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Red-zone success part of Chargers run

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Jan 2, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    Thursday, Jan 01, 2009
    By Casey Pearce, Chargers.com

    The Chargers have been able to point to several factors for their current four-game winning streak.

    They were plus-six in turnovers in the final month of the season. They won the time-of-possession battle in three of their last four games. They’ve been healthy and have played disciplined football.

    One factor that hasn’t been discussed much in recent weeks, but it’s certainly another reason behind their late-season surge, is the offense’s improved play inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. After the Chargers scored just one touchdown in three trips inside Indianapolis’ 20-yard line during their Week 12 contest, the Bolts had scored touchdowns on just 47 percent of their red-zone opportunities.

    In their final four games, the Chargers were 16-for-21 in the red zone for an impressive 76 percent conversion rate. The Bolts found the end zone on seven of their eight red zone trips last week against Denver.

    “I think we’ve maximized the opportunities we’ve had down there,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “That’s been big.”

    The late push helped the Chargers finish the season ranked 11th in the NFL in red zone offense as they scored touchdowns on 56.9 percent of their drives deep inside the opponents’ territory. The Bolts’ opponent in Saturday’s AFC Wild Card, the Indianapolis Colts, led the NFL with a 68 percent touchdowns rate in the red zone.

    Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is very pleased with the improvement, although he claims there’s been no special reason for the success of late.

    “I don’t think that’s a scheme change or anything other than we’ve just been efficient,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “We’ve run it well down there and we’ve converted. We’ve made some plays.”

    Earlier this season when the Chargers were struggling a bit in the red zone, Turner talked of the continual challenge offenses face in the red zone because of the fact that defenses have such a smaller area to defend. Rivers has been able to make a few plays with his legs, such as a pair of touchdown passes to Antonio Gates two weeks ago in Tampa, and Rivers believes a little improvisation helps sometimes.

    “Some of them have been out of the pocket, backyard-type deals,” Rivers said. “Those are some of the kind you almost have to have down there. Especially when teams just play it so sound when something breaks down somebody pops free.”

    The Chargers’ red zone ability will be put to the test Saturday. Indianapolis finished third in the NFL in red zone defense as they allowed touchdowns on just 40 percent of opponents’ trips inside their 20 yard line.

    “It’s going to be a challenge but it’s going to be key,” Gates said. “This is a good defense and you never know how many chances you’re going to get. You have to make the most of them.”

    Gates, LT rest again

    Chargers Head Coach Norv Turner remains optimistic that Gates (ankle) and running back LaDainian Tomlinson (groin) will be available for Saturday’s showdown. Both players missed practice for a third-consecutive day Thursday.

    “They came out and did some stuff early when we were just kind of going easy,” Turner said. “I think both of them are a lot better than they’ve been. It really will be a Saturday decision. I’m optimistic about both.”

    Turner said that if the game was Thursday he didn’t think Gates would be able to play. When asked the same question about Tomlinson, Turner contemplated a bit and said he thought LT could.

    “We’ve got two days and I’m optimistic,” Turner said.

    Crunch time

    While Rivers led the NFL in passer rating, he was also the NFL’s second-highest rated passer on third down and in the fourth quarter. When asked this week what impresses him most about Rivers, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy cited those statistics.

    “That’s what a quarterback to me is all about,” Dungy said. “You can make throws in the first quarter of games. You can make throws that everybody says, ‘Wow!’ But in the fourth quarter when you need that play, are you going to deliver it and does your team believe you’re going to deliver it? That to me is what separates the great ones and I think he has that.”

    In three years as a starter, Rivers has directed eight fourth-quarter comebacks, including wins in Weeks 15 and 16 at Kansas City and Tampa respectively.

    Double trouble

    Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney deservedly garners much of the attention in the media, but Indianapolis is far from a one-man show up front. Left end Robert Mathis led the club with 11.5 sacks while Freeney had 10.5. Only one other team (Pittsburgh) had two players record at least 10 sacks this season.

    “They really complement each other really well,” offensive tackle Marcus McNeill said. “I really think a lot of the plays that they make are off the play the other guy is making off the other side.”

    McNeill recalled a play where Freeney rushed inside and forced Rivers to step into Mathis, who was rushing straight up the field.

    “It’s really hard because you’ve got to contain both of them,” McNeill said. “They’re both great players who can change games. We have to be smart and play hard.”
  2. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    Our OL better come out ready to play. :unsure:

    And I hope Gates gets healthy - fast. :tup:
  3. Aggieman

    Aggieman I bleed blue and gold

    Aug 14, 2008
    In other words, bolts deliver.

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