As the Chargers look to continue their hot streak, they matchup against a tough Washington team.
Led by the arm of Kirk Cousins the Redskins sit at 5-7 and are an afterthought in the NFC playoff picture. That still doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly. Washington has quality wins over Seattle and the Los Angeles Rams both coming on the road. They also came just short of defeating New Orleans and Minnesota.
Despite a plethora of injuries, the Redskins have managed to stay in every ball game.
Clearly, Los Angeles will have its hands full against Washington.
Here are the five keys to the matchup against Washington.
Applying Pressure to Cousins
With Redskins tackles Morgan Moses and Trent Williams dealing with injuries, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will have all the opportunity to get after the quarterback. So far this season, Cousins has been sacked 35 times. By comparison, Philip Rivers has only been sacked 13 times.
The Chargers have no problem applying pressure and it will be paramount against a Washington offense that loves to air it out. Although he only has eight interceptions on the year, Cousins is prone to making mistakes.
Feeding Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry
Keenan Allen has had a historic three-game stretch and will look to carry that momentum yet again. Allen will be matched up against Josh Norman, one of the best corners in the NFL. However, the Chargers could use Allen as a decoy and attack the rest of Washington’s subpar secondary.
It’s old news by now, but whenever the Chargers target Hunter Henry five or more times a game, they almost always win. When they don’t they are 0-5. Something tells me that Henry will yet again get his fair share of targets against a suspect defense.
Throughout the winning streak, Los Angeles has coordinated drives that featured both talented receivers. As the running game continues to falter, it will be up to Philip Rivers to get these guys involved.
Field Goal Kicking
Nothing is more stressful than watching the Bolts attempt a field goal. Now that Travis Coons is around, the stress level may be a little lower.
After missing his first attempt against Cleveland, he made his next four and gained some confidence. Coons doesn’t have the strongest leg, but if he is automatic from about 40 yards, he’s doing his job.
It’s a simple key, but Coons needs to make kicks. Against a good team, the Chargers can’t afford to leave points on the field.
Protecting the football
Of late, Rivers has done a great job of taking care of the football. He hasn’t thrown a pick in three games and is having one of his best campaigns in recent years. At the moment, the Bolts are plus-11 in turnover differential.
In the last five games, Rivers has thrown the ball at least 30 times. Assuming the trend continues, Rivers can’t force throws down the field. More often than not, Rivers will take a chance and try to make a big play on his own. He needs to play within himself and try not to play hero ball.
On the other hand, Melvin Gordon has done a great job at taking care of the ball. ESPN’s Eric Williams shared an impressive stat.
Melvin Gordon had eight fumbles in his first two seasons, but according to ESPN Stats & Information now leads the NFL with 249 touches this season without a fumble. https://t.co/c8czF6LYCg— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) December 7, 2017
Stop the Run
Heading into week 14, the Los Angeles Chargers have the second-worst run defense in the NFL. Although the Redskins don’t have a premiere back, Washington has an intriguing rookie in Samaje Perine.
With Chris Thompson on the mend, the Redskins will look to Perine to carry the load. The Oklahoma product has 465 yards and a touchdown on the year. He is also a threat coming out of the backfield. He has snagged 13 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Even though Los Angeles’ defense has been stellar thus far, the Achilles heel for the unit has been stopping the run. Teams have taken advantage of a weak linebacking corps. The return of Denzel Perryman has helped, but there is still plenty to exploit.
Problems arise for the Bolts up front. Brandon Mebane and Corey Liuget have struggled all year and it may be time to give Darius Philon more snaps.