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Keys to the Game: Chargers vs. Redskins

Posted Nov 1, 2013

Here are five keys to the game heading into Sunday’s match between the San Diego Chargers and the Washington Redskins.

Here are five keys to the game heading into Sunday’s match between the San Diego Chargers and the Washington Redskins:

1. Ball Security – This is obviously a priority each and every game, but as pointed out on Thursday, this takes on added importance when the team you’re facing leads the league in defensive touchdowns.  The Redskins have four pick-sixes and one fumble return on the season, led by DeAngelo Hall’s two interceptions returned to the house.  Here is what Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt had to say about their defense:

“They’re a good unit (that) has some good players in the back end. Veteran players (Josh) Wilson and DeAngelo Hall and their safeties have been together for a little while.  They’re veteran players so they do a lot of different things.  If you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing, that’s what can lead to mistakes.  That’s one of the things that we’ve got to make sure we’re good at.  We had a period early in the year where we turned it over a lot.  Obviously if you’re going to go on the road against an opponent like this, you can’t do those types of things.”


2. Limit Their Run Game – Ranking sixth in the NFL with 137.3 yards per game, Washington is one of the very best at pounding the rock.  In Head Coach Mike Shanahan’s famed zone-blocking scheme, Alfred Morris has carried the ball 108 times for 565 yards.  His 5.2 yards per carry tops all running backs in the league. Then there is also the danger that Robert Griffin III presents.  He ranks second on the team with 240 yards, and he’s averaging 5.6 ypc. The Chargers defense ranks 16thamong all teams, allowing 105.4 ypg.  According to Defensive Coordinator John Pagano, the unit will need to rise to the occasion against Shanahan’s potent rushing system:

“When they’re zone stretching it, they’re going to take it all the way to the sideline as far as possible and then some. You’ve got to be there and make sure your guys are aware of the cutback lanes and have the ability not only to get downhill and try to go make that tackle, but also have the ability to make sure it doesn’t come back on you. They are a true zone scheme and that’s something that they’ve always excelled at since he’s been in the National Football League.”


3. Maximize Our Run Game– The Redskins have been susceptible defending the run, ranking 30thin the league by giving up 123.4 yards per game.  Conversely, the Chargers are coming off arguably their best two games running the ball.  Ryan Mathews has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in consecutive games, becoming the only player in the league this year to do so.  Mathews has had more carries in recent games, and Head Coach McCoy believes he is making the most of his opportunities:

"I don't think we have changed anything with him. I think he has had more opportunities. Week in and week out we are going to change on how we're going to play the football game. I think the past two weeks he has gotten more carries than he had earlier in the year. It's not like we went in and put in a bunch of new runs in or anything. He has just gotten more touches. He's done a nice job. The line has done a nice job defending the schemes, but I think it's a part of the whole football team improving on a week to week basis."


4. Improve in the Red Zone – There has been a lot to feel good about in recent weeks, but the Chargers have been disappointed in their red zone offense.  Many times they’ve been forced to kick field goals instead of punching it into the end zone, and to them, it’s been at a rate that is unacceptable.   Whisenhunt addressed the issue Thursday at Chargers Park:

"It has not been good enough by our standards. We just missed too many opportunities. We can't make mistakes down there. That's one of the things we've done. If you take away the fumbles we have had in the red zone and a couple of the throws and you combine that with where we just missed opportunities, it would be a different perception of our red zone. I think because of that, we have to keep working. You like the things we got. We have to make sure that when we get in that area of the field we protect the football. We've worked on that and looked at what we did over the bye week. Hopefully we'll be better and more proficient there."


5.  Keep the Streak Alive – The Chargers tied a franchise mark set in 1977 with 11 consecutive quarters without allowing a defensive touchdown.  Keeping that streak alive obviously gives the Bolts a greater chance of returning to San Diego with the win.  Overall, as Pagano noted, the Chargers take great pride in keeping the opponents out of the end zone:

 “A lot of pride. It’s the work ethic by those guys. It’s about the coaches getting them to understand what the teams are doing down there in the red area. It’s a big accomplishment for the guys in that locker room and they take pride in it. It’s something where nobody is sitting here patting themselves on the back or shoulders. We’ve just got to go out and keep getting consistently better and keep improving because there are a lot of things that we need to improve on from these last couple games. But to see them go out there and execute the way they are in the red area and to see how they’re executing on third down is tremendous

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