The Los Angeles Chargers escaped out of Wildcard Weekend with a 23-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Despite the score, it wasn’t until near the end that it was even that close. That was because of a relentless defense that managed to shut down Lamar Jackson for the vast majority of the game, brought heavily on by the pass rush. They sacked Jackson seven times and held the team to below 100 yards rushing. The latter hasn’t happened to the Ravens in a while. Tom Brady may be a very different kind of quarterback, but regardless of that, the Chargers need to play strong defense like that again to help themselves defeat the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round.
Los Angeles Chargers Defense Needs to Stay Hot Against New England Patriots
The Front Few
Obviously, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are the main leaders of the pass rush and they both played a role in the Ravens win. Ingram particularly stood out, though, as he was making plays both in the backfield and as a pass rusher. Such efforts will be needed to help stifle Brady as well as Sony Michel. Isaac Rochell and Justin Jones and whoever else they might put out there need to help with stopping the run too.
The only issue is that you can’t really do a lot of complete blitzing against Brady, because if enough space is left open in the flats or in short range in general, he’ll just dump it off to James White. In other words, the pressuring does need to be more or less left to the actual defensive ends/tackles. The good thing is that when your main pass rushers are Bosa and Ingram, the quarterback will probably be getting pressured most of the time anyway. And as we saw in the Patriots loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, sometimes putting sufficient pressure on Brady can be the difference.
Defensive Backs as Linebackers?!
Regarding defending some of the short pass game or even helping stop the run, a bizarre thing happened on Sunday. The Chargers linebacker roster was rather depleted. Jatavis Brown was put on injured reserve. After that, there were only five active linebackers. Most of them don’t inspire much confidence (except for rookie Uchenna Nwosu, who forced the game-winning fumble on Sunday).
So, the Chargers did an interesting thing. They put some of their defensive backs where you would normally put linebackers. Namely, safeties. Derwin James and Adrian Phillips spent some time down there. And it was quite effective, as evidenced by how few yards the Ravens were held to for most of the game. Seeing how effective it was, it might be worth doing again. Guys like Phillips have the quickness and physicality to do what needs to be done down there. That could be part of how they keep White from being a factor for the Patriots. It’s hard to say if it’ll be that effective again against a better offense like Brady’s, but it’s definitely worth a try.
The Chargers go into this matchup with a better record (12-4) than the Patriots (11-5). And furthermore, overall the Chargers do seem to have the stronger roster. But on the other hand, Philip Rivers has never beaten Brady, and the weather may also be a factor. Much of this game is likely to come down to how Rivers and Brady play, but how the defense plays may be just as important for the Chargers, if not even more. Anyway, the Patriots are 8-0 at home this year and the Chargers are undefeated outside the city of Los Angeles in general. Something will give on Sunday.
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