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Keys to the Game: Chargers vs. Texans
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Here are five keys to the game heading into Monday night’s primetime season opener between the San Diego Chargers and the Houston Texans:
1. Block Watt– He’s the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 20.5 sacks, so the Chargers will be paying special attention to defensive end J.J. Watt. Entering just his third season out of Wisconsin, no one better defines the word game-changer than Watt. According to Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, he is a player the Chargers must zero in on:
“He’s very good. I’ve got a lot of respect for a guy that plays the way he plays. We certainly as an offense have to be aware of him. It’s going to be a battle, but our guys are working hard on communicating and working on their technique and understand that they’re going to have to battle at some point during the game.”
2. “White Hot Monday Night”– The home opener is always an exciting time. Especially when it’s prime time Monday night, the crowd will be decked out in all white, and you’re playing against a team many pundits are predicting will challenge for a Super Bowl. . The Chargers need to feed off of what is expected to be a high voltage Chargers crowd at the Q. At least that’s what Head Coach Mike McCoy is hoping for:
“It’s a good opportunity for us to go out on Monday Night Football and show our fans and everybody else in the league what this organization is going to be all about moving forward. It’s something that’s been done here in the past, and we’re looking for our fan support of also being in the white out (clothing). We had great fan support all training camp long.
3. Establish the run– Whisenhunt was also vocal about the importance of pounding the rock to neutralize the Texans pass rush. Establishing a strong rushing attack forces Wade Phillips’ defense to respect the run, keeping them off balance so they can’t pin their ears back with exotic pass rushes. As such, it appears Ryan Mathews and company will get plenty of opportunities on Monday night :
“The run game always helps. It keeps you ahead on downs. I think one of the things with this team is a lot of third-and-longs show up, and that’s when it’s really tough. They do a nice job with their rushes and their twists putting pressure on the quarterback, so a running game can help that. That’s something that we had limited success in the preseason with. So we know it will be tough going against these guys with their scheme of defense, but we feel good about where Ryan (Mathews) is, where our running backs and Danny (Woodhead) and Ronnie (Brown) and some of the things that we can do. Hopefully that will translate into having a good night Monday.”
4. “Take What They Give You”– That’s a motto that Philip Rivers says he’s heard over and over from McCoy and his coaching staff. The quarterback explained how the Chargers have taken that credo and effectively translated it during the preseason, pointing out the long, sustained drives that impressed many during the exhibition games:
“One thing I’ve heard, and this doesn’t mean I haven’t heard it a million times in my career, but the one thing that I feel like I’ve heard the most, even in throwing a pass or in between a play out here, is just to take what they give you. I feel like that’s definitely been driven home. There’s a time to get the chunks and to get the big plays. We have those type of big play guys, but just throw completions, keep getting first downs. I think you’ve seen that in the preseason. We’ve had three drives over 12 plays or more. We don’t want to go 14 plays every time. It would be nice to score a little quicker than that, but to sustain that can be very important, very key, especially when you’re ending with touchdowns.”
5. Defend the Stretch Run – It’s no secret that a staple of the Houston Texans offense are stretch runs by Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Defensive Coordinator John Pagano admitted it is important to clamp down on the play when asked how to neutralize such an effective part of their offense. Here is what he had to say:
“They do such a great job in that system. It’s something that over the year playing the Texans and playing offenses very similar to that running style, it’s a challenge. They go fast and they go hard to the sideline. They are almost built for it. (Offensive Coordinator) Rick Dennison has been coaching there a long time and does a great job with those guys. You’ve got to play with proper technique and fundamentals. The number one thing is they’re going to cut you and try to get you on the ground. We’ve got to stay alive, be able to knock them back and play off of block. After defeating that, go tackle probably one of the premiere runners because (Foster) has got probably the best balance of any back in this league. He’s hard to truly get down with one guy, but his balance as you see him run, he doesn’t go down after one hit.”