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Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera always has been known for his creative blitzing and getting after opposing quarterbacks. On Sunday, his work was on full display.
In the Chargers' 41-10 blowout of the Cardinals, the Bolts notched an eye-popping nine sacks, highlighted by OLB Shaun Phillips' four. Phillips also returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown, one of three turnovers San Diego forced on the afternoon. And the Chargers also kept the Arizona offense out of the endzone and held it to a paltry 124 yards in a dominant effort.
After Sunday's sack fest, the Bolts now have 15 sacks on the season, one off the league high. Their seven interceptions is also just one behind the league leader. And their overall defense now ranks No. 1 in the NFL, allowing just 235.5 yards per game and 4.2 yards per play. By nearly every measurement, San Diego is playing much better than its 2-2 record shows.
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If not for a few special-teams gaffes that resulted in long touchdown returns, the Chargers could be sitting at 4-0 and being discussed as one of the league's best teams. Instead, the coverage units likely cost them both losses, and now they're tied with the Broncos for second in the AFC West behind the undefeated Chiefs.
Nobody can point the finger at the defense for the club's .500 record, however. The "D" has been stellar in all four contests, even though injuries have hit the unit hard. Despite missing key players like OLBs Shawne Merriman and Larry English and ILB Stephen Cooper, among others, for a portion of the first month because of injury, the defense has excelled at putting pressure on the QB, forcing turnovers and shutting down opponents' passing attacks. Thus far, the offseason departures of some "critical" defenders look to be addition by subtraction.
Things will get tougher for the Bolts, who haven't exactly faced the league's best offenses thus far. They still have dates with potent attacks like those of the Patriots, Texans, Colts and Broncos (twice), but after showing that they can completely dominate lesser offenses, they should be up for the challenge of better competition.
Losing starting SS Steve Gregory, who was suspended four games Monday for violating the league's performance-enhancing substance policy, won't help matters, but the team has sufficient depth at safety to fill the void for the next month. It may take some time before the entire "D" is back to full strength, but once it is, this will not be a group that any team wants to face.