Here we go! The much-anticipated final five games of the Chargers 2014 campaign! It all starts with a very difficult matchup between the Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens. Both teams enter this game with identical 7-4 records. Some advantage has to be given to the Ravens as they are at home, where they are 4-1, and the Chargers go on the road where they are 2-3 this season. I will say one thing about this home stretch, if the Chargers make the playoffs, they will have earned it and no one can say they backed in. But one game at a time and this week that game is against the Ravens.
One would think that the coach’s job gets easier this time of year. It shouldn’t take too much effort to get guys fired up with the playoffs looming and the toughest part of their schedule coming up. That may or may not be true. You have to consider that the Chargers are on a modest two game winning streak. Honestly, after watching the last two games, I would think more players are worried than overconfident, but both mindsets need to be dealt with by Coach McCoy.
In the Ravens locker room, Coach John Harbaugh has been here before. Despite a let-down last season, Harbaugh’s Raven have made the playoffs five of his six years at the helm, including a Super Bowl championship just two seasons ago. The Ravens are a team that should know very well how to get prepared mentally and physically for a big game, but have no fear; Coach Harbaugh will certainly want the players to focus on certain aspects of the game.
Let’s take a look at five different angles that both coaches may take in trying to motivate their teams. We’ll start with Coach Harbaugh and the pregame favorite Ravens and then switch to Coach Mike McCoy of the underdog Chargers. Remember, these are not true quotes from the coaches, but rather my interpretation of what they may say.
Coach Harbaugh – Ravens:
- Don’t Get Carried Away: “Okay men, we are coming off of two nice wins. Notice I said “nice” wins, not great wins. There were aspects of those games that were great, but let’s be realistic, we beat a below average Tennessee team and then a Saints teams that has dropped three straight. Is that truly a measure of how good we are? Maybe, maybe not. We need to continue to take care of business, especially against teams that are not as good as us on paper. The Chargers are just another test of our character. They show signs of greatness and then turn around and show signs of being a cut below. The problem is that we don’t know which Chargers team will show up! If you play like you think the Chargers team that got shut out by the Dolphins is going to show up, we are in big trouble. Remember, this is also the Chargers team that beat the reigning champs as well as Buffalo and a tough St. Louis team just last week! Hell, they have the same record that we do! Don’t sleep on them. They have shown signs of greatness and at times we have shown that we are beatable.”
- Ball Control: “The Chargers offense has struggled lately, but could break out at any time. If Rivers has time to throw, he will carve us apart. With the return of Ryan Mathews, their running game has shown signs of life as well. Although I have complete faith in our defense, I believe the best way to take down the Chargers is to keep their offense on the sideline and control the ball. Offensive line, that is mainly on your shoulders! You must protect Joe and continue to do what you do best, run block. The Chargers are just an average rush defense at best. They give up over 100 yards per game on the ground and they haven’t faced many strong runners, especially as of late. I expect to impose our will on the ground and dominate the time of possession. Don’t accept anything less.”
- Happy Feet: “Defensive front seven, you have a job to do too. Not only do you need to shut down Ryan Mathews, you need to get to the quarterback. As you watch film this week, you will see that Rivers is very accurate and makes good decisions when given time to throw and room in the pocket to step into his passes. At the same time, you see he seem to get nervous when consistently pressured and loses accuracy when throwing in tight spaces. Also, if we can get them down early, he tends to force the ball into coverage. We have been doing a pretty good job of getting to the quarterback this season (29 sacks). We need to continue that pressure. I believe that will lead to turnovers.”
- One Game at a Time?: I know that we need to take one game at a time. I know that it is not politically correct to talk about the playoffs with five games to go. That being said, you are not stupid. You look at the standings. You understand the implications of this game. It is huge! If the playoffs started today, the Chargers would be in and we would be watching on TV! Both teams are 7-4. When it comes down to tie breakers, we will win the head-to-head tiebreaker if we win this game. If we lose, it could be the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs. No, I am not saying that we are not going to win our division. But remember, we are tied with two other teams, a half-game behind the Bengals. What I am saying is that no loss helps and this loss could really come back to bite us. Let’s not take any chances.”
