The Chargers knew all week they were making a major switch for their Wild Card game against the Ravens.
With Jatavis Brown out, they opted to move Jahleel Addae into the box while inserting Rayshawn Jenkins at free safety.
Basically, the Bolts went with speed, opting to play seven defensive backs on the field.
“It was top secret,” Desmond King said.
Just how long was this plan in the works?
“Right after the game (against the) Broncos,” Jenkins said. “Of course we’re going to keep it a secret. We don’t want them to know our game plan. I knew at the beginning of the week.”
Well, it certainly worked as the Bolts’ confounded the Ravens on their way to a 23-17 victory.
Baltimore entered the game averaging 229.5 yards per game on the ground since Lamar Jackson took over the reins as the starting QB. The Bolts held them to only 90.
In addition, Jackson was only 3-for-10 for 25 yards early in the fourth quarter before the Ravens scored two late touchdowns after trailing 23-3.
“We knew (early) that that was the route that we were going to go in,” Adrian Phillips noted. “It was a great job by our whole defense to buy into it, and that’s what (we) did. Nobody was selfish. Nobody was butthurt. They just said, ‘Hey, this is the best chance we have to win.’ The coaches felt like this was the best chance we had to win, and we went with it.”
“It really worked,” echoed Casey Hayward. “Put some speed on the field. It worked. I think our front four did a phenomenal job all game. Those guys dominated. We knew if we came in here and stopped the run, we were going to win the game.”
The team’s confidence also grew as the game went on, sensing how irritated the Ravens were on offense.
“They were frustrated,” Casey Hayward added. “Especially the receivers. We had done a really good job on them all game. I knew they were frustrated (from the) things they were saying. Good thing we came in here and won. We’ve got to do a better job of trying to finish those games, especially when we’re dominating the team.”
The Bolts’ defense was obviously proud of their performance, and they gave credit to their coaches. Their sentiment was best summed up by Damion Square.
“The game plan was superior,” he said. “We pretty much knew what was going on on all cylinders. (We) played really fast. That’s why the first half looked like that. It was real dominant. We had some good keys. We played these guys before. These guys haven’t changed too much. That was two weeks ago. That’s what happened.”
Overall, the Chargers used seven DBs on all but one defensive snap, trotting them out there for 58 of a possible 59 plays. Meanwhile, according to ESPN, the Chargers used seven defensive backs on only 50 snaps during the regular season (5 percent). In addition, not a single team used that many DBs in a game more than 18 snaps in a game.
So, a tip of the cap certainly goes to the Bolts innovative decision…and Head Coach Anthony Lynn gave exactly that to his staff.
“My hat goes off to Gus Bradley, his staff and they did an outstanding job all week of getting that defense ready for this unconventional style offense,” he said.