Refusing to turn the ball over and being efficient in the red zone have always been recipes for success for any offense in any era. Failing to follow through on those benchmarks are devastating, as the Chargers found out against the Patriots last month.
Good offenses, however, typically will convert third downs at key junctures in the game and that is exactly what the Chargers have done thus far this year. Even without the threat of Antonio Gates for two games, the Chargers have been successful on 58% (31 of 53) of their third down attempts. That makes them the premier third down offensive unit thus far this year.
Malcom Floyd perfectly executing a sideline route and Philip Rivers scrambling for seven yards were just some of the third down heroics today. Both those examples came in the fourth quarter. Last season, the Bolts had a 44.9% conversion rate on third down, which was good enough for fourth in the league. 2009 saw them sport a nearly identical 44.7%.
A top-tier defense has yet to cross paths with the Bolts and offensive numbers are up across the entire NFL. Maintaining their current rate will be difficult as they still must face off against defenses like the Packers, Jets, and Ravens. If they finish above 50%, they would join a select group of teams. Only four teams since 2002, have been successful on 50%+ of their third down attempts. All of those teams made the playoffs.
Of course, the Chargers had the number one offense (most yards gained) and defense (least amount of yards allowed) last year and that did not translate into a postseason berth. Only one thing gets you to the postseason and that is victories. It is the most important statistic and the Bolts are leading the pack in the AFC West through the quarter point of the season.