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Sun., Mar. 08, 2015 1:30 PM PDT
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Chargers Defense Took Care of Business
"That's how we felt all game,” Wright later explained. "There were times when they made plays, but we were confident in what we could do and what we could stop."
They're confident at the right time on defense. Gone were the sporadic big plays that doomed the Bolts in their first meeting with the Raiders. They’ve been replaced by the type of moments a playoff-caliber defense has.
On Sunday, those moments included a jaw-dropping interception, a strip sack that nearly became another turnover, and three three-and-outs. McCoy credits Pagano with another confidence-building standout effort.
“If you watch John Pagano and (linebackers coach) Joe Barry on the sidelines all game long, that’s the energy the players play with,” said McCoy. “They’re creating turnovers here and getting after the quarterback – something we didn’t do as much earlier in the year. And they’re playing with a lot of confidence, which they should.”
It's no easy task to stop the Raiders offense. McGloin entered the game with more passes of 25 yards or more than any NFL quarterback this season. His big-bodied receivers can get behind defenses with ease.
McGloin said the Bolts blanketed his targets downfield, though. And even when players like Rod Streater and Andre Holmes separated downfield, the Bolts defense stuck with its marks.
Wright was skipping for a reason, after all. With 3:21 left in the fourth quarter and the Raiders on the move, he stuck on Holmes' hip as the receiver broke for the front pylon of the end zone. McGloin's pass would've been spot-on, if not for Wright's outstretched arm.
A few plays later, another defensive back turned in a game-changing play. Streater took his route deep when his cover man stumbled. But Stuckey picked up the slack, catching up with Streater as he tried to reel in a deep throw and dislodged the ball when the two hit the turf together.
The outstanding effort spilled over against the run. Few NFL teams average more yards per game on the ground than the Raiders do. But Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden found no room to run and tallied only 59 rushing yards against a stingy Bolts defense.
"We knew they were going to come in here and try to run the ball," said linebacker Donald Butler. "We went out there and handled business."
As the game wore on, the Bolts gained confidence. They earned the right to rush the passer by shutting runs down and took off on the line of scrimmage.
Sometimes, that meant McGloin only needed to shuffle up in the pocket to avoid oncoming Bolts. Other times, McGloin couldn't avoid the consequences of a crumbling pocket.
Weddle took advantage of one of those moments and brought the house down with him. McGloin said he thought he could loft the ball over Weddle and hit Streater in stride. But Weddle had other plans when he left his feet and batted the pass skyward.
Then, amazingly, he regained his footing, relocated the tip, and leapt again. The second dive allowed him to cradle the ball for a huge interception that led to a touchdown just three plays later.
Weddle says he was just "in the way" and luckily got his hand on it. But there was nothing lucky about it.
Pagano has been putting his players in the best position to wreak havoc all year. It's why Melvin Ingram promised McCoy he would play again this year when he tore his ACL in the spring.
Ingram says he felt he was missing out during his time away. And the hard work he put in to return and stay in-tune with his teammates is paying huge dividends for a defense gaining confidence by the snap.
“Anything you do, you’re going to face adversity and obstacles,” Ingram said. “I feel like we’ve overcome all of that and we’re playing our best right now.”