The Chargers won’t get knocked out of the playoffs with a loss on Sunday, but a win keeps them in contention. Here’s how they can handle business.
Before the season began, this was the swing game the Chargers were most in danger of losing. Playing a team as talented and as historic as the Steelers was going to be difficult, with the outcome likely decided by a field goal.
Today, neither team is quite the AFC powerhouse the NFL hoped they’d be when they scheduled them for Sunday Night Football. Ben Roethlisberger is out, as is second-string quarterback Mason Rudolph. It’s down to a guy they call “Duck”. The Chargers themselves are a skeleton of a roster right now, and injuries have prevented them from a better start to the season.
So how can the Chargers avoid a pitiful 2-4 record, and get themselves to an even record once again this season? Here are three keys to victory in Week 6.
Chargers key No. 3: Play with emotions
The Pittsburgh Steelers did not forget the embarrassing loss to the Chargers at home last season, a game they led heading into the second half. This Sunday, the Steelers will be looking for revenge in prime time and will be bringing everything they have.
The Chargers will watch their season be lost if they come out flat and look less passionate than the opposing team. What’s worse, after two dreadful home losses the Chargers are all but guaranteed to lose the home crowd battle once again, just as they did at Qualcomm years ago.
They need to win the crowd early (and silence the opposing fans), as well as extinguish the fire the Steelers are arriving with.
Chargers key No. 2: Throw everything at Devlin Hodges
I guarantee 99 percent of Chargers fans could not tell you who the third-string quarterback for the Steelers was; now, that man gets a chance to start on Sunday.
There are two Chargers responses to unprepared quarterbacks:
- An absolute beat down (Nathan Peterman, Josh Rosen)
- An absolute embarrassment (Chase Daniel)
How will the Chargers respond on Sunday?
What they need to be is aggressive, maybe to the point of giving up big plays at the expense of trying to create turnovers. Here’s what’s not working: Playing zone defense and waiting for something to happen.
Chargers key No. 1: Do what’s best for the team
If Melvin Gordon running the football isn’t working, don’t run with him.
The Chargers need to focus on doing what is best for the team during the four quarters they are scheduled to play. Last week, Anthony Lynn wanted to ease Gordon into action; instead, he gave No. 25 16 total touches. It’s fine if the team wants him to be the starting running back, and it didn’t appear to interfere with Austin Ekeler’s total touches, but using Gordon for the sake of either proving he’s the lead back or justifying retaining him could lead to a loss. Last Sunday, Gordon’s touches resulted in 2.6 yards per carry and 1.8 yards per reception.
If an obvious passing down is next, the defense needs to make the easy adjustment: Pull Denzel Perryman and Thomas Davis in favor of Drue Tranquill and Kyzir White. For reference, Tranquill and White are 31st and 44th in linebacker coverage grades, where Perryman and Davis are 127th and 107th, respectively, according to Pro Football Focus.