They say timing is everything when it comes to the NFL. Who you play at what point in the season can go a long way toward determining the outcome of a game. On Sunday, the Chargers defense will line up against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense that at this moment is firing on all cylinders. They put up 42 points last week against the Oakland Raiders and the week before scored 36 against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Chargers are certainly wary of the Bucs arsenal of offensive weapons, but are confident they can go into Tampa Bay on Sunday and shut them down.
“They’re going to be explosive three weeks from now (too), so I wouldn’t say it’s bad timing,” said defensive coordinator John Pagano. “Their offense right now has found something with their run game and their play-action passes. Their ability to attack downfield is a big challenge for us this week. We’ve got to be gap sound. I know it’s a broken record standing up here each week, but (we have) to go out there and stop the run and do a great job of controlling their big play ability on the edge with their receivers.”
Leading Tampa Bay’s offense is fourth-year quarterback Josh Freeman, who has had a terrific start to the season. Freeman has thrown for 2,047 yards and 15 touchdowns with just five interceptions for a quarterback rating of 95.1
“The thing that you see about him is his playmaking ability,” said Pagano. “He’s having a great year. His touchdowns are up and his interceptions are down. He’s putting the ball in the air to where his guys can go get up and catch it. And they have two receivers who go up there and make plays. With how he’s finding them and getting the ball to them it’s usually in spots where the defensive player can’t go get it, and lets those two receivers who catch the ball extremely well go make plays.”
The two playmaking receivers Pagano refers to are Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Measuring in at 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-1 respectively, Jackson and Williams prove to be physical matchup nightmares, which is why the Bolts have carefully game planned this week on how to deal with them
“Get up there and jam them,” Pagano said. “You’ve got to be physical with them. It’s something that we’ve been accustomed to here going up against guys like Malcom (Floyd) and the tight ends that we see here in practice. And having these corners go against Vincent the last four or five years is something where they’ve gotten a lot of work at it.”
Pagano is very much aware of Doug Martin’s prowess in the running game as well, as the rookie rusher has taken the league by storm over the last couple weeks. And in watching the game tape, San Diego’s defensive coordinator can see why.
“The most impressive thing about him is how he sees the hole,” he said. “He’s got great vision. His ball security is unbelievable. If you ever want to see a guy that really takes care of the football every time he runs through the line of scrimmage, when he gets up and even handing the ball to the official it’s high and tight. It’s so impressive seeing that and how he hits the hole with great balance, he’s somebody that the last two weeks has a lot of yardage, so it’s been impressive.”
Yes, the Chargers defense is travelling across country to take on a white hot Tampa Bay offense. But listening to Pagano talk, it’s clear that his defensive unit knows what they will need to do to shut down this Bucs offense.
Once again, the Chargers piped in crowd noise to simulate calling and executing plays in hostile conditions.