It has been the San Diego Chargers’ strength as of late.
The defense, specifically the front seven, has continually kept the Chargers in games, even when the offense has struggled.
On Sunday against the New York Jets, the front seven stole the show, recording 11 sacks, which ties a team-record and is the most since the Chargers had nine sacks on Oct. 3, 2010 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Rookie defensive end Kendall Reyes led all Chargers with a career-high 3.5 sacks on the day. It is quite an accomplishment considering Reyes came into Sunday’s game with only two sacks on the season. Reyes’ 3.5 sacks on Sunday were the most since Antwan Barnes had 4 sacks against the Baltimore Ravens last season.
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Reyes’ impact was most felt in the fourth quarter as the Jets attempted to make a comeback. After two consecutive first downs, Jets quarterback Greg McElroy was sacked by Reyes on second and third down to bring up fourth-and-19. McElroy was sacked again on fourth down, sealing the victory for the Chargers.
Defensive end Corey Liuget also set a career-high with a pair of sacks. His takedown of McElroy on fourth-and-19 gave the Chargers the ball back with less than minutes left. As a result, quarterback Philip Rivers was able to take a knee to give the Chargers the win.
Rookies Melvin Ingram and Brandon Taylor each accounted for .5 sacks. Taylor, making the first start of his NFL career, sacked McElroy along with the help of Reyes for a seven-yard loss in the second quarter before he was carted off the field late in the third quarter.
In addition to the young players on defense who made significant strides, numerous veterans continued to set an example for the rest of the team, especially Shaun Phillips. He increased his sack total to 9.5 this season, after recording 2.5 sacks against the Jets.
Phillips first sack came on New York’s opening drive of the game, forcing the Jets to punt. The kick was returned for a touchdown by Micheal Spurlock to give the Chargers a 7-0 lead. But perhaps Phillips' most important sack of the game came in the fourth quarter, when he sacked McElroy for an 11-yard loss, forcing the fumble in the process and recovering the ball. The fumble recovery allowed the Chargers to run valuable time off the clock en route to a 27-17 victory.
“I think this entire staff has worked awfully hard and done a good job each week doing what we have to do to prepare our team,” Chargers head coach Norv Turner said. “I think defensively, they’ve done a great job. We have figured out what our guys do best and when we get the matchup like we did today, we took advantage of it. We had a lot of guys play at a high level.”