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Keys to the Game: Chargers vs. Colts
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Here are five keys to the game heading into Sunday’s match between the San Diego Chargers and the Indianapolis Colts:
1. Start Fast – A lackluster beginning to the game against the Oakland Raiders put the Chargers behind the eight-ball. They played catch up the rest of the way and were never able to get over the hump. Fast starts to each half had been a strong point for the Bolts up until last week, and the team is determined to come out Monday night with a terrific effort from the get-go.. According to Vincent Brown, the team is harping on starting fast and they are confident they can do just that:
“It’s always a point of emphasis for us to come out and start fast, get in rhythm and get going right away. It’s very important. As you saw last week, if you don’t, the other team can be the ones to get off really fast. So we want to start fast and get the momentum going. We as a team know what we have to do, and we have confidence that we can do that.”
2. Establish the Run – In an article posted on Friday, I addressed the tough task the Chargers face going up against a potent Colts defense. The weakness for Indy to this point has been their run defense, as they rank 30thin the league surrendering 129.0 yards per game. However, the Bolts are coming off their worst game on the ground this season, as they gained just 32 yards rushing. Part of that was losing Ryan Mathews in the first half to a concussion as well as being forced to throw the ball after finding themselves in a quick 17-0 hole. Still, Offensive Coordinator Whisenhunt is determined to do a better job pounding the rock:
“We’ve got to be a little better than we were last week. That was unfortunate that we didn’t do a better job running the football in that game. Once we got down, that kind of changed it. But whoever we’ve got, whatever that group is, it’s a group effort and we’ve got to do a better job as a whole. Talking about offensive line, tight ends, everybody. So our focus this week has just been on trying to clean up some of the mistakes that we’ve made. An important piece for us this week (has been) trying to run the football.”
3. Disrupt Luck – When Andrew Luck entered the league as the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, he did so with an incredible amount of fanfare. One of the most hyped prospects in the history of the NFL, Luck has delivered on the hype. A Pro Bowler last year as a rookie, he has continued to perform to the point where some pundits are naming him an MVP candidate. Thus far, Luck’s completed 97 of 156 attempts for 1,144 yards and seven touchdowns for a 94.1 passer rating. According to Head Coach Mike McCoy, the Colts QB is as fundamentally sound as they come, meaning the Bolts will need to get pressure in his face:
“Well I think that his fundamentals are some of the best in the league. You see the way he plays the game, the way he drops back, the movement in the pocket, the accuracy with the throws. He plays the game the way you’re supposed to. Guys like him don’t come around very often, with the skill set he has and the success he’s had through his entire college career and then early on in a professional career. He’s a great quarterback.”
4. Finish Strong – Not only must the Bolts start fast, they need to finish strong. That’s easier said than done against the NFL’s number one defense in the fourth quarter. Indianapolis allowed a touchdown in their first game of the year against the Oakland Raiders, but has since gone four straight games without allowing a single point in the final 15 minutes of the game. That is a stat Whisenhunt said he is well aware of:
“We’re aware of it. When you break teams down you look at areas they are good at and those things, but it’s really more about us executing. If you look at us last week against Oakland, we were down (in the red zone) a number of times and had opportunities but we didn’t capitalize on them. So that’s what it’s got to be about for us. I know they’re a good defense. I know they play well down there. But for us, it’s about making sure we don’t make mistakes. We had opportunities to make catches and had some mental errors. So we’ll clean those up and take our chances.”
5. Home-Field Advantage– The Chargers return to Qualcomm Stadium for a primetime game, and the team hopes the fans are as raucous as they were against the Dallas Cowboys. As McCoy explained on Thursday, the team feeds off the home field crowd.
“The games that we’ve been at home have had a great crowd and a great atmosphere. A lot of energy in the stadium. As an organization, you love when the stadium is energetic and you get the enthusiasm they’ve showed to this point and time.”
Defensive Coordinator John Pagano uttered similar sentiments, explaining the direct correlation between the fans in the stands and the performance on the field:
“The number one thing is going out and getting a victory against an AFC opponent and getting a win in front of our home crowd. I’m excited, especially against a high-powered offense, of any change we can get of crowd noise that we can use to our advantage.”
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