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Key Matchups: Chargers vs. Bears
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Here are five keys to the game heading into Monday night’s match between the San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears:
“He’s a good player. Forces the point of attack, he does a good job and comes off the edge. I think Kyle Long will be on him for the most part of the day.”
If the Bolts don’t pester Cutler, they know he can pick any defense apart. This season, he’s completed 128 of 207 passes (61.8 %) for 1,442 yards and eight touchdowns with just four picks for an 87.5 passer rating. Cutler thrives on Monday Night Football, going 7-2 in his last nine games as Head Coach Mike McCoy said he can make every throw:
“He’s a very talented player who can do it all. He can make any throw. He’s got a phenomenal arm….It all starts with the quarterback when you have someone like Jay who can make all of those adjustments week in and week out. He’s a smart player.”
2. Jam Jeffery – Alshon Jeffery is a matchup nightmare blessed with explosive athleticism and a 6-3, 216-pound frame that gives him a huge catching radius. After missing Weeks 2-5 with a hamstring injury, the fourth-year veteran has been lights out since returning to action with 18 receptions for 263 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his first two games back. Jeffery caught eight passes for 147 yards and one score in his return to action against the Detroit Lions, and followed that up with a 10-catch, 116-yard effort and another TD against the Minnesota Vikings. Defensive Coordinator John Pagano explained what makes Jeffery so dangerous, and why the Bolts need to be mindful of him on every snap:
“He’s big and he goes up to get the football. He’s such a high target that can jump up and go make plays in the air. He’s also a fluid route runner for a big receiver. He runs excellent routes, and has great timing as he gets comfortable in that offense. Those are the two most important things. He is a great route runner and a big target. ”
3. Special Teams Spark – Ranking last in field position, averaging the 20-yard line to start their drives on offense, the Chargers made a change at returner. The team parted ways with Jacoby Jones, who returned nine kickoffs for 193 yards (21.4 yards per return) and five punts for minus-four yards. They called up Javontee Herndon from the practice squad and list him as their primary kickoff and punt returner. Herndon explained his job is simple, as he aims to spark the Bolts with better field position:
“The coaches told me just run north and south. Just get some yards. We need some yards. It’s about the field position, and that’s what I’m going to try to do my best to get…Once you have the ball in your hand, people just come at you full speed and you have to run away from them as fast as you can.”
4. Earn the Edge in the Air – It will be strength vs. strength Monday night when Philip Rivers leads the NFL’s number one passing attack against the league’s fourth ranked passing defense. The Chargers average 336.9 yards per game through the air while the Bears give up only 238.2, so something has to give when they square off in primetime. One key to Chicago’s passing defense has been Pernell McPhee, who has terrorized quarterbacks all year since signing with the Bears this offseason. The former Raven ranks 12th in the NFL with 5.0 sacks, and President of Football Operations John Spanos broke down what makes the outside linebacker such an impact player:
“(He’s) a really big and strong outside linebacker. You’re talking about close to 275 pounds, so a very large player who plays strong. He’s a physical player against the run, and can really set the edge at the point of attack. He can knock blockers back. And then as a pass rusher too, very strong. Has a dangerous bull rush but also a very crafty rusher. For a guy that big and strong, he’s got some fluid movements (and) some balance. He’ll set defenders up really well.”
5. Feed Gordon – In the two games leading up to last week, the Chargers watched as their pass to run ratio grew out of whack. They entered last week’s game against the Ravens committed to more carries for their backs, and that figures to be the plan once again this week. Chicago has been susceptible against the run this season, giving up the fourth most yards per game (128.0). Still, Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich explained the team’s commitment to the run regardless of their opponent, after finding balance last week. That includes feeding Melvin Gordon the ball:
“You get a guy like Melvin the ball enough times, you’re hoping that one of those times (he’s) going to pop out of there. I’ve studied a lot of things in the run game over the years, and you see that’s the case…. So many times in the run game, it is just a question of getting enough runs to where one of your guys can just break loose for two or three. We’ve seen Melvin has that incredible ability. He’s had a number of 20-yard plus runs, so we’ve got to just keep feeding him the ball.”