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Bolts Explain Plan for Tom Brady

Playing at their highest level of the season, the Chargers defense heads to Foxborough fresh off a shutout of the Denver Broncos.

Asking them to keep the scoreboard clean again would be a daunting task.

After all, the Chargers face a Patriots team that boasts the league's number one offense (410.7 ypg), ranks second in passing (300.0 ypg) and sixth in points (27.9).  They've surpassed 20 points in six of their seven games, scoring at least 30 points in three. 

The offense boasts a number of playmaking targets in the passing game, as five different players have caught at least 28 passes.  Meanwhile, the ground game is powered by four running backs who each bring something different to the table.

Still, one man makes it all tick.

Tom Brady.

At 40 years old, the two-time league MVP and four-time Super Bowl MVP is still putting up video game numbers.  The 18-year veteran leads the league in passing yards (2,208) and completions (174) while ranking second in TDs (17).

It goes without saying that the Bolts have the utmost respect for the quarterback.

In fact, even though he doesn't face off against Brady, Philip Rivers admits he looks forward to playing against the Patriots knowing he guides the opposition.

"I really do," he said.  "I don't try to shy away from that. I don't feel like I'm playing Tom Brady by any means, but it's still a big deal to me, as a fan of quarterbacks, all those times getting to go against Peyton Manning (and Brady). I've still allowed myself to be that fan, in a sense, to have that love for the game. That love for the position; that's what I grew up with. I didn't really grow up an NFL fan, I grew up loving quarterbacks. The quarterbacks were the ones I had posters of, the quarterbacks were the ones I picked what numbers I liked."

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The Chargers haven't been shy about what they must do to disrupt the Patriots offense.  The game plan is rather simple; they must get to the quarterback. 

It helps that the Bolts own one of the league's best pass rushes as they rank fourth in the NFL with 23 sacks.  New England's head coach Bill Belichick even said Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram present the biggest challenge his team has faced all season.

Still, getting pressure on Brady is easier said than done.  Watching film to find ways to game plan getting to the quarterback, Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley noted how the Pats effectively cover up any potential weaknesses.

"His decision-making is good," said Bradley.  "Before the pressure can get to him, usually the ball is out when you look at the release and how fast he gets rid of the ball. I think a lot of teams would say, 'Hey, you want to pressure him up the middle, force him to honor the pocket,' but that's tough to do with their protections and what they do. They're going to try and protect that as much as possible. I think their offensive line, it's really the same group they had last year. They do a good job of protecting them. I know they've given up 18 sacks, but overall, their scheme and how they protect (as) they chip and get guys involved. It's been very good for them."

While he's been sacked 18 times, which is the 12th-most in the league, Brady has remarkable pocket presence that allows him to evade pressure.  Even at 40, the QB still has the knack for making a man miss, and then making the defense pay.

"He will not run around like some quarterbacks, but he moves in the pocket very well," Head Coach Anthony Lynn explained.  "He can create open throwing lanes and windows as good as anybody. That's what makes him so good; his ability to move in the pocket and get the ball to his eligible receivers."

"He has a very good pocket presence," added defensive end Chris McCain.  "He knows what he can drop back to, and basically, he's aware of defensive alignments.  Their rushes and their targets as far as angles to get to the quarterback."

Thus, it's a tough task for Bradley when he sits down to figure out the best mismatch for his defense.

"Sometimes you're based off of matchups. Just like on offense, your coordinator's looking for DB-wide receiver matchups. We also look for the same in O-line and D-line matchups. But there's also protection things we look at, too. The types of protections, and how we want to attack that."

However, defensive end Chris McCain said trying to game plan too much can sometimes backfire.  He says the Bolts will go out and play to their own strengths, and not try to do too much.

"You've just got to keep working as a defensive lineman.  Rush and cover have got to work together.  Our cover guys trust us to get there, so we trust them to hold on for a couple seconds and let us work so we can get there.  We've got to work on trying to have him hold the ball and keep the ball in his hands.  Just let us go hunt."

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