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Lessons From Week 5
Week 5’s loss to the New Orleans Saints was filled with plenty of positives and negatives for the Bolts. Here is what we learned from Sunday night’s 31-24 defeat.
1. Pass Protection Must Improve – The offensive line was successful all night long in providing ample running lanes for Ryan Mathews and company, averaging a whopping 6.6 yards per attempt. Yet when it came to protecting Philip Rivers, the unit struggled mightily at times. One week after failing to record a sack against the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, the Saints dropped Rivers five times for a loss of 44 yards. They were constantly in his face, and while he did an admirable job in the face of pressure, the line needs to give the Chargers quarterback more time to throw and find his receivers down field.
2. Secondary Must Step up – The Bolts have been outstanding vs. the run all season long, consistently ranking in the top five in the league since Week 1. Defending the pass, however, has been another story. Defensive coordinator John Pagano has said he will do whatever it takes to get pressure on the quarterback, whether that means bringing four, five or six pass rushers. The Chargers have the personnel in the secondary to be successful in these scenarios, they just have to put it together when in man coverage.
3. This Team Has Character – The Chargers could have taken the easy road and blamed the officials for some questionable calls that turned the tide in the Saints favor. But whether it was the personal foul for roughing the quarterback on Melvin Ingram or the three straight penalties on offense when they were trying to tie the game in the final minutes, the entire team stood tall and accepted responsibility for the defeat.
4. Mathews is Back – After a frustrating start to the season, Ryan Mathews showed just why he is one of the more dynamic running backs in the league. The third year pro rushed 12 times for 80 yards and one touchdown and caught a team-high six balls for 59 yards. His first touchdown of the season showed the tremendous vision he possesses as he bounced the ball outside, and also showcased his tremendous athletic ability as he soared over the defender at the goal line to dive into the end zone.
5. Rivers and Meachem Finally on Same Page – It took a lot longer than either would have preferred, but the Rivers-to-Meachem connection finally came alive as the former Saint scored two touchdowns against his former team. The first score showed the receivers quick hands, as he cradled in a bullet thrown slightly behind him that was threaded between two defenders. The second one displayed Meachem’s elite speed as he burned passed the secondary to haul in a 44-yard bomb from Rivers.
6. Where’s Gates? - Antonio Gates came into the season feeling healthier than he has in a number of years, but so far he has failed to score a touchdown. Rivers continues to look for the future Hall of Famer, and on the season he’s recorded 13 catches for 143 yards including three for 19 against New Orleans. Still, for someone who is a lethal option in the red zone, it is striking that Gates has yet to find pay dirt.
7. Brown Chips In – Ronnie Brown has proved invaluable to the Chargers passing attack. In four games, he’s caught 17 balls for 149 yards and has become a dangerous threat out of the backfield. Against the Saints, Brown caught five balls for 47 yards, and also rushed twice for 27 yards. What doesn’t turn up in the score sheet is how efficient he is as a pass blocker as well, whether that means taking on a pass rusher one-on-one or chipping a defender before running his route.