- Not in Our House: “Men, we have not lost at home since week one. I think we can all agree that we are vastly improved since then and we have done a fine job of defending our home turf. That being said, we have not faced a team of the Chargers talent level at home since week two against Pittsburgh. We want Baltimore to be a destination that teams fear. We want Baltimore to be a venue that has the opponent doubting they will win, before the game even starts. There are only a few teams in the NFL with that kind of home field advantage. Let’s be one of them. Let’s give our fans a reason to believe that they can impact a game as the “12th man”.
Enough of Harbaugh, let’s move on to see what Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy can use to help ready his Bolts for this week’s epic matchup:
Coach McCoy – Chargers
- Another Nice Win: “Men, we have a nice, but modest, two game winning streak. I know, and you know, that the teams we beat are filled with professional athletes and no team is a pushover. That being said, neither the Raiders or the Rams are heading to the post season, so those wins are not wins that show us where we stand in comparison to true contenders. Well men, this week will give us the opportunity to show the world, and ourselves, that we have what it takes to play with the big boys. The Ravens have the same record we do. They play in a division where 7-4 is tied for last, but just a half-game behind the first place team! This game is a real challenge and will show us if we are ready for the challenging final quarter to our season that awaits us. I believe we are.”
- Rising to the Challenge: “I’ll tell you what; we just beat a Rams team that had arguably the best and deepest defensive front seven in the league. Offensive line; that shows what you can do. We had a 100+ yard rusher and Philip was able to complete 29 or 35 passes! That tells me that we are maturing up front and starting to believe that we can play as a group. I know we have had many challenges up front this season, and it takes time to play as a unit. I believe that time is now! Last week gave me a lot of faith in both our run blocking and our pass blocking. We can open up our offense if we believe that running backs will have a hole to run through and Philip will have time to throw. No one can beat us if we can do both. That being said, this week is another formidable challenge. The Ravens are one of the league’s best rush defenses and they have 29 sacks. Looks like you won’t be able to rest on your laurels. I believe we are ready for this challenge.”
- Offensive Needs: “Offense, the one weakness of the Ravens defense is their pass coverage. I believe that if we have enough success with the run, and give Philip time to throw, we can pick apart a secondary that is struggling. Think about this, Haloti Ngata is leading the team in interceptions! Ngata! He’s a lineman for God’s sake! So once again, if our offensive line can control the line of scrimmage, we should be able to pick their DB’s apart like the leftover carcass of your Thanksgiving turkey! I believe we have what it takes.
- Beat Their Intensity: “Defense, I’ll be honest with you. This week is a real gut-check. The Ravens have a lot of weapons on offense. Steve and Torrey Smith at wideout and Forsett is already approaching 1000 yards on the season! Flacco is not the second coming, but he is a Super Bowl winning quarterback and will be successful if he is given time to throw. We must accomplish two things to be successful. One, we must contain Forsett on the ground and force Flacco to beat us. Two, we must hit, or at least pressure, Flacco often so that he is forced to rush his passes and make quick decisions. We’ll mix up the packages, but it is up to you to execute them. That brings us to passion and intensity. The Ravens will be fired up! Heck, Steve Smith alone will bring enough intensity to fill that stadium. We must exceed their level of intensity or we are in for a long day. We can’t let another Miami happen. We must stay focused on the task at hand and treat the Ravens as if they are trying to take away what is ours. Honestly, that is exactly what they are doing. They are trying to take away our playoff spot. Are we strong enough to hang on to our spot? I believe we are.”
- BELIEVE!: “Men, you may have noticed that there has been a theme to what I have told you today. What I need you to understand is that I believe in you. I believe that our offensive line will be able to impose their will, enabling us to do whatever we want on offense. I believe that our offense is ready to explode and put the kind of points on the board that we are capable of putting there. I believe that our defense will contain Forsett and get to Flacco all day. I believe that our special teams will continue to impact games by winning the field position battle and putting points on the board. I believe that our team is ready to take away the question mark by the word, “contender?”. I believe that our team is ready to show the world that we are for real and that we will fly around that field and make Baltimore look like San Diego East. Most importantly, I believe in you. I believe in our players. I believe in our coaches. I believe that our time is now! Let’s make it happen. Let’s introduce the world to the San Diego Chargers and force them to believe too. I believe……..do you? Show me on Sunday.”
Only time will tell which team will take the field ready to take that big step toward the playoffs. You know what I would say to prepare these teams. What would you say? Please leave a comment below. If you are on the mobile site, you may need to go to “classic view” to leave your comment. Thanks for the read and Go Chargers!!!