Pressure up the middle

By Jonah Lee

Dec 22, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle (32) after an interception during the first half against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive coordinator John Pagano will have his work cut out for him as he prepares his defense for a Cincinnati Bengals team that ranked 6th in points and 10th overall in yards. The Bengals team is one of the best teams offensively and equally as lethal on defense that ranks 3rd in yards allowed and 5th in points scored against.

The San Diego Chargers should have no trouble contending on their own offense as Philip Rivers and company ranks 5th in yards and 12th in points scored.

On defense, the Chargers will have to find a way to slow down the run lead by BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard. If the Chargers defense can put a halt to the rushing attack, much like they did to the Denver Broncos, the Bengals will have to rely on the arm of Andy Dalton to beat the Chargers.

Dalton tossed four interceptions during the season finale against the Baltimore Ravens. The Chargers should be prepared to take advantage of Dalton’s propensity to overturn the ball. Over the last several weeks of the 2013 season, the Bengal shifted their interior offensive line, left tackle Andrew Whitworth lined up as a guard during the final five games of the season. The shift change proved beneficial as the Bengals only allowed three sacks in the final five games of the season. When Dalton sees pressure coming up the middle he has a tendency to let loose and throw with less confidence..

What did the Ravens do to rattle Dalton’s accuracy? Was it attack the interior lineman? The Ravens didn’t record a sack on Dalton during that game, but they did enough to get into his head and throw the ball for interceptions. This is what the Chargers must do.

Take advantage of Dalton, rattle his brain, make him turn the ball over and give the offense a chance. Then it will be up to Rivers to make touchdowns and not field goals to an already potent Bengals offense who’s scored 30 or more points in four of their last six games.

Fortunately for the Chargers, the Ravens couldn’t capitalize on their four interceptions that would have punched their ticket to the playoffs. Now the Chargers have been blessed with a playoff berth they will need to prove they deserve it.