Certainly any team sitting above .500 near the midway point on the NFL season has relied on both sides of the ball at certain junctures to ultimately get them there. The San Diego Chargers are no exception to this fact given their shootout victories against both the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, but recently a much more tranquil trend has developed: Suffocating defense.
Even though the Chargers have surrendered their fair share of yards this season, the defense has been shining exceptionally brightly in recent weeks. In fact, these Bolts heading into their bye week have not allowed an opponent to score a touchdown since October 6, and that most recent score actually happened in the first half of that Week 5 clash with the Oakland Raiders. If you need help with the math, that’s 10 consecutive quarters of action that the Bolts have kept their opponents out of the end zone.
Sure, the detractors will say that last week’s opponent was the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars who have trouble even moving the ball out of their own shadows at times, but the week before that against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts – who just beat the previously undefeated Denver Broncos, mind you – was not a game against a bottom feeder. These Chargers have been stellar on defense with a bend but don’t break attitude that is thriving under the lone holdover on the coaching staff from the Norv Turner era (read: error) John Pagano at defensive coordinator.
The statistics may not be great with the team ranked 26th against the pass, 17th against the run, and 23rd in total defense, but those numbers are based on yardage. Giving up just 20.6 points per game with the 9th best number in the league, the Bolts have been the epitome of a bend but don’t break defense. It’s also worth noting that 21 of the 144 total points allowed by the Chargers have come directly off of turnovers with two Philip Rivers pick-sixes and a Danny Woodhead fumble that was returned for a score. Taking those points away, the Bolts’ 123 points allowed is the fifth fewest in the league right behind the so-called “elite” defense of the Seattle Seahawks.
Obviously it’s too early to make any definitive judgments as to what the Chargers will become this season, but it seems clear this team has developed an identity as a defensive squad. Just a year or two ago that would have seemed unthinkable, but the toughness of a perennially “soft” squad from southern California is finally starting to show. If that continues to hold true for the remainder of the year, there’s no reason this club can’t win outdoors in the cold of January this season.