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Offensive Line Delivers For Bolts

Posted Sep 29, 2013

Despite missing three starters, the offensive line came through in a major way.

Offensive line coaches Joe D'Alessandris and Andrew Dees delivered their message to Mike McCoy early on Monday morning in the aftermath of the Titans game that saw the team lose three offensive linemen.

"They came in first thing Monday and said 'Don't worry about it, it'll get done," said McCoy after Sunday's win against the Cowboys. "And that's what they did."

Three starters were held out against the DeMarcus Ware-led Cowboys pass rush, and one substitute, Rich Ohrnberger, left the game in the second quarter. But as D'Alessandris and Dees promised, their squad delivered, surrendering only one sack and permitting Philip Rivers to pass for over 400 yards.

Only Nick Hardwick and rookie D.J. Fluker were in their usual spots against Dallas.  After injuries pelted the unit in Week 3, new blood had to be infused.  Mike Harris subbed in for King Dunlap as Rivers' blind-side blocker, Johnnie Troutman started for Chad Rinehart at left guard, and Ohrnberger played right guard instead of starter Jeromey Clary.

Ohrnberger had to leave in the second quarter with an injury, meaning Steven Schilling, who signed on Wednesday, also saw playing time.  But that mentality is nothing new for Harris, a former undrafted free agent who played left tackle for the majority of last season. The second-year UCLA product said the entire line had a "next man up" mentality entering the game.

"I'm just proud," said Harris. "Guys stepped up today because we had to. We didn't have a choice if we wanted to win this game and I'm just so happy for this team and this line."

McCoy said his offensive line got to the point to work fast and effectively this week in practice.  With the line starters nursing injuries, substitutes got a full week to learn the tendencies and calls necessary to block as a group -- and not five individuals.

"The big saying this week was to practice the way we play," said McCoy. "From Wednesday to Friday, we couldn't do much better. It was very efficient and it was the tempo we wanted."

That cohesion and speed was on full display on the Bolts' final two drives. The group created a clean pocket for Philip Rivers, which let the passer buy enough time for Antonio Gates to break away from coverage. When he did, Rivers had space to step into his 56-yard strike and a touchdown was the result.

Fluker is only beginning his NFL career, but said he can look at today as a launching point for how he wants his group to play -- starters or no starters.

“We came out and had a ‘we will not be denied’ attitude," Fluker said.  "We fear nobody.  We’re going to go out there and play for 60 minutes. We are a scrappy offensive line, and we’re coming after you every single play.”

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