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3 keys to a Chargers victory over the Falcons

Here’s how the Bolts can get the best of the dirty birds on Sunday.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Lynn has four games left to prove that he can turn this team around. But even if he were to win three of the next four, there’s a chance that’s still not enough to save his job.

Regardless, if he’s going to ever get the team moving in the right direction, this week’s matchup is a good place to start.

The Chargers offense needs to get some confidence back and the Falcons’ 27th-ranked defense may be just what the doctor ordered. This unit is second-to-last in passing yards allowed with 285.3 being surrendered on average each week. On the flip side, their run defense has improved a ton with them only allowed 109.2, good for 12th in the NFL.

Here’s to the potential rebound we all desperately need. Team and fans, included.

1.) You must put multiple defenders on Calvin Ridley

The fact that Julio Jones will be out this Sunday is big news for a Chargers secondary that has a banged up Casey Hayward. Although he was a full-participant in practice on Thursday, he may not be healthy enough to play his normal 95-100% of the defensive snaps.

Against this offense, the Chargers may want to run a bit more Cover 2 than they’re used to. Olamide Zaccheaus is a younger receiver with some speed that can help take the top off of the defense occasionally, as well. With multiple wideouts who can stretch the field, the Bolts may want to limit putting Nasir Adderley as the last line of defense in single high safety looks. The former second-round pick has struggled taking proper angles when providing run support and hasn’t been able to consistently capitalize on opportunities to take the ball away.

As good as Rayshawn Jenkins can be around the line of scrimmage, his range and leaping ability can come in handy as an over-the-top defender. Utilizing Cover 2 also means Hayward won’t have to worry about getting beat vertically knowing there’s always going to be someone there to help him out.

Gus Bradley loves his Cover 3, but I just think this would be a good game to throw out some new looks in hopes of making some big plays.

2.) This is a good time for the pass rush to show up

The Falcons only average 100.6 rushing yards per game this season, so don’t get it twisted. They’re going to try and throw the ball early and often on Sunday to compensate. With this in mind, the Chargers need to find a way to jumpstart their pass rush that has been incredibly underwhelming over the past month.

Over their last four games, the Chargers have registered just five sacks. As you all know, three of those were Joey Bosa and they all came in the same game. The other two sacks were by linebackers Denzel Perryman and Kennth Murray. This isn’t a recipe for success. As phenomenal as Bosa was against the Jets, him finding some more consistency would be great, as well. Prior to Week 12, Bosa hadn’t recorded a sack since Week 7, which was only a half of a sack on Gardner Minshew.

Against Atlanta, I would think they’d want to start Uchenna Nwosu at LEO and flip Bosa back to the base end to take advantage of the matchup. Nwosu was playing great football during Melvin Ingram’s first three-week absence earlier this season and I think the team needs to see what they have in him as a legitimate starter prior to deciding whether or not to let Ingram walk after this season.

3.) Get Justin Herbert on the move

Through the first few starts of Justin Herbert’s career, the offense looked pretty close to what we all expected. There were still plenty of older concepts from the past few years, but Shane Steichen added in a variety of wrinkles that involved moving the pocket and getting Herbert on the move with play-action rollouts. In fact, Herbert’s first NFL touchdown was an improvised rushing touchdown that he decided to take in himself after rolling to his right.

The offense has obviously struggled in recent weeks, and something many of us in the media have noticed is that there’s been a severe lack of plays called that take advantage of Herbert’s athleticism and capitalize on what he does best. Yes, the offensive line has been horrendous — even more than usual — over the last month, but Steichen hasn’t put them in the best position on a consistent basis, either.

The Chargers offensive line is built with athletic movers. Forrest Lamp, Dan Feeney, and Sam Tevi were all very athletic for their size coming out of college, and the Chargers need to take advantage of the that instead of making them win one-on-one battles with some of the NFL’s best athletes. Moving the pocket and rolling Herbert out also gives the rookie more time to make decisions. Half-field reads also minimize the amount of information he is asked to pick through. Like the defensive staff had to do with Murray, maybe Steichen and Lynn can roll back the offense just slightly to make sure Herbert isn’t getting overwhelmed this late into his very first season.