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Pagano Identifies Three Key Elements for Defense's Success

Posted Sep 27, 2012

Defensive coordinator John Pagano has spent countless hours poring over the game footage from last Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons.  Yet he knew right off the bat the areas his team would need to improve upon as they head into Kansas City to face their division rivals this Sunday.

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“You’ve got to analyze every situation, especially me being a young coordinator in the National Football League,” he said. “You learn and grow from these things.  There’s no science to this – we couldn’t get off the field on third down.  It’s an emphasis.  Our first two weeks we made it an emphasis and it helped us.  It’s something that we’re addressing.”

In addition to improving on third down, Pagano identified three other areas the defense needed to get better at.

“Our philosophy as a team is that you’ve got to stop the run,” he said. “You’ve got to try to make them one dimensional, be able to pressure the quarterback and get off the field.  Bottom line….We’ve got to stop the run, pressure the quarterback and go tackle.”

This week is a huge test for Pagano’s defense . The Chiefs are ranked first in the NFL in total yards (441) and are number one in rushing (191.7 yards per game). Thus, the Chargers have placed an emphasis on containing Jamaal Charles, the reigning AFC Player of the Week who rushed for 233 yards and one touchdown in Kansas City’s Week 3 win over the New Orleans Saints.  In the process, Charles joined Jim Brown as just the second running back in NFL history to have at least 225 yards on the ground and 50 in the air.

“He’s somebody who is so explosive,” Pagano said. “One thing about Kansas City is that they stay so patient with the run game and he gives them that home run hitter.  He’s explosive through the hole, and just like the first three week’s we’ve got to be sound in our gap control, set a new line of scrimmage and go tackle.”

In addition to their outstanding run game, the Chargers also need to concern themselves with the Chiefs stable of impressive wide receivers.

“(Jonathan) Baldwin and (Dwayne) Bowe are guys that are playmakers,” said Pagano. “They do things.  If you throw them the ball they go catch it.  They go get it in the air. Our same mindset from last week to even this week is we’ve got to be aggressive on these guys.  We’ve got to take advantage of what they do and go challenge them.”

While the team certainly was disappointed in the way they played vs. the Falcons, Pagano made sure to praise Atari Bigby, who has fit in seamlessly for San Diego at strong safety.

“Atari fits in well for us,” he said. “He’s somebody who plays with high effort, tackles and runs to the football.  He does everything we ask him to do.  He’s a good leader out there on the field….He’s a guy who’s explosive, can play down in the box and do the things we ask him to do. He’s been big for us.”

The Chargers will need Bigby to be at his best, along with the rest of his defensive teammates, when they take on the Chiefs this Sunday.

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