The Chargers hopefuls are fresh off a serious spanking at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. Yes, the score was close at halftime. But the Seahawks defensive line battered everyone not named Phillip Rivers, barely letting the Bolts get off a play at times.
Tonight marks the second tough matchup in a row. The Bears finished fifth in total defense last year, and seem to have added enough talent along the offensive line and at tight end to make a serious run at the playoffs in the nip-and-tuck NFC. Three things to watch for as the action kicks off at 5:00 Pacific Time:
• Keeping Rivers clean. Can Ken Wisenhunt’s combination of short passes, chip blocks and sheer mass at offensive tackle stave off a second wave of fierce pass rushers? We’ll see.
• Misdirection in the running / short-passing game. Even at their best, the Bolts O-line can’t keep the Bears at bay all night without some kind of ground game. Wisenhunt might prefer to power the ball downhill. But McCoy, always flexible in his approach, might try to implement more draws, screens, and even some wildcat with Ronnie Brown. My money is on the latter.
• Capitalizing on quarterback pressure. The Bolts didn’t lack completely for pass rush last week. Several times against the ‘Hawks starting until, Dwight Freeney, Larry English and Co. collapsed the pocket, only to watch Russell Wilson squirt out to one side or the other and convert a near-loss into positive yardage. A similar effort should light up the stat sheet against a rebuilding offensive line and the more stationary Jay Cutler.
As a bonus: With so many starters ailing, I’m betting Rivers gets a no-name receiver involved big in the action. The smart money is on Dan De Palma..