Most talk regarding the San Diego Chargers' 19-3 win over the Arizona Cardinals will revolve around the play of the Bolts' secondary. That's only natural after their standout quarter of action, highlighted by two interceptions including a pick six.
What shouldn't be overlooked was the drastic improvement by the team's run defense.
One week after surrendering 288 yards on the ground, the Chargers proved stout at the point of attack. They gave up 63 yards on 21 carries, limiting Arizona to only 3.0 yards per attempt. Even more impressive was how they limited the Cardinals to 17 yards on 12 attempts (1.4 yards per carry) in the first half.
"The biggest difference for us in the run defense is that everybody was doing their job," said Manti Te'o. "Everyone trusted each other, and everybody made their play. And they didn't make it for themselves, they did it because they wanted to make it for their brother. When we stick together as a defense and we play like that, we're going to do well."
That sense of camaraderie was shared by the entire defense following the win.
"We all went out with the mindset to stop the run and play as one unit," added Darius Philon. "We all are a piece to this puzzle, one through 11. When we all do what we have to, everything goes smooth and the defense gets the stops."
Arizona boasted one of the top rushing attacks in the league last year, and routinely gashed defenses with chunk plays. Another focal point heading into the game was to eliminate the big play after allowing 71 and 41-yard TDs against the Tennessee Titans. The Bolts accomplished that goal, as the only rush longer than eight yards against them was a third-quarter 18-yard scamper by Kerwynn Williams.
"(We) did a nice job and didn't give up a lot of big plays," Head Coach Mike McCoy said. "There weren't as many big plays as last week…This game is about an opportunity. From week to week in the preseason you get an opportunity and (you) play. So I'm happy."
One man who wasn't happy was Denzel Perryman, as the second-year inside linebacker reacted angrily after barely missing a safety early in the game. It looked like he had the running back dead in his sights in the end zone, but he spun out of number 52's grasp and was able to make it back to the line of scrimmage. That type of fire and passion after making a play, but not the big play, in a preseason game is the type of attitude the Bolts are trying to instill.
"Our mindset coming in was to be better," Denzel Perryman said. "We weren't satisfied with how we played last week. Coach (John) Pagano wasn't satisfied. Today we answered the challenge he gave us….(With the near safety), I don't like missing plays. Honestly, I was thinking (to make) a big hit because that's a linebacker's dream. I should have just gone and made the tackle. It's just self-corrections (I'll have to make). I've got to make that play."