The San Diego Chargers have been one of the best offensives in the league all year. The problem for this team has been their defense. They rank in the lower half out of all the teams in the league and they have given up more yards than they have gained in their last three games. Still, they somehow found a way to win through the bad play on defense. Too bad that won’t be enough for them to continue winning playoff games.
The last time they put up more offensive yards than their opponents was in a win over the Denver Broncos — the same team they will face on Sunday afternoon in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. This puts them in the perfect position to repeat their performance from their last meeting with the Broncos.
If the Bolts are going to upset Peyton Manning and the Broncos, they will need the defense to step up. Players like Eric Weddle, Donald Butler and Melvin Ingram will be key in this game. We saw each of these players make huge plays in their win last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, so it is reasonable to believe they can mirror their performance.
Weddle has been solid all season, but he has not forced as many turnovers as he usually does. He finished the season with only two interceptions and one forced fumble, although he did rack up 115 total tackles in 16 games played. He will have to be a game-changer on Sunday, not just another tackler.
Butler came into the season without a load of upside after a great 2012 campaign. He was clearly in line to becoming the heir to Weddle’s throne. 2013 was not as good as his prior season, but he seemed to find that fire last week in Cincinnati. He forced the most important turnover of the game — forcing a fumble just as the Bengals were poised to score a touchdown. It caused a monumental change in the game’s momentum. If he can bring it like he brought it last week, then the Bolts will be in great shape.
The biggest surprise to me last week was the play of Ingram. He had been so ineffective since he was drafted in the first round. He was targeted as the Chargers’ lead pass-rusher, but a bad year followed by a major injury had put his career at a standstill. Something clicked within him last week and the world saw what they expected to see coming out of college. Ingram was active and made a difference for his team. He delivered the knockout punch with a late interception and he put pressure on the quarterback for four quarters. His play was detrimental to the Chargers winning that game and it will be déjà vu if he can come through with big plays this Sunday.
We all know the Chargers’ bread and butter comes on the offensive end. Philip Rivers will be good as usual and their running game will be there to back him up. The emergence of Keenan Allen has made it much easier for them to score, and the addition of Danny Woodhead has been a nightmare for the opposition. Still, the defense will be the key to this team making it to the AFC Championship game next week. If they find a way to apply pressure and force turnovers, then the Bolts will be walking out of Denver with huge smiles on their faces.