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Sun., Dec. 11, 2016 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM PST
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Bolts Defense Responds in Resounding Fashion
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Fittingly, they responded in resounding fashion, putting forth one of their best games of the season. They forced a season-high three turnovers, allowed just 92 yards on the ground and kept a dangerous passing attack to just 241 yards in the air. They kept the trio of receivers that Defensive Coordinator John Pagano dubbed the best in the NFL – Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle – out of the end zone, and the end result was a resounding 37-14 win at Qualcomm Stadium.
“We executed today,” said Manti Te’o. “It wasn’t perfect, but we bounced back and that’s what we’ve got to do every week. It was fun to have everyone out there and to know that we’re finally coming around as a team, it was definitely positive.”
The mindset they wanted to establish heading into the game was there from the very first whistle. On the opening drive of the game, Jahleel Addae jumped in front of a ball intended for Brandon Myers to force a three-and-out. On the Giants second possession, after a long pass put them deep into Chargers territory, Shareece Wright broke up the next pass, tipping the ball in the air for Donald Butler to snatch and run 30 yards back to midfield. The early takeaway set a tone that permeated throughout the team the rest of the way, turning the Bolts into an opportunistic defense.
“Any game you go into, that’s our key focus,” said Donald Butler. “Get those turnovers. We hadn’t done that enough in the past but this week we did and we got the ‘W’. I was in the right place at the right time. The ball was still up in the air and I made sure I got control of it and then it was just trying to get as far as I could go.”
After the game, many of the Chargers said they felt an extra jolt of energy by the return of Melvin Ingram. Te’o said seeing the second-year pro make his season debut after suffering an ACL tear in May gave them a bit of extra juice.
“Oh yeah, he definitely did,” he said “Having Melvin back and the energy he brings on the field definitely gave us a boost. We were happy to have him back.”
However, Ingram tried to play down any extra emotional impact his return had, hammering home that he believed the defense would have played with that same energy and emotion whether he suited up or not.
“It had nothing to do with me,” he said. “If I wouldn’t have played today they would have done the same thing because they are a great group of guys on defense and they’re willing to lay it on the line.”
Ingram wasn’t the only Charger returning to action that helped jolt the defense. Jarret Johnson, one of the leaders of the defense, also provided a boost in his return from a hand injury.
“Having him back was also huge,” said Butler. “We’ve missed him for a couple weeks, and it felt good to get us all out there. It felt good. We were excited. We were running around making plays. When you do that, you can’t help but have a smile on your face.”
Someone who had a big smile on his face was Shareece Wright, who put the final nail in the coffin with his first career interception late in the fourth quarter.
“I told Marcus that finally this ended that streak of not having an interception,” he said. “That was my first one today and hopefully there’s more after that. Not just knocking the ball down but actually catching it and giving our offense an opportunity.” Read