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Keys to the Game: Chargers vs. Broncos

Posted Dec 12, 2013

Here are five keys to the game heading into Thursday night's match between the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos.

Here are five keys to the game heading into tonight’s match between the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos:

1.  Win the Turnover Battle– The Bolts turned Eli Manning and the Giants over three times on Sunday, which was a season high for the defense.  Now they aim to do the same to Peyton Manning and the Broncos.  As great as Denver’s offense has been, the team overall still has a negative turnover differential.  If Philip Rivers and the Chargers secure the ball on offense and the defense extends its streak of multiple turnovers per game to four, the chances for victory greatly improve.  Here is what Donald Butler said about the team’s mindset on creating turnovers and the tangible impact it had last week:

“We’ve got to score touchdowns. To me, if you maintain possession of the ball, you’ve got to still end it with points and preferably touchdowns against this team.”

 

2.  End Zone in the Red Zone – The first time against the Broncos, the Chargers managed to get the ball into the red zone, but particularly early in the game, they were forced to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns.  Asked about the lessons learned from the first tilt against their divisional foe, most everyone on offense said they need to come away with seven points rather than three more often than not once they get within the red zone.  While Philip Rivers said there were a number of areas they need to clean up from the last time they played, getting into the end zone in the red zone was chief among them:

“We have to score touchdowns.  We got into (the red zone) against them, but we had to kick field goals those first couple times.  We’ve done a better job (in the red zone) since then, so that will be important).”

 

3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate– The need to communicate on defense can’t be overstated.  Against an offense that lines up quickly between snaps and plays at a high tempo, getting lined up properly and communicating is imperative.  Defensive Coordinator John Pagano stressed that once again earlier in the week:

"I tell the guys all the time communication is the key to our success. It's about getting lined up and getting 11 players on the same page. We have to be able to handle the no-huddle situations and not give them opportunities to where we don't get the call. The more we keep working it, the better the communication has been at times over the last few weeks. You still have to deal with those mental errors during plays and you have to overcome them.”

 

4. Weather the Conditions – As pointed out yesterday, there are a number of challenges the Bolts will be faced with when they kick off tonight.  They include a short turnaround for Thursday Night Football, the thin altitude of Denver and a prime-time game in one of the toughest stadiums to play in the NFL.  The Chargers have said they are prepared to weather the storm, but putting those words into action is imperative. Still, McCoy believes his team will be ready:

“Anytime you go on the road, it's us against the world.  That's the approach we are going to take as the visitors going in to any home team. They have their fans behind them. It's going to be loud, we know all that. We practice out here with the noise and all that stuff so it's awful loud here too. You are on the road and we have to make sure we do all the little things right on the road against a good football team.”

 

5. Play Four Quarters of Confident Football– In addition to all the challenges listed above, perhaps the toughest will be the Denver Broncos themselves.  Tied for the top record in the NFL, the Broncos boast the top offense in the league and have an opportunistic defense that is at its best in the fourth quarter.  It is important to be confident when playing against an elite team like the Broncos, and according to McCoy, the Chargers are just that.  So where does that confidence come from?

"Number one, it starts with your quarterback. I think Philip (Rivers) has had an outstanding year. When you have a player like Philip, it always gives you an opportunity. There are no guarantees in this business. Everyone has won a lot of games no one thought they were going to win or you lose games no one thought you were going to lose. When you have a quarterback like Philip Rivers, he always gives you an opportunity. The leadership of this football team and the way they have responded to certain situations and the way we played yesterday, that's the way we should all be able to play, but that is over with. The Giants game is over with. You have to do it another week. I think the players have done an outstanding job of buying in to what we are doing, week in and week out. We have to play better more consistently for four quarters. Especially against a team like Denver, you have to play for four quarters. That's what good teams do to beat them.”

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