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Despite Loss, Defense's Bright Future on Full Display
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Not a single soul in the locker room was happy after a 10-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs dropped the Bolts’ record to 3-10.
At the same time, a second straight dominant effort by the defense has them encouraged not only over what they can accomplish over the final three games, but their long term potential as well.
One week after holding the Denver Broncos to just 10 points, the Bolts did it again as the Chiefs could only muster 10 as well, all coming within a two-minute span to end the first half.
“When you (hold a team) to the points we did today, you’re going to win your fair share of football games,” Head Coach Mike McCoy said. “We just had that one bad two-minute span…We’ll watch the film for the full 60 minutes and evaluate it. But I think, the past month or so, four or five games now, they’ve done a nice job. We have to continue and score more points.”
Perhaps an even better sign for the Bolts is that a young nucleus is starting to take shape and come into its own. The team’s stout defensive turnaround has been led by a number of players under the age of 25 selected in the first three NFL drafts under General Manager Tom Telesco, including Jason Verrett (24), Manti Te'o (24), Denzel Perryman (23), Jerry Attaochu (22) and Kyle Emanuel (24).
All five made a difference on Sunday.
“We’re the future of the franchise right now,” Verrett said. “As a young group, we just have to try to keep going. Keep fighting.”
The second year cornerback made his presence felt with his team-high third interception of the season against the toughest quarterback to pick off. Shortly after Alex Smith extended his consecutive pass streak without throwing an INT to 312 in a row, the quarterback aimed deep looking for Jeremy Maclin. Verrett stayed stride for stride with the speedster, maintaining position as he dove to come up with the incredible pick at the two-yard line.
Verrett’s interception was the second turnover forced by the Chargers as earlier in the game, Attaochu punched the ball loose from Frankie Hammond Jr. for a fumble that Mike Windt pounced on. It was the first of many impact plays by the young outside linebacker, who also tallied three defensive tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack.
“I just committed myself to helping my team get wins,” Attaochu explained about his strong individual play this season. “That’s basically it – giving everything I have…. I think we’re sticking together. This has been a tough year. We’ve had a lot of games just like this. It’s just a true test of character more than anything for every man in this organization.”
The Bolts set the tone on defense on the first series, when Perryman ended the Chiefs’ drive with a terrific read and react play. The rookie diagnosed a toss to Charcandrick West, burst through the line of scrimmage and pummeled him to the ground for a loss of six on 3rd-and-3. He also combined with Te’o to bring Maclin down for a two-yard loss on a reverse after Emanuel diagnosed the trick play from the start, forcing the wide receiver into his teammate’s arms.
“You see Denzel making that play on third and short,” Te’o said. “You see Verrett on those picks. You see Kyle and me and Denzel flying for the reverse. You see Jahleel (Addae) coming up and smacking people, and Melvin (Ingram) just doing his thing. You see all of that, and we’re close. We’re so close and heading in the right direction.”
As Te’o also noted, all that matters at the end of the day is that the Chargers came up on the short end of a 10-3 decision. Nonetheless, one of the leaders of the defense is encouraged over the unit’s bright future, and is eager to keep growing together as one.
“We have faith in each other, and especially us young guys. It’s just an energy around us that everyone can see. Unfortunately, the scoreboard doesn’t show the kind of energy we have, but I always tell my little brother Denzel, this is just the beginning. Hopefully, we learn from our mistakes and come back next week.”