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Key Matchups: 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 Oakland Raiders
“His footwork is off the charts. He is so quick in and out of his breaks. He’s strong and fast. That was the type of guy that Derek Carr was looking for, and he can take the top off for their offense. It is definitely a matchup I am looking forward to and am going to be excited for. This is an important game for us and I can’t wait to get out there.”
In addition, Defensive Coordinator John Pagano raved about this year’s fourth overall pick as well:
“Heck of a player. Unbelievable skill set, unbelievable knack of catching the ball, unbelievable (at) getting off the line in press coverage. He moves his feet (and) it’s almost like he picks himself up, slides over 2 yards, and then gets vertical so fast. He has that knack and he’s a great route runner. He’s a great technician and you see those things. He’s hit some great plays in these first 6 weeks. He’s somebody that when he gets the ball in his hands, we have to do a good job of taking him away. Take him out of it, if we can.”
2. Stop the Mack Attack –After an impressive rookie season in 2014, Kahlil Mack is off to an even better sophomore campaign. Last year’s fifth overall pick leads the Raiders with 3.0 sacks in five games, and has been a disruptive force off the edge. Paired with Aldon Smith, who was added shortly before the season began, Oakland will rely on Mack even more after losing fellow defensive end Justin Tuck for the season with a torn pectoral muscle in their last game. The Bolts know they will have their hands full with Mack, who Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich described as one of the most explosive players in the NFL :
“I just think this guy is a rising star. He plays this game the way you’re supposed to play it…He’s explosive. He plays to the whistle. I mean, he is just a relentless player. He plays with good technique. He has explosive ability as a very good pass rusher, but he’s not just a pass rusher. He plays the run very well. He’s an all-around player.”
3. Watch Out for Woodson –While Cooper and Mack are young rising playmakers for the Raiders, one of the oldest players in the league still ranks among its elite. Safety Charles Woodson is 39 years old and in his 18th season, yet is tied for the NFL lead with four interceptions. He also ranks second on the team with 26 tackles. Philip Rivers has faced Woodson more than any quarterback in the NFL, and marvels at his ability:
“It’s unbelievable really what he’s doing. The plays he’s making, and the interception against Denver is about as good as you’ll see. I have a great deal of respect for him. I’ve played against him a lot of years, and he plays the game the right way. He’s a smart player and he still can really run. He’s all over the place. I’ve always appreciated when you have a chance to go against guys like that. A Hall of Fame safety. Always fun to compete against him. ”
4. Keep Carr in Neutral – Just like Mack, Derek Carr made a strong impression on the Bolts in their first two meetings against him last year. Even though they raved about the quarterback as a rookie, the Chargers see an improved model in his sophomore campaign. Through five games, he’s completed 103 of 162 attempts (63.6%) for 1,171 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions for a 93.9 passer rating. Carr is at his best when in rhythm, and Pagano explained what the Chargers see in the second-year QB:
“You see a lot of growth. You see the potential of how he runs the offense number one. How he handles himself, the poise in the pocket, his vision of finding receivers. He’s done a great job with that, and he has the feet to get out of bad situations. You see that growth. He’s (got) the gun slinger mentality. He gets the ball from the center, he drops back and he throws it in there. It’s a good quarterback in the national football league that you see is growing, and you see the growth that they’ve done with him at Oakland.”
5. Mental and Physical Toughness for 60 Minutes – Division games are always a battle, with games against the Raiders, Broncos and Chiefs taking a physical and emotional toll. After going 2-4 against the AFC West last season, the Chargers hammered home the importance of winning in the division. Rivers knows what it takes to win these divisional games more than any other player, explaining how the Bolts need to be mentally and physically tough for a full 60 minutes:
“It’s always a physical game. It’s always a division game. I think the rivalry in itself, because of the turnover that there always is in the NFL, that there are certain guys that haven’t been a part of this Chargers-Raiders game as much as others. But I know for the fans as well, the rivalry is with them as much as anything. Just the fact that it’s a division opponent, obviously the Chiefs are a rival, the Broncos, because it’s a division game. But I think it being in state, just so many Chargers and Raiders fans that (it) enhances the rivalry."