<img src="http://photos.signonsandiego.com/gallery1.5/albums/060917titans/SMHChargers260192x0013.jpg" alt="Philip Rivers scrambles vs Titans in 2006" height="182" width="274" />
By Curtis Egan
<em>BoltTalk Staff Writer</em>
It has been a few weeks since I have done a game preview, holidays, health, and work all conspired to force a few weeks off. But I am back at the key board pecking out my thoughts on the up coming game.
The Chargers roll into Nashville, Tennessee this weekend to face a dangerous Titans team, who is a very good team, and match the Chargers in the win loss column at 7 and 5 on the season. The Titans are a strong running, tough defense team lead by a very good head coach in Jeff Fisher. The Titans passing game is struggling a bit, but their young Quarterback, Vince young is a real threat. He can pass on the run, or scramble for a first down in the blink of an eye. Young himself is coming off a recent game against the Denver Broncos where he ran the ball for 74 yards and a touchdown.
Both teams are coming off of wins, the Chargers having defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, while the Titans narrowly beat the Houston Texans at home, 28-20. The Titans made their breaks against the Texans, creating two key turnovers during the game and controlling the clock with a deceptive running game that keeps the ball in the Titans' hands.
The Chargers have been making turnovers as well, and currently lead the league with 20 interceptions. Cornerback, Antonio Cromartie leads the team with 8 interceptions on only 4 starts. He has helped revitalize the Chargers secondary who are having more success in shutting down the pass than they enjoyed early in the season.
Both teams know how to get after the opposing quarterbacks, the titans do it with their big bodied Defensive Linemen, While the Chargers use their fast, and athletic line backers to get sacks. Both units have compiled 19 sacks amongst their starters and this battle looks like both teams will have to try and protect the passer all day long. The Chargers are currently tied for 7th in the league in regards of sacks, having a total of 31, while the Titans rank 14th with 27. Not a big margin there, but one that could prove instrumental in the outcome of the game.
This game could very well come down to special teams, as both teams seem to match up well defensively and offensively. Currently the Chargers have the edge in special team production by a slight margin. Both teams have good return games and generally get good production from their returners. The Chargers currently rank 3rd in the league in Kickoffs while the Titans rank 9th. The Chargers rank 14th on Punts, with the Titans weighing in at 20th giving the Chargers a slight advantage on paper but not an over powering one.
<strong><em>Chargers on Offense, Titans on Defense:</em></strong>
Quarterback Philip Rivers is playing better, but can still be rattled by pressure and does not always conduct himself well in the face of adversity. This last game Rivers threw a ball that had been batted backwards, earning a yellow flag for delay of game. The five yard penalty did not prove too costly for the Chargers but it is never good to give a team a free five yards on account of a hissy fit.
That said, the game against Kansas City was a good one and must have given the offensive team a boost. They did not have to rely on Tight End, Antonio Gates in the passing game, Gates had one reception for -1 yards, and the Chargers still one. Receivers, Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson stepped up their games to provide needed receptions to score and kept drives alive. On one receptions Chris Chambers, the smallest of the Chargers Wide Receivers did his best imitation of a pin ball, as he caught the ball and was bounced between two defenders with hard hits before going to the ground. Chambers had the final laugh as the referee made the catch motion with his arms and signaled first down.
The Chargers offense seems to be starting to improve at the right time, part of that may be the return of Center Nick Hardwick who returned to solidify the offensive line. The game also saw some good pulling plays from Mike Goff, and a nice job of replacement playing by backup guard Scott Mruczkowski who helped open the lanes on a touchdown run by Running back, LaDainian Tomlinson.
Offensively The Chargers numbers leave a lot to be desired, but they do not paint the whole picture either. The Chargers overall rank 22nd on offence, 15th in running offense, and 22nd in passing offense respectively. So on paper it looks like this should be an easy game for a Titans team that ranks 6th overall defensively, 8th against the pass and 7th against the run. But as stated above the Chargers are improving, and no game is played on paper, a lesson the Chargers learned in Minnesota.
The Chargers are going to have to win the nasty battle in the trench; this will be no easy task either. As stated above, the Titans defensive line have accumulated 19 sacks as a unit. All across the Titans play well, their lineman with the fewest sacks on the season has 3 in 9 games.
