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How did the Chargers slow down the Lions offense?

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It took a complete defensive team effort to shut down the Lions offense on Sunday. Thankfully, John Pagano and his players were up to the task. Just how did they do it?

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

I counted 11 missed tackles, 6 blown coverages, and 2 penalties. Generally speaking, that's going to get you blown out by a team that has the weapons Detroit has. This time was different, though; John Pagano adjusted. He didn't bring pressure — the Chargers only blitzed 6 times — but he gave the illusion quite often that pressure was coming. That was more than enough to get Matthew Stafford to play at a faster place than he wanted to.

Fantastic up Front

Tackle Missed Win Stop TFL QB Hit Sack
Liuget 1.5 3 1 0.5
Reyes
Mathews 1
Philon 1 1
Lissemore 1 2 1
Ingram 2 3 1 1 1 1
Emanuel 1.5 1 2 1.5 1
Law 1 1
Butler 5 2 1 1
Te'o 3 6 3 1

I was shockingly disappointed with Ricardo Mathews. He was playing on skates this game and didn't bring the energy that was there a year ago. Manti Te'o's missed tackles speak for themselves. The reason I inserted this is because guys were winning their matchups up front. Last year, when the defense played "well," it was because the Chargers offense kept the opposing team's offense from having the ball.

On Sunday, in between the 1st and last TD drives, Detroit averaged 3.9 yards per play on 8 drives. 4 of those drives were 3–and–outs and 2 of those drives ended in interceptions. That's outstanding. You really can't play any better than that.

How did San Diego do it? By winning up front.

Corey Liuget had a ho-hum 3 wins (just based on last year, any player with 3 or more wins played well) game. That's a hell of a rip move there. The Chargers were able to keep Detroit behind the chains. Even with a loaded offense like Detroit, it's hard to recover from 2nd and 8 or more. You know what that allows? Your pass rushers to pin their ears back. When Melvin Ingram doesn't have to worry about a run threat, he's a different player. Just get out there and be an athlete. That's what he was on Sunday.

If the defense wants to continue its success, they'll have to continue to get pressure with 4-man looks. But I love the idea of "sugaring" different gaps, like the picture below, and making the offensive line second guess themselves. That's what we saw this last Sunday and this led to guys coming free. Detroit had no clue who was coming from where.

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Pagano did exactly what he needed to do on Sunday: put the pressure on the offense to make a mistake. You're going to get burned, no doubt about it. The Chargers gave up 6 plays of 15 yards or more. But eventually if you trust what your game plan, which was getting pressure, the QB is going to buckle under pressure.

The screenshot above resulted in Ingram getting a free run at the QB. Stafford wet the bed; twice. He dumped it off to Abdullah and Kyle Emanuel cleaned it up for a 3 yard loss. The ensuing play, San Diego ran a nice little twist and Emanuel came free, forcing Stafford to leave the pocket and make an errant throw right to Patrick Robinson's face mask.

That's what pressure does, it gets the QB's head spinning up top. They play faster. They drop their eyes when the rush comes. They get rid of it so they don't take the hit, but it leads to some very poor decisions. Here's to hoping that the front 7 continues to hold their own and make the most of their 1-on-1 matchups.

Spectacular Secondary

Wow, man. Just ... wow.

You know how much it sucks when people say "it's not about the X's and the O's but it's about the Jimmy's and the Joe's" and you're on the other side of it? Well if week 1 is any indication, the Chargers finally have the Joes. The 1st third down of the game, Calvin Johnson made Brandon Flowers look silly en route to a 28-yard gain. I was interested to see what adjustment would be made.

Pretty simple: shade your best player his way.

Pagano put Eric Weddle on Calvin Johnson. Whether it was with Flowers sitting on underneath routes and Weddle over the top.

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Or with Flowers in man and Weddle jumping any quick route that could hurt the defense underneath, basically spying Johnson.

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And hell, when in doubt, just put your best player on theirs in man coverage.

That play is insane. To read the QB and jump MEGATRON'S route? Mannn. That Weddle guy is alright.

What it really comes down to is when you bracket the other team's number 1 receiver with 2 players of that caliber, you better have someone on the other side that can hold their own. Golden Tate is without question in my mind one of the most underrated receivers in the league. Fast, strong, can make the tough catches and is a nightmare after the catch.

Robinson looked like the kind of competitor you want at your slot CB, Jimmy Wilson guarding TE's should be just fine, and even though Jahleel Addae was a little late to react on a couple plays, I thought he showed more range and played faster than a year ago.

Neither of these 3 are who I'm talking about.

3 plays. Three. That's what I'm going to show you to describe just how well number 22 for the Chargers played. We all know the play where Jason Verrett blanketed Tate across the middle after giving up a 6 yard catch on 3rd and 10, making the stop to get off the field. Nope. Not talking about that.

The play below isn't a target. Just watch. Watch Verrett's change of direction. Bottom of the screen. It's not sexy but

That's the type of coverage that's needed when you want to bracket a guy on the other side. I imagine the same is going to come next week with A.J. Green on the opposite side.

One area that has plagued this team in years past is poor tackling at the corner position. I mentioned how ridiculous Tate is with the ball in his hands. How's this for an open field tackle?

Avoid a blocker and make a stop for 1. Not too shabby. That's the kind of effort you love to see. Just do whatever it takes to make the play. Love that.

Finally, when you're going to be on an island, or just in general in this league, teams are going to take a shot deep on you. Do you remember the days where the teams DBs just refused to get their head around?

Hard to critique that.

Other Takeaways

  • For the first time in forever I thought Donald Butler did a good job of playing downhill and aggressive. That's a great sign.
  • They didn't play much, but Sean Lissemore and Darius Philon both got after the QB in limited opportunities. Another good sign.
  • Going to need Mathews to bounce back in a big way, Kendall Reyes is, at best, just a guy out there right now. The team needs the energy he brought a year ago.
  • As disastrous as Te'os tackling was, he still made plays. He just needs to learn how to finish. He'has to get that corrected.
  • Not awesome that neither the 2nd nor 3rd round picks saw the field.
  • From a football IQ standpoint, Emanuel is already one of the smartest players on the field.