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Defense wants to finish

Posted Oct 19, 2010

The Chargers have pushed opposing offenses into some arduous situations. Now they’re focused on doing a better job on third-and-long.

SAN DIEGO – Percentages say third-and-17 should be more difficult to convert than third-and-2.

Against the Rams, the defense prevented the shorter distance and gave up the longer one. Isolating two plays doesn’t define a trend, but scrutinizing every third down situation faced by his defense, Head Coach Norv Turner has.

St. Louis scored half their points on drives they had to convert a third-and-12 or worse. The Steven Jackson touchdown that staked the Rams to a 17-0 lead in the second quarter capped a 17-play drive during which St. Louis converted four third downs, three of which equaled or exceeded third-and-9.

“I’m looking at what we need to do and obviously as you look forward you have to base it on where you are,” Turner said. “We are playing at a high level on third down except when it’s third-and-10-plus. That’s something that’s been with us over the last three or four weeks and we’ve got to get that straightened out.”

Faced with third-and-9 or worse eight times, the Rams converted four, one on a penalty that preceded Jackson’s touchdown by two plays. One of the failed attempts came on a Sam Bradford kneel-down on the game’s final play.

San Diego’s defense stopped St. Louis five of the nine times they faced third-and-8 or shorter. Turner stressed the difficulty of driving an NFL offense back seven yards in two plays.

The Chargers are second in the NFL on first down defense, allowing 4.16 yards per play.

“You put that work in to get them in that position, you’ve got to take advantage of it,” Turner said. “This is a game of percentages. When you have the upper hand, you have to win most of those.

“We think we’ve zeroed in on what the two or three main issues are.”

Jackson closed out the game with a nine-yard run on third-and-6 late in the fourth quarter, a crucial conversion in a game where every one of them counted. Turner cited the play as an example of how one guy making a mistake can create false generalities about the other 10 guys and expressed confidence that the Chargers do not get surprised during games and will continue to prepare well for New England.

The Chargers’ defense perhaps has done more to prepare this year than it has since Eric Weddle got to the NFL in 2007, the safety said, and it will not discount the process because of unfavorable results. Going forward, the underneath guys will be cognizant of dropping too deep on third-and-long in an attempt to prevent the deep ball and allowing too much space for a catch-and-run, Weddle said.

SAFETY IN MIND: The NFL on Tuesday said it will take aggressive action against hits to the head that could be dangerous or flagrant and will continue to enforce rules against dangerous collisions.

That could include suspensions and ejections, NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson told ESPN Radio.

A spate of vicious collisions during Week 6 sparked numerous discussions on the topic.

“I certainly am aware of and see the need for safety. More and more guys are getting injured,” Philip Rivers said. “Personally, and I think a lot of people would agree, it’s tough to watch when a guy gets hurt, especially those head injuries.

“Sometimes extreme measures are warranted when things are getting the way they are. It’s such a violent and physical game. Some of it, though, is unnecessary.”

FIRST GAME BACK: Marcus McNeill started at left tackle Sunday in his first game of the season. He played every offensive snap.

“I thought Marcus did a lot of good things,” Turner said. “He had a couple plays I know he’d like to have back, but the pressure he had, we would like to think the ball would be (thrown before that long).”

TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE: About 2,000 general tickets and 400 Club seats remain on sale for Sunday’s game between the Chargers and Patriots.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. PDT. Interested fans can obtain tickets through www.Chargers.com or at the Chargers ticket office located at Qualcomm Stadium’s Gate C. The ticket office opens at 9 a.m. Sunday.

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