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Keys to the Game: Chargers vs. Bears
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Here are five keys to the game heading into Thursday night’s nationally televised match between the San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears:
1. Road Warriors – According to Philip Rivers, the San Diego Chargers have not performed up to snuff on the road in recent years. In 2012 they went 4-4 while in both 2011 and 2010, they had a losing record of 3-5. For Rivers, that is unacceptable and he is hoping to use this week’s game to set a tone for how the Bolts will perform on the road. Here is what he had to say:
“It will be a good test for our team to go on the road and play in a tough environment. It will be our first test on the road with the noise and all those elements that you have to manage. We want to go get our first win. Obviously we’ll still be 0-0 at the end of it but you need to start getting the idea of winning on the road in your mind. We haven’t been great on the road in the past few years.”
2. Minimize Mistakes – The first-string offense and defense both performed well last week vs. the Seattle Seahawks, but according to everyone involved from the head coach down to the players, it was just a first step. The team needs to keep building off what they did. Here is what Mike McCoy had to say:
“I think the first thing we said after the last game was we have to take the next step. We have to minimize the mistakes we made from the other night’s game. We can’t make the same mistake twice. The first preseason game you do not game plan a ton for. This game we’ll put in a few different wrinkles. We’ve seen the team play in a game once, so we have a good idea of what they do or what they did. We just need to keep getting better every day and be ready for the opener.”
3. Take Advantage of Opportunities – With injuries and adjustments that every team faces over the course of training camp and the preseason, Thursday night’s game is another opportunity for someone to step up and impress the coaches. According to McCoy, that is one of the things he is looking forward to seeing against the Bears:
“It’s an opportunity when somebody goes down for another member of your team to step up. That has been one of the big points since we got here. Everyone understands that’s the importance of every day, coming out here and working hard. Showing your teammates that you know what to do. So that when your opportunity does come, the coordinators don’t skip a beat, the team doesn’t skip a beat, it just keeps going. That’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to fight through it. Every team hits adversity at some point in time: offseason, training camp, preseason, during the season. There is going to be adversity. With the great teams, somebody steps up.”
4. Another Tough Test for the Offense– Last week, the Chargers faced a Seahawks defense that in 2012 allowed the fewest points against in the league. This week, they face a Bears squad that allowed the third fewest points last year. Going up against such stout defenses are exactly what teams want in the preseason to test how advanced there offense is becoming. According to offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, his unit is coming together but it’s not quite there yet. Here is what he had to say:
“I think it’s fair to say we’re coming together. I don’t think we have arrived yet. We have a lot of things that we have to work on, and I’m sure there’s going to be bumps in the road, but the one thing I want to make very clear is that we’ve got good people. We’re doing a lot of things in training camp, putting people in different positions and trying to figure out who will make up our best squad. That will be up to coach and Tom, and hopefully we make it tough on them to pick the 53 man roster because that’s what it’s all about. That part of it has been exciting.”
5. Adjust on the Fly – According to McCoy, the preseason games allow a chance for the players to “adjust on the fly” as they face new schemes. Rather than facing the same formation and fronts each week during training camp, the team gets a chance to go up against another team, which is invaluable in the evaluation process. Here is what he McCoy had to say:
“This was an opportunity for players to adjust on the fly. As the preseason moves along from training camp the tempo is going to pick up. Each game is going to get faster and faster as we get closer to the regular season. Then you play the opener and it picks up more. It’s a good time for us to evaluate the players and do some things. Offensively and defensively we’ve been seeing the same thing over and over. You see a cornerback line up a certain way or hear John Pagano say a certain thing, you know what’s coming. Now when the live bullets are flying, you can see who can adjust one the fly. There were a couple fronts in the game we haven’t practiced against, so it’s a matter of the football team communicating. Defensively they might shift or motion a certain way we haven’t shown them yet. Do the players understand the system well enough to follow the rules? That’s something we have to improve.”