This Sunday is a must win for the San Diego Chargers. Their game against the St. Louis Rams is their last game against a team with a record under .500. Not to mention that St. Louis is 1-4 on the road. Coming into this contest the Chargers are just one game behind the Broncos in the AFC West, with a win they have a chance to move into a first place tie with Denver. This game is huge for momentum going down the stretch.
Establish the Run Game Early
In last week’s huge win over the Broncos, the Rams held Denver’s high-powered offense to a measly seven points. A huge reason the Rams were so dominant on defense was because the Broncos rushed for a total of twenty-eight yards on the game. They relied on their passing game (which they normally do) and the Rams were ready. The secondary, knowing that the Broncos don’t run, intercepted Manning twice. Knowing that the Chargers also don’t have a strong running game, the Rams are very likely to use this same strategy. A successful running game using the newly healthy Ryan Mathews and Brandon Oliver is vital to keeping the Rams secondary on their toes and for success in the passing game. The Chargers need to pound the ball with Matthews. It is imperative for the Chargers to keep both of these backs healthy.
Protect Philip Rivers
Because Rivers isn’t a very mobile quarterback, it is very important that the Chargers offensive line protects him well.This will give Rivers more time in the pocket to find his receivers and get the ball to them downfield. It’s key that Rivers finds Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, and Eddie Royal down the field to get the ball into the red zone to either push the ball across or use Nick Novak, one of the most consistent place kickers in the NFL. These three go-to receivers have combined for eighteen of the teams’ twenty-one receiving touchdowns on the year, so it’s crucial that Rivers has some time in the pocket to find them. Much of the success for this game relies on the shoulders of Philip Rivers.
The third key to this game is to change the play calling which has been too conservative as of late. The Chargers have been consistently throwing the ball into the flat and not enough downfield. The play calling needs to be more open so Rivers can get the ball down the field to their speedy receivers. Because the Chargers throw short all the time, other teams have adapted and adjusted and that’s why they haven’t been winning lately. They need to throw down the field more to stretch the field so there’s more gaps for the passing lane.
The Chargers’ defense has playing well, they just need to work on their pass blocking coming into this game. They need to give Rivers time in the pocket so he can get the ball down the field and throw something other than the usual five yard slant. Once they stretch the field they will score more reliably and will have no problem consistently getting the ball into the red zone for more TD’s and more of Nick Novak.