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Five Lessons from the Cardinals Game
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Here are five lessons we learned from Saturday night’s 24-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
1. Special Teams Steps Up–After last week’s disappointing showing, head coach Mike McCoy challenged the special teams unit to step it up, and they responded in resounding fashion. Darrell Stuckey blocked a punt early in the first quarter, Keenan Allen had a 44-yard punt return and then Kwame Geathers blocked what appeared to be a chip-shot field goal by Dan Carpenter. McCoy has reiterated that special teams is every bit as important as the offense and defense, and he was pleased by the unit’s showing in Arizona::
"We challenged everyone on special teams during our week of practice to pick it up, and they answered the bell. This is the way we like to play, with all three phases doing their job…It was great to see as a football coach. We challenged everyone this week to take the next step, and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
2. Winning Matters– Although it won’t show up in the regular season record, the Chargers all agree that beating the Cardinals was an important win for the team. Perhaps Nick Hardwick said it best:
“A win is a win. They don’t all count, but they all matter. We can learn from this. We can grow from this. And we can get a little confidence. The thing that really excited me, and the entire team, was the energy that we came out with. We had a real bite to us. A real fight about us. And that needs to be recreated in practice and games down the line. And that just has to be a weekly thing. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
Hardwick was far from the only Charger to echo these sentiments as Eric Weddle has the same strong feelings on what winning means to the team:
“No matter what you say about the preseason, that it doesn’t impact the record or that there’s nothing on the line, that’s wrong. We’re out there competing and as a professional player you want to go out there, execute and win. So to go out there, get a complete win and play well in all three phases – that’s what it’s going to take for us to win a championship.”
3. Freeney is Special– There’s no other way around it; Dwight Freeney is a special football player. Through the first three games of the preseason, the veteran has displayed why many think he is a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer. While constantly pressuring the quarterback, he recorded his first sack as a Charger to close out the first half. Freeney’s teammates know what a special player he is, as well as voiced by Eric Weddle after the game:
“It’s just awesome. To know the guy, Dwight is a great teammate who is so passionate. You understand why guys play for so long and are great at their position. He epitomizes that. His knowledge of the game and the way he comes to work, he’s special. And to see him, it brings up everyone else’s level knowing how he can change the game within one play. And we’re glad to have him. He’s going to make some special plays this year.”
4. When Philip Rivers Controls the Tempo….– It doesn’t get much better than the Chargers’ first scoring drive. A 12-play, 92-yard series that spanned 6:51 and ended with a Ryan Mathews touchdown was perhaps the best part of it how unstoppable the offense can be when Philip Rivers controls the tempo. Going no-huddle, he took charge, hollering out plays to the team at the line of scrimmage. A perfect blend of pass and run called kept the Cardinals off balance and provided a glimpse of what the Bolts offense can be in 2013:
“I think that’s the tempo we wanted to play at today. We wanted to make sure that we got in some situations where we could play some no-huddle. It was an idea we had early on to do it and see what happens, sai d McCoy during his post-game press conference.
5. The Right Mentality– The energy and mindset of the Chargers right from the get-go was noteworthy. They mentioned in the locker room after the game that the mentality they had in all three phases of the game is one they will need to maintain and build off of in the regular season. All you need to do is hear what Rivers said regarding that approach:
“I liked the mindset of our guys. Everybody knows we’re still in the early stages of where we need to be, but it was just the energy…It felt like Monday night tonight. That’s how it felt. That’s how the approach was. That’s how the mentality was and that’s a positive sign.” Read