Last week featured one of the most complete performances by the San Diego Chargers on both sides of the ball this season. The Bolts showed up defensively to hold Eli Manning and the New York Giants in check while their offense exploded for an impressive output of its own. On Thursday night the team gets a crack at the elder of the NFL’s elite family when Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos welcome San Diego to Mile High. If the Bolts want to have any chance of toppling the AFC West leaders, however, they will have to get Manning on the run early and often.
This task will be made substantially easier than it would have been just a few weeks ago as both linebackers Melvin Ingram and Jarret Johnson are back in the fold for San Diego. With Thomas Keiser continuing his solid campaign as a relative unknown coming into the year and the expected breakout stars on the defensive line in Kendall Reyes and Corey Liuget finally stepping up of late, the Chargers could be peaking at the right time.
Of course the best way to have the pressure get home on Manning is to have solid coverage behind that front seven and force the cerebral signal caller to hang onto the football longer than he would like. A once suspect secondary for the Bolts has actually been solid of late with just two touchdown tosses surrendered in their past two contests. Obviously the Broncos will be looking to change that with their variety of aerial weapons, but if the secondary can hold up for that extra split second perhaps the pass rush will get home on Manning more often than the two sides’ previous encounter.
There will be no tomorrow for the Chargers’ playoff hopes unless they score a win in this game so the added motivation is definitely there for this team to come through on Thursday night. Look for defensive coordinator John Pagano to dial up some exotic pressures to try and confuse Manning from the first meeting a month ago and keep him off balance all night long. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see safety Eric Weddle down in the box acting as a linebacker and bringing some pressure out of that position on more than one occasion.
Every player will have to step up if the Bolts want to avoid turning their attention toward the offseason sooner than they would like. Look for this team to play with urgency and come out with some serious heart to score a win over the Broncos in primetime.