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Sun., Jul. 19, 2015 7:30 AM PDT
San Diego Chargers vs. Atlanta Falcons
It’s a battle of two undefeated teams as the San Diego Chargers host the Atlanta Falcons at 1:05pm Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium. The game features two of the top tight ends in NFL history in Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez, as well as a pair of dynamic offenses that are clicking early this season. Following their big win over the Tennessee Titans, the Bolts will once again wear all white pants and jerseys for the second game in a row after not doing so since 2007. The team will also celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a number of in stadium tributes sponsored by Pepsi, who will be giving away blue wrist bands to all in attendance.
A Look Back At Last Week
The Chargers routed the Tennessee Titans, 38-10, to get off to a perfect 2-0 start to the season. Dante Rosario was the unlikely hero for the Bolts, snaring three touchdown catches while filling in for an injured Antonio Gates. The Chargers also got their running game going, rushing for 148 yards in the win, highlighted by Jackie Battle, who led the way with 68 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, the Chargers bottled up superstar runner Chris Johnson, limiting him to just 17 yards. Overall, the unit forced six three-and-outs and had a seventh drive end with an Eric Weddle interception on its’ second play.
What to Watch For…
On Offense for the Chargers
The Chargers are hopeful that running back Ryan Mathews can make his season debut against the Falcons as he completes his rehab from a fractured clavicle. The team also hopes to have All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates back in the fold after sitting out a game with a bruised rib. Should either of these players be unable to go, the Bolts will rely once again on a running back by committee to replace Mathews and look for Dante Rosario to duplicate his tremendous performance from last week.
On Offense for the Falcons
Leading the Falcons’ offense is fifth-year quarterback Matt Ryan, who in 2011 set franchise records for most passing yards in a season (4,177), most 300-yard games in a season (six), highest career passer rating (88.4) and highest career completion percentage (60.9). Ryan’s top target is four-time Pro Bowl receiver Roddy White (100 catches for 1,296 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011), but he also has two additional formidable options in Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. Running back Michael Turner, a fifth-round pick by the Chargers in 2004, is in his fourth season with the Falcons. Turner rushed for 1,340 yards last year and scored 11 touchdowns.
On Defense for the Chargers
The Chargers defense undoubtedly faces its biggest test to date against the high-octane Falcons offense. Through two games, the unit has allowed only two touchdowns in eight quarters of play, and has been especially stingy against the run, leading the league by allowing just 41.5 yards per game. Look for them to clamp down on Michael Turner, allowing them to better prepare for Atlanta’s dangerous aerial attack.
On Defense for the Falcons
Pacing Atlanta’s defense is outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who ranked second on the club last season with 125 tackles, and safety Thomas DeCoud, who led the team with four interceptions and ranked third with 108 tackles. Veteran defensive end John Abraham, now in his 13th NFL season, led the way with 9.5 sacks a year ago.
The Chargers and Falcons have played just eight times in the regular season and Atlanta holds a 7-1 series advantage. The Chargers’ lone win over the Falcons came in 1988 (10-7) in Atlanta. The Falcons are 5-0 in San Diego.
By the Numbers
For the year, the Chargers rank 19th in total offense (337.0 yards per game), 15th in passing (247.0 ypg), 22nd in rushing (90.0 ypg) and fifth in points (30.0). The Falcons rank 21st in total offense (325.5 ypg), 12th in passing (250.0 ypg), 26th in rushing (75.5 ypg) and second in points (33.5)
Defensively, the Bolts rank third in total defense (266.5 ypg), 12th in passing (225.0 ypg), first in rushing (41.5 ypg) and second in points allowed (12.0). Atlanta ranks 17th in total defense (364.5 ypg), 15th in passing (229.5 ypg), 25th in rushing (135.0 ypg) and 15th in points allowed (22.5).
Milestones on the Horizon
Antonio Gates needs just three catches to become the fifth tight end and the 59th player overall in NFL history with 600 career catches.
Norv Turner needs one more victory to tie former Chargers coach Don Coryell (114) for 32nd all-time in career wins.
Philip Rivers (24,800) needs 200 passing yards to become the 63rd NFL quarterback in NFL history with 25,000 career passing yards. Should Rivers not throw more than three interceptions before reaching 25,000, he will have the lowest career interception total (79) among all NFL passers with at least 25,000 career yards. Jeff Garcia, who passed for 25,537 yards during his career (1999-09), threw only 83 picks during his career.
Rivers also will join the 25,000-yard club holding the third-highest career passer rating, which is now 95.9. Currently among 25,000-yard passers, Steve Young is first with a 96.8 rating, Tom Brady (96.4) is second and Peyton Manning third at 94.8.
Mike Scifres’ next punt will be the 500th of his career. Last week against Tennessee, Scifres landed the 200th punt of his career inside the 20-yard line, which is more than 40 pct. of his career punts. Among NFL punters who’ve punted at least 500 times, the highest percentage of punts inside the 20 is 35.7 pct. (208 of 582) by Dustin Colquitt. So when Scifres booms his next punt, he will rank at the top of that list.
Chargers head coach Norv Turner and Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan coached together in San Francisco in 2006 when Turner was the offensive coordinator and Nolan the 49ers head coach.
Photos: Familiar Faces
Kyle Smith, the son of Chargers’ General Manager A.J. Smith, resides in Atlanta as a southeast area scout for the Washington Redskins.
Running backs coach Ollie Wilson had two stints as the running backs coach in Atlanta, serving from 1991-96 and again from 2002-07.
Chargers linebacker Demorrio Williams was a fourth-round pick of the Falcons in 2004 who spent his first four NFL seasons in Atlanta (2004-07).
Running back Ronnie Brown is from Cartersville, Georgia.
Tight end Randy McMichael is from Fort Valley, Ga. and is also a University of Georgia alum.
Linebacker Takeo Spikes is a native of Sandersville, Georgia.
Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst is from Alpharetta, Georgia.
Falcons running back Michael Turner was a fifth-round pick of the Chargers in 2004 and played for the Bolts from 2004-07.
FOX Sports (Fox 5 in San Diego) – Chris Meyers (play-by-play), Tim Ryan (analyst) and Jaime Maggio (reporter)
Rock 105.3 FM, XTRA Sports 1360 (San Diego) and AM 570 KLAC (Los Angeles & Orange County) – Josh Lewin (play-by-play), Hank Bauer (analyst) and Mike Costa (reporter)
Spanish Radio –XHFG 107.3 (San Diego) and KWKW 1330 AM (Los Angeles) – Jorge Villanueva (play-by-play) and Dante Lazcano (analyst)