The Chargers finally showed what they could look like near their best when they went into Arrowhead Stadium and came out victorious against the Chiefs. Four turnovers for the defense and four touchdowns for Justin Herbert (and zero interceptions) is one heck of a game and for that the Bolts have received much more national praise from various publications.
However, there’s still that pesky issue with penalties coming at the worst of times and early on it’s not just a small problem by any means. Can Brandon Staley and his staff correct these issues this week?
We ponder that question and more in this week’s “three things.” Let’s get to it.
1.) Can the Chargers continue their strong pass defense against a team that exploited them a year ago?
Heading into Monday night’s tilt with the 3-0 Raiders, the Chargers are currently allowing the seventh-least passing yards per game at 201.7. On the flip side, the Raiders are leading the league in passing yardage per game at 379.7.
This will be a “strength against strength” matchup under the lights and if that doesn’t get you excited, you probably don’t have a pulse.
The Chargers currently have three players inside of Pro Football Focus’ top-28 players in terms of coverage grades: Tevaughn Campbell (78.3, 8th), Chris Harris Jr. (77.1, 15th), and Asante Samuel Jr. (72.5, 28th). Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is currently second in the NFL with a passing grade of 85.9, only behind the G.O.A.T, Tom Brady.
This sets up for some must-watch football where either team must win to prove to the rest of the NFL that they’re the real deal. Check your schedule because you do not want to miss this.
2.) Will Joe Lombardi help Storm Norton on the edge?
Over the past two and a half games in which Norton has played, the Chargers have notably refused to give him any help in protecting the edge against extremely talented athletes like Micah Parsons and Montez Sweat.
Against the Cowboys, alone, Norton allowed 11 pressures and a sack to Parsons, a defender who was playing a position he hadn’t touched since he was in high school. For whatever reason, the Chargers watched Storm Norton get his tail whipped over and over again and continued to avoid giving him any help via a chip by a running back or a tight end.
Cowboys rookie LB/DE Micah Parsons in Week 2, his first game at defensive end since high school. pic.twitter.com/wlYrahFODl— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 24, 2021
Recently, Brandon Staley and Joe Lombardi both admitted they need to do a better job of helping Norton in those situations and this is a good one to finally make that happen. The Raiders will rotate Maxx Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue, and Carl Nassib at edge rusher. While those three have combined for just 3.5 sacks thus far, they’re all equally as effective in stopping the run and creating pressure that will still give the Bolts some problems.
3.) Can Chargers finally cut out the illegal shift penalties?
Over the past two games, the Chargers have been flagged three times for illegal shift penalties. Two of those three flags wiped out a touchdown, including one that could have potentially led to a victory over the Cowboys in week two.
Just last week, the Bolts were flagged twice in Kansas City for an illegal shift, one of which took away a one-yard touchdown throw to Gabe Nabers that would have put the Bolts up by four with a little over two minutes left in the game. Thankfully they were able to overcome the flag and win it, but the problem remains one of the biggest and most-frustrating issues on this otherwise talented team.
This is a problem that Staley and his staff cannot allow to continue into a primetime game against an undefeated divisional opponent. They cannot risk giving up yards and points because of a lack of mental fortitude.
Let’s get it figured out so we can start climbing to the top of the division.