The Los Angeles Chargers are looking for their seventh straight win. They host the 3-6 Denver Broncos in a divisional rival matchup in Week 11. The Bolts are running hot but they have room for improvement.
The problems on special teams are well documented. Let’s get down to business and analyze three other areas where the Chargers must improve.
Those that have been paying attention will know that the Chargers haven’t made life easy for themselves on third down. To date, Philip Rivers and his offense have completed 33 (second lowest in the league) third downs on 97 attempts, that’s a 34 percent conversion rate.
Putting that into perspective, the Chargers are ranked 27th in the league (Sunday’s opponents aren’t that much better, they’re ranked at 26th in the league).
The Chargers need to improve third-down efficiencies heading into the final stretch. Forcing the ball to Antonio Gates hasn’t always been effective. The veteran tight end is 8-of-14 for 80 yards. Keenan Allen is 12-of-22 and188 yards on third downs. Allen can’t do it all himself. Tyrell Williams has moved the chains, averaging 9.6 yards from 10 receptions.
Austin Ekeler has been a versatile member of the Chargers’ roster. He had five tackles on special teams in Sunday’s win over the Oakland Raiders. Yet Ekeler hasn’t had a great deal of production on third downs, rushing for 16 yards off five attempts, gaining 53 total yards.
When on a third-and-short, Gordon has rushed for 13 yards off five attempts. Gordon has been mixing it up with the catch-and-run but he’s picked up a meager total of 24 yards on third downs.
At the other end of the scale, there’s the Indianapolis Colts, who are just one of two teams with a 50 percent conversion rate on third downs. Colts’ tight end Eric Ebron has a combined total of 201 yards on third downs, with T.Y. Hilton catching for 175 yards.
Whilst offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt works to improve those third-down stats, the Chargers are tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers and are ranked fourth in the league on fourth downs, an 80 percent conversion rate.
Ball security has been a feature for the Chargers this season, who, along with three other teams, have given the ball away the least amount of times (seven). Rivers has thrown four picks through the first nine games. The offensive linemen have done a great job protecting Rivers who has been sacked 12 times.
Gus Bradley’s defense has 10 interceptions and three fumble recoveries on the season. They say that defense wins football games. Desmond King’s pick-six in Seattle backs up that argument. Broncos quarterback, Case Keenum, has thrown 10 picks and the Chargers’ secondary will have opportunities to add to that number in Week 11.
The Cleveland Browns lead the league in takeaways. The Browns have 25 on the season, almost double the Chargers’ tally. Forcing turnovers is going to be key for the Chargers, especially on the road in Kansas City.
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Points Per Game
Although the Chargers have been winning games, the scoreboard has been a little too close for comfort. The London game springs to mind, when on that occasion, one point was enough to secure a Chargers’ fourth straight win.
The New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers are, like the Chargers, steaming toward the playoffs. The difference is that the Chargers are averaging 26.7 points per game. The aforementioned teams are posting more than 30 points per game.
The next two opponents provide the Chargers with an opportunity to keep up their winning streak before facing the Steelers in Week 13. An extra touchdown or two might just reduce the anxiety and nerves that are often associated with following the Chargers.
"Only we can write our path. Nobody else can." pic.twitter.com/j5t5UFHs8j
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) November 14, 2018
Few would have predicted that the Chargers would have been 7-2 at this stage of the season. Who knows how the Chargers’ season will finish. There’s evidence of an improving football team. The players and coaching staff alike know that there is still a ways to go. The Chargers must continue to improve. The Bolts are fired up and their fans are optimistic.