Last Sunday, the Chargers broke their modest (in comparison to the Raiders) three-game losing streak with a hard-fought victory over the winless Raiders. Although this is not a “signature win”, it is a win nonetheless. All Chargers fans should be happy for the rest of the week. That being said, the players can only celebrate for about 24 hours and then their minds need to be focused on their next opponent, the St. Louis Rams.
At 4-6, the Rams do not immediately instill fear in the hearts of many teams. Sam Bradford, their highly respected QB was injured, and has not played since early in the season. Since then, it is quarterback by committee for the Rams which has proven to make scoring difficult and winning even more of a challenge. Look for the Rams to rely on running the ball and strong defense to try to win this game.
So what do the coaches have to do to prepare their team mentally for this upcoming game? After all, the Rams are flying high after their 22-7 drubbing of Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos. At the same time, the Chargers may have some confidence issues after barely getting by lowly Oakland, following three straight losses. There has even been some controversy during the week after Antonio Gates discussed a lingering rib injury that Philip Rivers has been dealing with. Is their team leader going to be healthy enough to play well? This is the first time in a long time that question has been on anyone’s mind at Chargers Park.
Let’s take a look at the job Rams Head Coach, Jeff Fisher has in front of him this week. He needs to find a way to keep his team high, but not allow them to become over-confident and look past the struggling Bolts. Here are five angles that Fisher could take while leading the Rams this week:
- Defense Needs to Continue to Step Up: “Yes, we had a great team win against the Broncos last Sunday. We beat them in all three phases and showed them that no one can sleep on the St. Louis Rams! Yes, Peyton threw for a lot of yards, but that’s okay! You have to expect that with Peyton. The important thing was that when our backs were against the wall, we picked off two of his passes! We also sacked him three times! Consistent pressure, timely turnovers, and completely shutting down the run game is why the Broncos were only able to put seven points on the board. That’s right, SEVEN! If we can continue that kind of defensive intensity, we can shut down the Chargers offense the same way.
- Offense and Special Teams: “Offense, I haven’t forgotten you. I think you would agree that we didn’t exactly light it up out there. One touchdown and five field goals is not how we want to finish drives. That being said, what we did do is stay on the field. 35 minutes of ball control offense helped keep that Broncos offense off of the field. That helped our defense stay fresh and able to attack. As for the Special Teams? What can I say? Five field goals speaks for itself. Outstanding effort by the special teams. We don’t win that game without your effort.
- Make Up Our Minds: “Now, what I want to know is this: Who are we? Can we please just make up our minds? We currently have a record of four wins and six losses. Three of our four wins are against San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver! The 4-6 teams in the league are not supposed to beat those guys! Yet, we do. That being said, we have these great wins but have yet to win two in a row! We are in a tough spot right now. We have quality wins that will show other teams that they better show up and play ball. But, we also have a losing record which can lull teams to sleep. Well, I’ll tell you what. The Chargers will not sleep on us after we took down their division rival. They know we are coming in to beat them and they will try hard not to let that happen. So it’s time to ask yourself, “who are we?” If we are winners, let’s prove it on Sunday.”
- Must Win: “Gentlemen, I’m not going to blow sunshine up your dress. With six losses already, we are pretty much in a must win situation every week now. If we plan on going to the dance, we need to get on a win streak and keep it rolling. Traditionally, 10 wins will get you in. That is the most we can get! I say we take it one game at a time and string together some wins and see what happens. We have already beaten three of the best teams in football. There is no reason that we can’t win every Sunday. But it starts with this Sunday in San Diego.
- Speaking of San Diego: “One final word about this week’s game. The Chargers have indeed been struggling. They have only won a single game in their last four and that was against the Raiders who still haven’t beaten anyone. They are a talented team that has been dealing with injuries. They are getting healthy and have shown improvement on defense. At the same time, their offense has been slowed down greatly in recent weeks. They haven’t scored more than 21 points in the last four weeks and they were even shutout once by Miami! Rivers is banged up. That is definitely to our advantage. We need to hit him every chance we get. Play clean, but play hard. Just like we did last week and I truly believe we have a happy flight home.”
