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Keys to the Game: Chargers vs. 49ers
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Here are five keys to the game heading into Thursday’s preseason finale between the San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers:
1. One Last Chance to Shine –Thursday night’s game at Qualcomm Stadium will provide the final chance for many on the current roster to prove they are worthy of making the final 53-man roster. General manager Tom Telesco and head coach Mike McCoy must pare down the roster from 75-men to the league required 53 by 3:00pm on Saturday. On the process of reducing the roster, McCoy said:
“It’s another opportunity to evaluate your roster. We are going to have some tough decisions to make. Every team in the league is in the same spot right now. You have a good idea at the top end of your roster, but you’re trying to figure out who those other key players are that are going to help you win come Sunday. Then you have to calculate how many bodies you have at each position and if injuries are taking up spots. You have to find the best 46 guys to help you win football games. It’s about finding those bottom few guys who are going to make a difference.”
2. Take That Next Big Step– McCoy said the team made giant strides from the second preseason game against the Chicago Bears to the third against the Arizona Cardinals. But that won’t be enough. As McCoy explains, the team needs to make another leap in the right direction in the final tune-up Thursday night:
“We’re always trying to improve so we’re never going to be completely satisfied. We try to get better at everything we do. I think the improvement we made from week two to week three was a huge step for us. We took a big step in all three phases. We challenged the players in the last game and they responded well. We hit some bumps the first couple weeks. We were getting beat mentally and physically. We put a little more time into the preparation for that game and I think it showed.”
3. Another Game, Another Elite Defense – There have been numerous themes to the preseason, but one has without a doubt been going up against elite defenses. In the Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears and now San Francisco 49ers, the Chargers face three of the top five defensive units from 2012. The other team, the Arizona Cardinals, entered last week’s game as one of the top defenses of the preseason. McCoy expressed his thoughts on going up against elite defenses by saying:
“That’s what this game is all about. It’s a good measuring stick for our football team. When you play good defenses for your offense or good offenses for your defense, it helps because the better the talent we play against (it) will help us better evaluate our football team.”
4.“Every Game is Important”– Sure, it’s the last exhibition match before games begin to count on the official record, but according to the Chargers, every game matters. Following his first win as a head coach, you can tell McCoy has his team focused on the task at hand:
“I think if someone tells you preseason games don’t matter then we have the wrong people here. I think the number one thing is to win. The new staff is recreating an identity here and it’s all about winning. It’s not just the football people, but everyone. Dean (Spanos) wants everyone to come in here and compete every day. We have to do whatever we can do to be the best at everything we do as an organization. We have to have people that want to win. Every game is important and we need to create that environment around here. You work for the mentality in the locker room after a win. It doesn’t matter how many points you win by, winning is what it’s all about.”
5. Remain Balanced– From the day McCoy took over, he preached balance to the offense. So far, that has been something the Chargers have emphasized, so you can expect to see that approach continue on Thursday. Here is what Antonio Gates had to say about maintaining balance:
“To me, balance is always the key for us offensively. It’s establishing up front, it’s establishing the offensive line, and it allows us to create opportunities for our playmakers. That’s one thing we understand; that’s one thing we need for us to win. Just being a balanced ball club and being detailed offensively. That’s just something you need to win football games in this league.”