The Chargers and Bears are both desperate for their third win of the 2023 season. The Bolts are 2-4 after two consecutive losses while the Bears are 2-5 after winning two of their past three.
While this might not be the biggest and brightest matchup fans have ever seen in primetime, it features two exciting and young quarterbacks looking to keep their teams on the right path. Expect a lot of offense, as well.
That’s what we all want at the end of the day, right?
Here’s my three keys to victory for the Chargers in their matchup with the Bears
1.) The Chargers offense has got to stop going MIA in the second half
There was a lengthy stretch of the 2022 season under offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi where the Charger simply could not score a touchdown in the third quarter. It showed a complete lack of halftime adjustments every single time the Bolts came out of the break, needing points most of the time, and consistently failed to find the promised land.
Things looked to have turned a corner under new coordinator Kellen Moore earlier this season as the Chargers scored at least 24 points in each of their first four games. But over the past two weeks, the Bolts have scored exactly 17 points against both the Cowboys and Chiefs. Dating back to the Raiders game, the Chargers have only scored a total of 10 combined points in the second halves of all three games. To further put it into perspective, all 10 came against the Cowboys. So that’s two of their past three games where the Chargers have failed to score a single point in the second half.
That’s obviously not very good.
The Bears currently rank 18th in total defense. Similar to the Chargers, the Chicago struggles to defend the pass as their unit is currently ranked 29th in the NFL.
The Chargers WANT to air it out. This sets up to be an excellent opportunity to get that side of the ball some needed confidence. After four interceptions in the past three games, everyone knows Justin Herbert is in need of a productive and clean game. Moore and his unit need to deliver the way we all know they can this week.
2.) Continue positive penalty momentum
Two weeks ago when the Chargers faced the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, the two teams combined for an absurd 20 penalties that totaled 164 total yards. It was one of the uglier games to watch on the year and the Chargers were at fault for nine of them. That also includes the three horrifically-timed flags by the defense on Dallas’ drive that ended in the game-winning field goal.
Against the Chiefs, despite losing for the first time by more than one score, they played a much cleaner game as they were only called for four total penalties. The easiest way for the Chargers to increase their chances of losing on Sunday night is to go back to their undisciplined defensive play, especially on money downs. While he’s just one guy, Bears wideout D.J. Moore is on pace to pace to set new career highs all across the board. He’s the type of talent that can single-handedly keep the Bears in the game and that goes double if the Chargers aren’t fundamentally sound and allow him to draw flags on the defense for pass interference or defensive holding.
3.) Khalil Mack goes berserk against another former team
Okay, this isn’t to say that I predict Mack to have another monster game with six sacks, but him being able to corral Justin Fields once, maybe twice, could go a long way in keeping the Bears offense at bay.
The Chargers have really found something with their pass-rush package that features Mack, Joey Bosa, Tuli Tuipulotu, and Morgan Fox. In the graph below — which features the top four-man pass-rush units for each NFL team — the Chargers have the third-best pressure rating at 58.33 percent. When that quartet is rushing the passer together, they generate a sack 25 percent of the time. That’s tied for the second-highest mark in the league.
These guys know how to get after the quarterback, especially when they’re able to work off each other. While Tuli only has two sacks on the year, his impact is felt on almost every play where someone else gets home. It looks like he learned hard and fast from Mack and it shows in the rookie’s ability to turn speed into power.
Best 4 man pass rushing combo for every team in the league this season on plays with only 4 rushers, sorted by pressure rate along with where that ranks in the league. MIN & ARI don't have a combo with enough snaps together to be a part of the table pic.twitter.com/0f3uyTtQP8— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) October 24, 2023
It also helps that the Bears allow Justin Fields to be sacked on 11.64% of dropbacks this season. That number increases to just over 13 percent when they’re on the road, as well.
At the end of the day, whether it’s Mack or anyone else, the Chargers have a primo matchup this week in the trenches.