Moving over to the Chargers locker room, let’s see what Head Coach Mike McCoy might say to get his players mentally prepared for what is sure to be a difficult challenge:
- Oakland is Behind Us: “I know that you are being told by the press and social media outlets that we didn’t play well against the Raiders. You know how I feel about that. I think we made a solid team effort and beat a division rival, made up of professional football players, who have been in every game they have played. The Raiders will win eventually. If a team looks past them, they will win. We did what we had to do. We improved our run game, our coverage, our pass rush, and most impressively, our special teams. We won the time of possession battle and well as the field position battle. Most importantly, we won the points battle. In the NFL, that is all you can ask for so keep your heads up and don’t listen to anyone outside of our camp. They don’t know what they are talking about.”
- Keep Things in Perspective: “Now that you know that I am very proud of our effort against the Raiders, understand that we need to keep things in perspective as well. This was not a signature win. We only scored one touchdown. Offensively, we are not where we need to be. I thought our running game was much improved, but it is going to be challenged again this week by one of the best and deepest from defensive fronts in the league. The Rams are tough on defense. Their numbers aren’t staggering, but they have improved lately. Let’s face it; they just held the Broncos to seven points. That’s impressive. On the other hand, Peyton was able to throw for almost 400 yards. If not for a couple untimely turnovers, it’s a whole new ballgame. Keep Philip on his feet and we should be able to move the ball through the air. Denver was not able to run, but they are hurting for healthy players to run the ball. I believe that we will have more success in that area. Offensive line, this is another week where your effort and success could make all of the difference.”
- Philip: “Men, I mentioned keeping Philip on his feet. That has never been more important than this week. As everyone knows, he is a little banged up. We also know that he is one tough son of a gun and won’t miss any reps in practice or plays in the game. BUT, that can all change if too many shoulder pads, or helmets find their target! It’s no secret that Greg Williams is the Defensive Coordinator for the Rams. It is also no secret that he was suspended from coaching for a year due to his involvement in “Bounty Gate”. Let’s face it; he created the bounty system that paid players for injuring other players. Last week, the Broncos lost three skill position players during their game. His defenses his hard and often. Make sure you do not let up, or forget to keep your head on a swivel all the way through the whistle, and maybe a couple of seconds after.”
- Defense Wins Games: “Defensive guys, I am looking forward to another step up from you. Last week, our coverage was much tighter and we were able to keep Carr moving around in the pocket. That was great, but it is behind us now. Now, we get to show the league that it wasn’t just a bad offense from the Raiders, but it was in fact a solid defensive effort by our team. You need to meet, or beat, the intensity of the Rams this week and I guarantee that their level will be extremely high. I want to dominate the time of possession. Part of that is on the offense. They must get first downs and have no turnovers. The rest is on you! We still need to greatly improve on third down and we must tackle better as well. No more shoulder tackles. These guys are too big to just knock over. Wrap up and play solid fundamental football. DB’s, how about a pick or two? Can you do that for us? I think you can. Now you just have to go out there and prove it.”
- One Game at a Time: “Men, I know we are getting down to the last third of our schedule and the race is very tight between us and the Chiefs and Broncos. You’re not stupid. You understand that there may only be one wild card representative from the AFC West this season, as it looks right now. Where here is the good news. If we take care of our business, we are in. Screw the wild card; we can still win the West! But we can’t win all six games of Sunday, November 23, 2014. We can only beat one team on that day and that is the Rams. If we look ahead, we will lose our focus and that is not good. We need to have a razor-sharp focus and that has to be all about this Sunday. I know it is cliché, but it truly is one game at a time. Let’s go win this one game!”
Only the players for each team really know what mind games the coaches are playing on them this week, but those are some angles that I would take. What points would you try to get across, if you were the head coach or either team?
Thanks for reading and please comment below. I will get back to you ASAP.
Enjoy the game and Go Chargers!!!