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Chargers' D Makes Major Statement Sunday to Rest of the League

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The last two Chargers' wins came with the defense on the field, protecting every inch with a pair of dramatic passes defensed in the end zone.

Sunday in Oakland, the defense faced another high-leverage situation; however, instead of the end of the game this one came on the first drive.

After the Raiders successfully ran a fake punt, Derek Carr hit Brandon LeFell to move the home team to the Chargers' seven-yard line.

Then the Bolts did what they do best.

They kept the Raiders out of the end zone on three straight plays, setting up 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line. Instead of kicking the field goal, Jon Gruden rolled the dice and went for it.

Little did he know it was doomed to fail before it was even snapped.

You see, Derwin James identified exactly what was coming, and sure enough, he made the clutch stop to keep the Raiders out of the end zone, setting the tone for the rest of the game.

"I was in man-to-man, and I saw the receiver coming in motion," James recalled. "I knew 17 (Dwayne Harris) was in the game for one reason - they want to give him the ball. So when I saw him, I knew what they were going to do, and I wanted to make the play. The coaches prepared me, and then just working with AP (Adrian Phillips) and the guys watching the film and breaking it down. I saw it, too. It was there, I knew it was coming and we were able to get the stop."

All in all, the defense kept the Bolts in the game even though their backs were up against the wall for the first 20 minutes. In addition to that fourth down stop, they also limited the Raiders to a field goal despite having to defend a short field. They also forced a pivotal turnover on Melvin Ingram's strip sack. 

Oakland's first three possessions could have put the game out of reach as the Bolts' offense had run only six plays over that span. Instead, Gus Bradley's unit rose to the occasion as L.A. trailed by only a field goal despite their sluggish start.

"The first half (it felt like) they had the ball the whole time," Head Coach Anthony Lynn said. "We may have had it three or four minutes, I don't know, but our defense did a heck of a job of holding those guys to field goals and not touchdowns. It was just outstanding. It's what they've been doing all year. That's the type of defense Gus has built and, and those guys respond every time when they get in those situations, so I was proud of them."

He wasn't the only one as the offense was grateful for the job the defense did keeping them in the game.

"Credit to our defense (for) just holding those guys (to three points early)," Melvin Gordon said. "I think they tried to do what Seattle did and just hold the ball and keep it out of our hands. Obviously, it didn't help us going three-and-out. But bend don't break, and that's what our defense did. They've been coming up big for us so kudos to them.

"To be out there as much as they were, heck of a job," Philip Rivers added. "Look what the defense did in general, holding them to six points, two field goals. Anytime you do that, you almost count that as a shutout the way I think about it. Keeping a team out of the end zone is hard, and they had a stop, again a fake punt, go right back out there, get a goal-line stand, and they held them to three in the first half. They got another one late when it was 17-3. I didn't know if they were going to kick it or not. Had it have been a little closer they may have gone for it there so our defense was able to fill a lot. They did a real nice job."

As Rivers noted, the Chargers kept Oakland out of the end zone the entire game, which is an incredibly rare feat in this day and age. 

"In this league, it's hard to get victories," Ingram said. "But to keep a team out of an end zone? Shoot, that's big!"

Casey Hayward offered a similar sentiment.

"Really, as a defensive guy, to hold somebody under 20 (in this era) is always good," he said. "Besides that one game on this win streak, we've been holding everybody under 20. We've been playing at a high level on defense, especially holding guys to (fewer) points and (forcing) field goals and things like that. No matter who you're playing, when you go out there and hold somebody to only field goals, you're doing a good job."

When all was said and done, the defense made a major statement to the rest of the league, as best summed up by Derwin James.

"We make (offenses) earn every (inch)," he said. "It doesn't matter the situation. We bend but don't break. We know no matter what, when the time comes, we're going to get off the field. We have a lot of pride. It's hard in this league to get (stops), especially at this level and especially with a quarterback like Derek Carr. It's hard, especially on the road…Teams are going to pick up first downs. But when it counts, we've been able to stop them."

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