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Keys to the Game: Chargers vs. Raiders
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Here are five keys to the game heading into Sunday’s match between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders: Read
1. “Professional Hatred” – That’s the mindset Head Coach Mike McCoy said his team has when it comes to all other teams in the AFC West. Games against the Raiders, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs take on a heightened sense of importance as they are basically two game swings. If you win games in the division, McCoy says it’s likely you make it to the playoffs. With Sunday’s game in Oakland being the first division game of the year for the Bolts, the head coach emphasized it’s importance:
“It’s the first divisional opponent we’re going to play. The number one goal is to win the division. That’s the only way you are guaranteed into the playoffs. Anytime you play against a divisional opponent there is that professional hatred that you have for a team. You’re going to play those three teams twice a year and you have to knock them off. It’s a big opportunity for us. We have to build off of what we have done the past couple of weeks and continue to get better. It’s going to be a tough test for us in Oakland.”
2. Limit Pryor – As pointed out Thursday, the Chargers are zeroed in on limiting Terrelle Pryor’s big play ability. Although he missed last week’s game due to a concussion, the dual-threat QB is expected to start against the Chargers. Through three games, Pryor has completed 53 of 81 passes for 624 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for a QB rating of 86.7. He’s also rushed 26 times for 198 yards. As a result, Defensive Coordinator John Pagano explained the importance of stopping the Raiders passer and how the team plans to neutralize him:
“Change it up (with) different looks here and there. We’ve got a nice plan to be able to handle a running quarterback of his nature. We’re going to still go play our game. It’s not getting the guys to over think certain things. It’s understanding proper rush lanes, whether we’re bringing four or we’re rushing five or we’re rushing six in situations where it doesn’t matter, we’ve got to have the proper lanes to be able to get this guy down. It’s been a focus. It’s something that we’ve got to do a better job of.”
3. Next Man Up– Much like last week, the Chargers will likely rely on a number of reserves to step up for starters that have gone down due to injury. Once again, the team isn’t sure which five-player combination will comprise the offensive line, but they have faith that no matter who is in there, they will be as effective as they’ve been all season. The bigger question mark entering the game is who will replace the productivity of Dwight Freeney, who will miss the rest of the season due to a quad injury. McCoy addressed the team’s next man up approach on Wednesday:
“It’s the next man up. Larry (English) did a nice job when Dwight went down. Larry has played all year long. The whole entire defense, the guys who have rotated in there, Tourek (Williams) and everybody in the game did a nice job when Dwight went down. They did a nice job in the second half with getting a shutout on defense. Obviously they were doing something right. It’s another opportunity for all the guys just like the offensive line did last week. When you have an injury with guys going down we just have to keep going.”
4. Keep the Rhythm – Philip Rivers has been one of the top players in the NFLthrough the first quarter of the season, and a large part of that is due to the rhythm the offense has been able to establish. The team will need to keep that going Sunday in Oakland. All 11 guys on the field have been in sync, and the quarterback explained how that is what’s allowed the offense to be so successful early on in the season:
“I do feel comfortable in what we’re doing. There’s a lot of what we did in the game on Sunday that I’ve done now for a long time. I think in particular, the no huddle and the ability to get in and out of plays at the line of scrimmage, the flexibility we have because of the play clock advantage we have. If we want to snap it right away, we can, if we want to wait down to the last second, we can. I think that’s the one thing, that I’ve been able to have my eyes on the defense for a long time before each snap if I need to. I think it helps the receivers and tight ends as well. (Antonio) Gates has been playing eleven years. He understands what he’s seeing too. So it’s not just my eyes , it’s their eyes looking to see what we’re getting and why we may be getting in and out of things and allows us all to play fast.”
5. Withstand the Environment– Originally a 1:25pm start, the game has been moved to 8:35pm. The Chargers are taking the change in stride and insisting it won’t negatively affect their performance. Moreover, they will have to withstand the notoriously loud and rowdy Black Hole of O.Co Coliseum. Playing offense on the road is a difficult task due to the crowd’s energy, so as Nick Hardwick points out, communication is key:
“It’s obviously going to be loud and it’s a fun environment to play in. People go absolutely bananas. An 8:30pm start will give them plenty of time to have fun beforehand, so they will be stirred up and we’ve got to be loud and set in our communication. Everyone needs to have an understanding of that going in, and we’ll be ok.”