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Keys to the Game: Chargers vs. Cowboys

Posted Aug 7, 2014

Here are your keys to the game between the Chargers and Cowboys.

Here are five keys to the game heading into Thursday’s preseason opener between the San Diego Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys:

Execute on All Levels - After a thorough offseason and in the midst of a meticulous training camp, the Bolts finally take the field to reap the rewards of their hard work. Every time you suit up the goal is to always win.  However, as Head Coach Mike McCoy said Wednesday, the Chargers will be focused on their own execution above all else because in the preseason, that is perhaps more important than netting a victory:

“The most important thing for our football team is to execute the offensive, defensive and special teams systems the way they’ve been coached.  (I want to see) the way we want to play football here in all phases week in and week out.”


2. Rhythm on Offense –
Thursday night marks the offense’s first game since mid-January.  There understandably may be some rust, but they will look to knock it off quickly while recapturing the rhythm that made them so successful in 2013.  Meanwhile, Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich noted that although the team has done everything possible to simulate game-like situations at practice, there is nothing quite like the real thing. That includes calling plays, which is something Reich will be doing for the first time:

“You can’t get enough practice at it, so from the time we can start doing that we do it as much as we can just so that Philip (Rivers) gets used to hearing my voice.  You’d be surprised how important that is.  Not just hearing your voice but the cadence and tone of your voice. The phraseology.  You have calls that are pretty verbose at times, so how you phrase a call really matters.  And so the more you can do that kind of thing, Philip can get used to how it sounds or he might tell me to phrase it a little different or make subtle changes.  So we look for every opportunity,”

. Tackling, Turnovers and Technique– “Turnovers Disrupt” are two words emblazoned on the back of the t-shirts John Pagano distributed to every player on defense.  It’s no secret that the defensive coordinator wants to see his unit snare more interceptions and force more fumbles than a year ago.  That emphasis seeps into nearly everything the team does, from turnover circuit drills at practice to the messages imparted in meetings.  Their first chance to make good on their goal comes Thursday night.  However, Pagano also wants to see the team execute proper tackling, technique and more:

“I want to see guys flying around with unbelievable effort.  I want to see tackling and turnovers.  And then I want to see us getting off the field on third down.  That may be the most important thing.  Anytime we can do those things and take over the game with technique, fundamentals and effort, we’ll have the ability to play together and that’s what it’s all about.”


4. Feed Off the Crowd
– It’s only preseason, but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t looking forward to tremendous fan support.  The team constantly refers back to the home field advantage and boost it got from the Qualcomm faithful in the 2013 regular season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs to help propel them into the playoffs.  They want that same impact each and every game in 2014, so the preseason opener isn’t just a dress rehearsal for the players, but for the fans as well. McCoy recently explained how important the fans are to the team’s success:

“The fan support we’ve had all training camp and at FanFest has been outstanding, and deservingly so.  With the energy and excitement that’s in the city right now with our football team, and the way they’ve worked and the offseason they’ve had and the expectations for the upcoming season, they should be excited.  So we’re going to have a great atmosphere (Thursday) night and now it’s time for the players to go out, do their jobs and show everybody what kind of team we’re going to be.  So we’re looking forward to having a great stadium and great atmosphere week in and week out this year.”


5. Evaluate Depth
– The coaching staff and front office have learned a lot about the Chargers based on the offseason and especially training camp.  But again, there is nothing quite like live game action.  The players fighting for a roster spot or place atop the depth chart will only get four chances to prove their worth, so they have to be on top of their game.  Take the battle for punt and kick returner for instance.  Special Teams Coordinator Kevin Spencer says the team hasn’t decided on who will line up back there, so how they perform over the next four games will be imperative:

“We are still in the process of searching things out.  If we had to play a game today, I know which way I’d go.  But we’ll use the preseason games as an opportunity to evaluate the kids under pressure…It’s like anyone can shoot jump shots in a gym, but when you’ve got a defender in your face and the clock’s ticking, it’s the same thing as a returner.  Anyone can execute fundamentally on the practice field, but there is nothing like game day so we’ll find out who may rise and who may stumble.  That’s why we play these preseason games.”

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