I got some of my worries out of the way yesterday. I had my freak out. Now, I have four days to convince myself that the San Diego Chargers will go into Denver and beat the Broncos on Sunday. Let's try it out.
In a lot of ways, Mike McCoy has been very much like Bill Belichick.
Oh, I know. Every coach is "Belichickian" when the team is trying to sell him to their fan base. However, in this instance, it might actually be true.
Bill Belichick's philosophy on coaching is very simple. If his team makes fewer mistakes than the other team, they're more likely to win the game. He has this great speech about the margin of victory in the NFL being so small that doing something as simple as avoiding turnovers can turn any bad team into a playoff team.
- 2012 San Diego Chargers (16 games): 24 fumbles, 15 interceptions
- 2013 San Diego Chargers (17 games): 14 fumbles, 11 interceptions
Want to know how they played the Broncos tight both games this season? In two full games against Denver, the Chargers have turned the ball over zero times. The defense has forced one turnover in each game.
The Chargers won their first playoff game by forcing four turnovers and not turning the ball over once. They'll need to follow a similar formula to beat the Broncos, and it's entirely possible. McCoy's team has played six games without a single turnover, and six more where they turned the ball over only once.
As far as why the Chargers have improved in the past few weeks....
- 2013 Chargers (pre-December): 0.92 takeaways per game
- 2013 Chargers (December & January): 2 takeaways per game
You can talk all day about which offense is better and which defense is better. At the end of the day, the likely winner will be the team that wins the turnover battle, and the Chargers have proven to be adept at that lately.
Some Broncos fans are convinced that the Denver defense is better without Von Miller than with him. I'm not sure how that's possibly, considering he had a six-game span this season where he had 5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Those are the numbers of a game-changer.
In two games against the Chargers this season, Miller totaled 12 tackles and 1 sack. His impact can't just be measured by those stats, though. Miller regularly and thoroughly abused Chargers' blockers and blew up plays that otherwise would have been successful against a defense sporting an average player in his place.
Without Miller, the Broncos' best pass-rusher is former Chargers OLB Shaun Phillips. Maybe I should be, but I am not afraid of Shaun Phillips.
I've started getting very confident in this Chargers team because of the talent on the field. I know, it's weird.
On the defensive side of the ball, the team is 5-0 since the return of Melvin Ingram. This makes a lot of sense, because Ingram's consistent pass rush has allowed John Pagano to get more creative with his gameplan. It's also taken some attention off of Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes, who are playing a lot better in the last month.
On the offensive side of the ball, King Dunlap has been healthy for weeks. Dunlap really has been the key to the offensive line, partly because he's been so good when on the field and partly because the team doesn't really have a backup left tackle (making do with rookie right tackle D.J. Fluker in Dunlap's absence).
In the Chargers' first game against the Broncos this year, Dunlap missed about half of the game with a "neck strain" that many feared was another concussion.
Take a look at this, though. If I take out games that Dunlap missed due to injury, and games in which he left early due to injury (I'm leaving in the Titans game because he played on 92% of the snaps), the San Diego Chargers are 8-3. That means the team is 2-4 when Fluker is at left tackle, which makes a lot of sense.