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Pass rushers know they are marked men

Posted Sep 17, 2009

In the Chargers’ win in Oakland Monday night, the Raiders regularly committed as many as eight offensive players to pass protection, a scheme San Diego expects to see often this season.

When Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips watched the tape from Monday night’s win in Oakland, a little simple math told a big story.

“When we’re rushing four or five people and they’ve got six or seven blocking, there aren’t too many people getting sacks like that,” Phillips said. 

The Chargers had just one sack in the win over the Raiders, largely because of how Oakland regularly “max protected,” meaning they kept multiple blockers in to help keep players like Phillips and Shawne Merriman from getting to the quarterback.

It made sense, seeing how Phillips’ sack/fumble in the first quarter of last season’s 34-7 win over the Raiders in San Diego changed the whole pace of the game, and it was a sack/fumble that allowed the Chargers to score a go-ahead touchdown in Week 4 of last season.

“That’s a tribute to us,” Phillips said.  “We have some guys who can get after it.”

The Chargers expect other teams to approach them the same way, but Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera won’t use that as an excuse for not getting to the quarterback. 

“The big thing that you have to do though is when you are one-on-one, you have to win,” Rivera said.  “That’s the bottom line.  I think our guys know that and they understand that.  We as a defense take it upon ourselves that we’ve got to recognize it. Give kudos to them for doing some things that were good, but still we had our opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of them enough.”

Rivera also said that such approaches put the onus on the secondary.  When teams max protect, that means they use as few as two or three receivers.  The Chargers allowed just 12 completions Monday night, and were it not for a breakdown on a 57-yard touchdown pass, they would have given up just 183 passing yards. 

“With the exception of what happened on the second to last play of the game, the coverage was exactly what we’ve been working towards,” Rivera said.  “There were some really good plays.  We left a couple of interceptions out there on the field that we should have made and we didn’t, but you’ve got to give them credit too.”

Rivera was encouraged by the fact that the Chargers’ pass rushers were just a step away several times.  He also believes keeping guys fresh will help the pass rush as well.  The Chargers were a little limited Monday night after Antwan Applewhite left the game with a hamstring injury while Jyles Tucker was inactive.

“We need to keep substituting guys like we did,” Rivera said.  “That’s part of it.  I think Shawne Merriman played a few more snaps than we really wanted him to and we have to monitor that a little better.  We’ve got to get Larry English some more snaps, too.  Larry did some nice things so we’ve got to get guys on the field like that.” 

Phillips and company believe in what they’re being asked to do and are confident that in time they’ll get their sacks. 

“The sacks will come,” Phillips said.  “They come in bunches.  As long as we keep on doing the things we need to do in practice, our run will come.”  

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