The Chargers are 1-1 with both games coming down to the wire. In one, they came away victorious. In the other, they were not so lucky.
In game three of the 2020 season, I hope, for everyone’s sake, they don’t make it as suspenseful as the prior two. In that case, they better listen to me and take a look at this essential blueprint to beating the Panthers on Sunday afternoon.
Here are my three keys to coming away with a victory against Carolina.
Let’s get to it.
1.) Keep it simple with Justin Herbert for another week
In the Chiefs game, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen made a point to shrink the playbook in Justin Herbert’s first career start in hopes of not overwhelming the rookie against such a strong opponent. That strategy seemed to work as Herbert looked like he already had a firm grasp of the plays he was asked to run on Sunday.
In his second career start, I think it’d be smart for Steichen to stick to that game plan, especially against a defense like the Panthers. They’re the youngest unit in the NFL, and the youngest to take the field in over 10 years. I don’t think they need to reinvent the wheel this week on offense. It also helps that they’ve allowed a total of 65 points through two weeks, meaning they’re real close to being a revolving door into the end zone.
I want to see a healthy mixture of formations and concepts, just like the opening game script against Kansas City. It had diverse runs, clever play action shots, and easy reads. Yes, Herbert is a smart guy, but I think they need to do what they can to replicate the fun he had this past weekend.
2.) Defense needs to take advantage of CMC absence
How lucky are the Chargers that the week before they’re scheduled to play the Panthers, Carolina loses the reigning Offensive Player of the Year in the NFL. Not having to worry about the presence of Christian McCaffrey has got to be the biggest load off the shoulders of the entire defense and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
The guy who will be starting in his place is Mike Davis, a former Chicago Bear and Seattle Seahawk. He’s not too shabby, but he’s no CMC. He just had eight receptions in their last game against Tampa Bay, but that came in garbage time as the Panthers were fighting to come back from a deficit. Will he be utilized in the passing game? Probably. That’s the type of quarterback that Teddy Bridgewater is. He likes to dink-and-dunk his way down the field and take the occasional deep shot, which has been fairly successful thanks to first-year Panther wide receiver Robbie Anderson.
The loss of CMC for the Panthers means the Chargers only really have to worry about the speed and athleticism of Carolina’s wideouts. Anderson is joined by DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel, all of whom have excellent RAC ability. But they just showed they could hang with the Chiefs and their firepower, so this shouldn’t all that tough.
3.) Continue to run the damn ball
The Chargers lead the NFL with 83 total carries through the first two weeks of the seasons and it’s not by accident. Anthony Lynn wants to run the football and win through his running backs. He’s been dying for a duo as dynamic as Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley have been through two weeks and he’s going to utilize them until he can’t anymore. With a high potential for a favorable game script, I expect these two to get a lot of work, but even from the jump, I think it’s going to be a big Ekeler/Kelley game, just like it was against the Chiefs.
And heck, maybe if they’re up by enough, we may get to see a little Darius Bradwell. We can only hope.