Lack of pass rush and third-down efficiency hurts
Posted Oct 20, 2009
Chargers Head Coach Norv Turner said Tuesday that his team’s third-down performance on both sides of the ball was a key factor in the team’s inability to pull out a win Monday night against the Broncos.
The Chargers had just one turnover Monday night and gained just 17 fewer yards than the Broncos on offense, but the big discrepancy on the stat sheet in San Diego’s Week 6 AFC West showdown came on third down.
Denver was an impressive 9-of-16 on third down (56 percent) while the Chargers converted just 2-of-11 (18 percent) in the 11-point loss.
“That game obviously was a very winnable game for us,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “What happens to you when you’re in a game that’s that close, it comes down to a few plays. We didn’t do a good job getting them off the field and we didn’t do a good job converting.”
Turner pointed to the success Denver had in pressuring quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ lack of success in getting to Kyle Orton as key factors in how the two teams faired on third down.
Rivers was sacked five times Monday night, three coming on third down, while Larry English’s first-quarter hit on Orton was the only time the Chargers got to Denver’s quarterback.
“We struggled and obviously what was most significant in those two areas was our inability to get pressure on the quarterback and they did a good job,” Turner said. “We have to have a big emphasis (in practice) on our protections, continue to find ways to get pressure and we need a good emphasis on our third downs on both sides of the football.”
Denver’s aggressiveness on defense presented big-play opportunities, and the Chargers were able to connect on a handful of long gains such as Malcom Floyd’s 20-yard gain in the first quarter and a 21-yard Antonio Gates reception on San Diego’s first touchdown drive.
But when the Broncos did get to Rivers, the plays proved costly. Turner specifically discussed a 3rd-and-3 play that came in the third quarter just after Denver scored to take a 24-23 lead. Gates was running open down the sideline but a breakdown in protection kept Rivers from delivering the ball. Elvis Dumervil hit Rivers on the play and forced a fumble, which Denver recovered and turned into a field goal to extend their lead.
“We’ve got to continue to do a better job handling the pressure,” Turner said. “They’re attacking Scott Mruczkowski, they’re attacking Louis Vasquez and they’re forcing our backs to step up and block, but that’s what teams are going to do to us.”
Through five games, the Chargers have allowed 15 sacks, tied for 10th most in the NFL. Turner has praised Rivers on a few occasions lately for his pocket presence but as teams continue to frequently blitz the Chargers, Turner said he and his staff will have to continue to find ways to combat the pressure schematically.
“We’ve got to do some things where we can get the ball out quicker to help him based on what people are doing to us,” Turner said. “There were some blocks that we’re very capable of making and we need to make those blocks.”
There were areas where Turner felt his team played much better Monday night than they had in previous weeks. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson averaged 3.9 yards per carry and provided explosive plays.
“We need to get into a better rhythm in terms of running the ball,” Turner said.
The Chargers were also much better against the run. Going into Monday’s game, San Diego was giving up an average of 4.6 yards per carry. Denver rushed 33 times for 101 yards against the Chargers, 3.1 yards per attempt on the ground. The return of Travis Johnson and the addition of Ian Scott were factors in the improvement, according to Turner.
“We cut down on the number of snaps that all of those guys have been playing and got a pretty good rotation,” Turner said. “I thought against a team that has run the ball pretty well and has an outstanding offensive line, our run defense did a better job.”