Chargers (1-0) travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals (1-0). Here are three things the Chargers must do to come back to San Diego with a win.
1.) Force Andy Dalton to try to beat you by containing the running game
Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard anchor the backfield for the Bengals and they are two very good backs. Jeremy Hill is a big back who is physical, yet elusive. As a rookie, Hill had 1,124 rushing yards (good enough for 5.1 yards a carry) and nine TDs. Last Sunday versus the Raiders, Hill went for 63 yards on 19 attempts (3.3 yards per carry) and two scores. Gio Bernard is the quick, multi-use back. Last season, he ran for 680 yards on 168 attempts (4.0 yards a run) with five TDs and caught 43 passes for 349 yards (8.1 yards a catch) with two touchdowns. Combined, he had a total of 211 touches for 1,029 yards (4.8 yards a touch) and seven touchdowns. Last week, the Chargers gave up 69 rushing yards on 16 attempts (4.3 yards a run) and one TD. That is going to have to tighten up. The Bengals are very balanced on offense and will not be afraid to run the ball down the Chargers’ throat. Contain Hill and Bernard, forcing Dalton to try to beat you.
2.) Get the ball to Danny Woodhead
Danny Woodhead is the key to this Chargers’ offense. He is a matchup nightmare, and a guy who is Rivers’ security blanket that can turn a one-yard gain into a new set of downs. The last time these two teams faced off against one another, Woodhead had 17 touches for 68 yards (4.0 yards per touch) and the offense went for 324 total yards. That day was the Chargers’ first playoff victory under Mike McCoy and the team’s first playoff win since 2008. Woodhead makes the linebackers think more and forces them to play up closer than they normally would, leaving the middle of the field open for a Stevie Johnson or Ladarius Green.
3.) Win the turnover battle
This should be obvious, for many reasons. But for the Chargers, it’s an important one. Limit the turnovers you make, play ball-control offense with the running game and short passes, keep your defense healthy and let Rivers do what he does best, and that’s control the game. Andy Dalton is very “friendly”, and by that I mean he turns the ball over a lot. In Dalton’s four years as a pro, he has 66 interceptions on 2,145 attempts. That averages out to 16.5 a season and just a tad over one a game and one every 32.5 pass attempts. For the Chargers to get the highest chance of a turnover, they must get the lead early and pressure the former second-round signal caller in the passing game. If they do this, I feel very strongly about their chances at victory in Cincinnati.
What do you think are the keys to victory? Let me know in the comments below. Go Bolts!