This is what defensive players dream about.
Leading by one score with the game on the line with a chance to win it for the team.
That’s the exact situation the Chargers found themselves in with 3:11 remaining. Bryce Petty and the Jets had the ball at the Bolts’ 17-yard line facing a 4th-and-7.
The quarterback dropped back, surveyed the field and went to his number one target. It didn’t matter that Robby Anderson was going against the Chargers’ top cornerback in Casey Hayward.
Petty had all but determined he was going for his big play receiver.
However, in true Casey Hayward fashion, the Pro Bowler had perfect coverage, using his leverage and technique to keep Anderson away from the ball as the Chargers took over on downs.
“It feels good to get those third and fourth down stops late in the game,” Hayward said afterward. “It changes everything. I wasn’t surprised they threw it at me. What are they supposed to do? They are supposed to trust their people. I just used good technique. I don’t know, maybe they should try the other side next time. I’m a really good player!”
As his teammates said, they expect nothing less from the NFL’s leader in passes defensed.
“Casey is a technique cornerback,” said Desmond King. “He knew they were probably going to throw a fade up to him, so he played off. He had great technique and read the play. If anything, I’m surprised he didn’t get the interception.”
“He’s the number one corner in the league,” added Jahleel Addae. “That’s all I need to say.”
Meanwhile, Addae couldn’t help but think of an important message Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley constantly hammers home. In this moment, they rewarded his vision for what it means to be a truly great defense.
“We live for that,” he said. “I feel like we’re a top defense in the league, and that’s what we live for. Coach Bradley always says you know you’re a good defense when you control the outcome of the game. We did just that.”
“That’s definitely what we live for,” added King. “When it’s the fourth quarter, and you’re trying to get a stop on defense, it literally comes down to those last couple plays. At that point, your defense has to anchor down and ball out. Just stay focused.”
Those situations aren’t always easy on Philip Rivers.
After all, he no longer has control of the situation.
However, with the way the defense has been playing, he had no doubt in his mind how it would play out.
“Our defense has shown time and time again that they can make stops,” he said. “They’ve been great all year. It’s fun to see them do it, and fun to see them believe they are going to do it. I think guys on the sideline all believed we were going to get the stop.”
While the defense’s red zone stand all but sealed the win, Hayward made sure to put the cherry on top with no time left on the clock. After Drew Kaser pinned the Jets back, the home team tried a number of laterals to pull out a miracle and tie the game.
Then Hayward came and met Elijah McGuire.
“I got a forced fumble and fumble recovery,” Hayward said with a grin. “I wanted to end it in style.”