Defensive End, Kyle Vanden Bosch has 39 tackles, 6 sacks and 3 forced fumbles on the season, on the opposite side of the line, Defensive End, Antwan Odom has 16 tackles, 5 sacks on the season. Defensive Tackle, Tony Brown has 43 tackles, 3 sacks and 1 forced fumble on the season, while his counterpart, Defensive Tackle, Albert Haynesworth has 32 tackles, and 5 sacks on the season. It is a pro bowl filled line with an athletic line backing corps behind them.
The Chargers will have to open wholes in the running lanes in this game, the Titans play the pass very stoutly, and they will probably play 8 in the box to stop Tomlinson and the Chargers running game. If the Chargers find any success in the run, they will try and sneak a Safety up to put 9 in the box, which should open some passing games.
The Chargers though will have to go with a fast passing game, and the Titans will not give Rivers 5 to 7 seconds to let a play develop. They will come after Rivers with the linemen, who are excellent, pass rushers and at least one line backer. The Chargers will have to get the ball out quickly and exploit the short passing lanes to beat the rush.
Phillip Rivers has 15 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a passers rating of 80.4 on the season. He will have to control the ball and make good decisions against the opportunistic Titans defense.
The Chargers should also be able to get some mismatches with Gates and the Titans Secondary. Considering the Chargers will probably keep a tight end or receiver in the backfield to block, the Chargers should be able to get Gates or Chambers manned up on a single defender on the sidelines. If they can do that, Rivers can deliver the ball high and rely on Chambers jumping ability, and Gates' height to go up for the reception.
Stopping the bull rush on the Quarterback will be the biggest task the Chargers face, if they can do that with any regularity they will be able to find offensive success against this stout defense. The Titans currently have a -4 giveaway/take away ratio, they also rank 14th in the league in sacks.
<p id="post_message_350483"><strong><em>Chargers on Defense, Titans on Offense: </em></strong>
The Chargers have been improving their pass rush as of late. This is partly due to the improved coverage by the secondary. The Chargers have had success against the pass of late, especially in intercepting the opposing passers. The Chargers currently rank number one in the league in interceptions with 20 on the season. Over half of those interceptions have come in the last five games. This is where the Chargers can find success against the Titans.
Currently the Titans are ranked 20th overall offensively, 26th in passing, and 5th running. The Chargers defensively rank 20th overall, 22nd against the pass, and 20th against the run. On paper again it looks like the Titans outclass the Chargers, but reflect on the last five games and you will see that the Chargers have improved defensively quite a bit, and if they can get some turnovers in the passing game it will equal things out.
The Titans will look to over power the three defensive linemen of the Chargers and run the ball down the Chargers throat. This will force the Chargers to bring three linebackers up into run support if the Titans find success. This will cause the Chargers to play more single coverage's in the secondary.
Though the Titans have a high ranking rushing game, the numbers their running backs have accumulated are not awe inspiring. LenDale White, has 754 yards on the season with a 3.6 average per carry, he has six touchdown on the season. Chris Brown, part of the Titans running back by committee has 388 yards on the season with a 4.9 average and 2 touchdowns. Vince young also factors in, and is dangerous when running to avoid pressure. He had 44 yards rushing in the last game for an 8.8 yards per run average.
The Chargers might be forced to commit a line backer or Safety to shadow young in case he begins to scramble out of the pocket. This could provide some coverage concerns and passing opportunities.
In the passing game Young has struggled this season though. He has 7 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, and a passers rating of 68.9. He can throw the ball up for grabs, and the Chargers are a secondary that can pull the ball down. The Titans offensive line has been together all season long, three of their four starters have started all their games, and one has started 9 this season.
This battle will come down to pressure. The Chargers will have to pressure Young and force him to throw the errant pass. If they can do that, the statistical numbers mean nothing.
The Chargers currently have a +11 giveaway/take away ratio, they also are tied for 7th in the league in sacks.
The monkey and the wrench:</em></strong>
Turnovers. No other way to put it. Both passers have thrown ugly interceptions this season, and the difference will be the pass rush. Which team can rattle the young Quarterback out of their comfort zone will have a much better chance at winning the game. The Chargers pass rush has been improving as has the coverage of its secondary, the twelfth man in music city can make a difference.
Special Teams will also be a big area to watch. The team that gets the best return game will have a huge leg up against these stingy defenses. This game could come down to a field goal, and if that is the case, the best return game could very well win this.
<strong><em>Concudan's Prognostication: </em></strong>
The Chargers seem to be getting hot. They will need to be hot to beat this Titan team at home. They are a good team, and one that cannot be looked past. That said I see the Chargers getting turnovers and good returns to pull out another close win on the road.
<strong><em>Chargers 20, Titans 17.</em></strong></p>