacks. The Bolts have the third lowest total in the league, 14, while their opponent this week, the Denver Broncos, leads the NFL with more than double that amount, 31.
It’s the team’s struggle to get to the quarterback that has defensive coordinator John Pagano most concerned.
“It’s always a disappointment because the opportunities are there,” he said. “We call them MOPS, missed opportunities, where we’ve had pressure on the quarterback and not had the ability to get him down when we had the opportunity to get him down. There are several plays that go through my head in each game where we had chances to get guys down with the pressure and he’s scrambled out of there. We’ve got to do a better job. We understand creating pressure helps any defense, and that’s something that each week we keep working at it and it’s something that we’ve got to do a better job of. When we have the opportunity to get him down, we have to make the play.”
Pagano said the struggles start up front, beginning with the four man rush combination between the defensive line and linebackers.
“The four man rush is (struggling) where the ball is coming out quick,” he said. “Teams like last week are doing a great job of chipping, and working their way out with the tight end and the running back. We’ve got to get better in that area. It’s something that we’ve been working on and improving, and not having to create those different types of rushers to always get pressure on the quarterback. Like I said from day one, any time you have a four man rush going and working and the opportunities that we have in those situations, we’ve got to go after them. And we’ve got to keep working it. It gives us the opportunity to do more things.”
The task of bringing the quarterback down doesn’t get any easier this week against Peyton Manning. At 36-years old, he has a strong pocket presence and gets the ball off quick.
“He’s still very athletic with the way he moves,” said Pagano. “He works at it. That’s what he does, and it shows out there on the field.”
As a whole, the Chargers have done relatively well on the defensive side of the football. But if they want to be even more effective in passing situations, particularly on third down, they must do a better job of bringing down the quarterback.