This will be part of an ongoing series where we take a look at each individual team we will face this season.
As far as difficult and heated matchups go, this one is at the top of the list for Titans fans. It's interesting how much hatred there is for a team 2,000 miles away that we've only played three times in the past three years. It all started with the cheap shot on Vince Young in 2007 by none other than Shawne Merriman. That play was immediately followed by a blind side block courtesy of Ben Hartsock to Merriman that knocked him out of the rest of the game. The Titans lost that game, and the wild card matchup to them four weeks later. With that, a quasi-rivalry was born. The Chargers poured even more salt in the wound last year, ending any hopes of the Titans making the playoffs by defeating them 42-14 in week sixteen. Tennessee will look for redemption on this Halloween matchup in San Diego.
Follow me through the jump for a look at the San Diego Chargers 2009 Season, the offseason, and three keys to winning this matchup.
2009 Season (13-3)
|Rushing YPG||PPG||Offensive DVOA||Defensive YPG||D. Passing YPG||D. Rushing YPG||Defensive PPG||Defensive DVOA|
* stats from NFL.com and Footballoutsiders.com
2009 was a great regular season for San Diego. After getting off to a bumpy 2-3 start, the team went on a tear, winning their next eleven straight and ending the regular season as one of the hottest teams in football. The team could not sustain that momentum into the offseason, however. Matched up against the New York Jets, the Chargers failed to find the offensive firepower that carried them through the regular season. They lost 14-17 at home, ending their hot streak and their season.
Offensively, the team was polar opposites in comparing the passing and running games. Philip Rivers and Company have made their case as one of the best passing attacks in football (throws up in mouth). In fact, on a per attempt basis, he was arguably the best quarterback in football last year. In stark contrast, the rushing attack was abysmal. Only three years removed from one of the most prolific seasons in NFL history, LT clearly hit a wall last season, averaging only 3.3 yards per carry. Despite this, the team still managed a top five scoring offense, proving that a running game is not always necessary for elite offensive production.
On the other side of the ball, the defense was merely average. They fared better at defending the pass than the run last year. And, all in all, the defense performed best in the most important statistical category, scoring. They only allowed 20 points per game, good for 11th best in the NFL.
The Offseason: Free Agency and The Draft
There was a consistent theme with the Free Agency strategy for the Chargers: second chances. San Diego went after a number of once productive players, that have declined over the past few years. Their notable free agent acquisitions were Randy McMichael (TE), Nathan Vasher (CB), and Tra Thomas (T). The Chargers also lost the face of their franchise, LaDainian Tomlinson, who joined the Jets in free agency. You can view the rest of the free agency moves here.
Most would agree that the draft was a successful one for the Chargers. They made noise early by trading up to get Ryan Matthews (RB). Some saw this as a reach. But, for a team with a glaring weakness in the run game, it was the right move. The other noteworthy pick was Jonathon Crompton (QB) from Tennessee, who was selected in the 5th round. You can check out the rest of their picks here.
San Diego has also made news this offseason because of a couple of hold outs. Marcus McNeill (T) and Vincent Jackson (WR) both appear ready to hold out into the season for a new contract. It's possible that Jackson could change his tune, though, as the league just handed him a three game suspension for a recent DUI charge.
Three keys to winning
1. Run. Run. Run. Defensively, San Diego has shown weakness against the run, which makes this game plan fairly simple. Give CJ the ball and let him do his thing. He should get 25+ touches this game.
2. Bring the blitz. I've come to terms with the fact that this defensive secondary isn't getting any better. Even in base coverage, they are going to get beat. So, I see little downside to implementing this strategy. Bring at least 5 the majority of the time. In the absence of a solid pass rush, Rivers will carve up this defense.
3. Manage the game. As much as it pains me to say it, we have to win this game with Fisherball. That means ball control, managing the clock, and being efficient with every possession.
For the second week in a row, we're handed a tough matchup. The saving grace is that we may be able to have some success against the run. Even with that glimmer of hope, it's going to be difficult. Until I see better things from this secondary, I have a hard time believing that Philip Rivers won't put up points at will. My prediction: CJ has a solid game, but it's completely irrelevant. Titans lose 38-17.