The Arizona Cardinals raced out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter behind 108 yards of total offense.
They managed just 41 yards the rest of the game as the Chargers shut them down, and shut out Josh Rosen and company.
“After those first 12 minutes of the game, our defense was hot,” said Head Coach Anthony Lynn.
That’s putting it mildly.
The 149 total yards allowed by the Bolts were the fewest in a single game since they allowed 67 against the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 12, 2010, putting into perspective how dominant the team was on defense.
“It says a lot about this team,” Joey Bosa said. “We came back, took control and dominated the rest of the game. These wins don’t come easy. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. So, I think it’s about staying humble, know where we were a few years ago and keep that same hunger. As Phil (Rivers) said, stay a little salty.”
They certainly were salty when it mattered most, especially in what proved to be the turning point of the game when suddenly being thrust into action following a turnover.
With the Bolts trailing 10-7, Rodney Gunter hit Philip Rivers as he cocked back to throw, knocking the ball loose and recovering it at the Chargers’ 35-yard line. It looked like Arizona would add to their lead with at least a field goal, but the defense rose to the occasion to keep them off the board.
On 1st-and-10, Darius Philon and Joey Bosa gobbled David Johnson up after a gain of just one yard. Then, Michael Davis and Jatavis Brown forced a pair of incompletions, setting up a 46-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide left.
Taking over with 9:40 left in the half, the Bolts went on to score 21-straight points to close out the second quarter, entering halftime with a 28-10 lead.
“That was huge, man!” said a fired up Jatavis Brown. “We live for those moments as a defense. Just to go out and put out the fire, that’s what we live for.”
“It was huge,” added Adrian Phillips. “That first drive, they tried to give us everything they’ve got, and we had to wake up. It was a big statement for us to get that three-and-out on the turnover. After that, we just took off.”
Philip Rivers agreed wholeheartedly.
“That was huge,” he said. “I probably should have just eaten (the ball) at that point (on the fumble). Then our D goes three-and-out, they miss the field goal. From there, we had just scored seven, and we continued it.”
While it was a true team effort, several individual performances demand special attention.
The first is Joey Bosa, who had two sacks in his second game since returning from a foot injury that cost him over half the season. He now has the fourth-most multi-sack games (seven) in the NFL since entering the league in 2016.
“He’s a beast,” Isaac Rochell said. “I was telling him I was frustrated because I thought I had good rushes on those pass downs, but I was like, ‘This man is back here in half a second!’ It’s just nice having him back. I think we really clicked as a d-line today. It felt good to have energy and it felt good to celebrate with him. He just did a great, great job.”
After knocking the rust off last week, Bosa said he felt like his old self.
“(Last week) was more just about me worrying about my foot and whether I’d make it through,” he explained. “Would it be able to withstand as many plays? And after last week, I felt confident. This whole week of preparation has been more just about football than worrying about my body.”
Meanwhile, Derwin James had a key interception in the second quarter, setting up L.A.’s third touchdown of the day. In the process, he became the first defensive rookie since 2012 (LB Zach Brown) to register multiple interceptions and at least 3.5 sacks. The last Charger to put those types of numbers up in his rookie campaign was Leslie O’Neal in 1986.
“(The pick) was great,” he said. “I was trying to score. I was mad at myself I couldn’t get it in the end zone. I got the ball to the offense, and you see what happens when you put the ball in Phil’s hands. He was 28-of-29 today. That’s our main thing – trying to get the ball to our offense.”