The San Diego Chargers defense faces another tough challenge this week against a dynamic Dallas Cowboys team featuring Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray.
Statistically speaking, they sit in the middle of the pack, ranked 15th in total offense, averaging 348.3 yards per game, 18th in passing with 242.7 ypg and 16th in rushing with 105.7 ypg. However, they rank fifth where it matters most, averaging 27.7 points per game.
“They’re good,” Defensive Coordinator John Pagano said matter-of-factly. “Their quarterback is playing at a high level. They’ve got a great running back in Murray that makes people miss. It gives our defense a big challenge of being able to tackle him. Their skill guys are tops in the league. Jason Witten is still doing amazing things and Miles Austin. (Bryant) is a game wrecker. He is big, he’s physical and he goes after the football. He changes games, and we understand that. We’ve got to be aware of that he’s somebody at the top of his game, and Tony’s doing a great job of getting the ball to him. And that’s a big challenge for us this week because they’re a really good football team.”
Speaking about Dallas’ offense, Head Coach Mike McCoy agrees that they provide a stiff test for the Bolts defense.
“(They’re) a very well coached team,” McCoy explained. “(Head Coach) Jason (Garrett) has done a great job with them the time he’s been there. (Offensive Coordinator) Bill Callahan on offense has done a great job with Tony and he’s slinging the ball around, doing a nice job of getting the ball out of his hand. Obviously they had a great running game last week, something that Bill’s always done an extremely good job with, of being an effective running team and believing in the run game and sticking with it and that’s what he’s done there.”
On the ground, Murray is coming off one of the best games of his career. The third-year pro rushed 26 times for 175 yards and a touchdown, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. So how does the defense plan to corral the talented runner?
“We’ve got to be in proper gaps and make sure we understand our fits,” said Pagano. “Making sure we go up there and tackle the guy. And it’s not just one guy tackling. We talked about it's 11 guys playing together and having that mindset of being able to finish. That’s what we’ve got to be about.”
Tackling is an area the Chargers are determined to improve upon. McCoy mentioned that was an area he was disappointed in, and Pagano explained that the team needs to get better in their fundamentals.
“It’s being fundamentally sound.” he said. “It’s going out there
Clearly, the Dallas Cowboys present a challenge, but that is something Pagano says he lives for.
“I love challenges like this,” he said. “So being able to get the guys to understand that and being able to respond, that’s what we need to do.”