San Diego Chargers vs. Atlanta Falcons: 3 Keys to the Game for the Chargers
The San Diego Chargers have won their first two games, but face their first big test of the season on Sunday.
A win against the Falcons—one of the best teams in the NFL—would show that the Chargers are legitimate playoff contenders this season.
Let's take a look at three things the Chargers must do in order to win Sunday's game.
Establish the Running Game
Ryan Mathews is expected to return on Sunday, and the Chargers offense will welcome him back with open arms.
The rushing attack has taken a hit without the starting running back in the lineup.
Jackie Battle stepped up in the second half on Sunday, but Curtis Brinkley and Ronnie Brown have done very little on the ground thus far.
As a team, the Chargers have rushed for 180 yards and average a pedestrian 3.1 yards per carry.
The team will hope that Mathews' return will provide an immediate boost to both of those disappointing numbers.
The Chargers will be going against a Falcons defense that has allowed 270 rushing yards after two games.
In order to win, they must effectively run the ball against this porous front seven.
The Chargers will likely find it difficult to have success through the air on Sunday. The Falcons have allowed an opposing quarterback rating of just 65.1 so far this season.
The Falcons are without Brent Grimes, but they still have two great cornerbacks in Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson.
Don't Allow the Star Receivers to Have Big Games
Matt Ryan is one of the luckiest quarterbacks in the league—the Falcons have provided him with two of the best wide receivers in the game in Roddy White and Julio Jones.
With great weapons at his disposal, it looks like Ryan has finally begun to play to his potential.
After two games, Ryan leads the NFL with a 117.6 quarterback rating.
The Chargers will have their hands full on defense as they do their best to lock down White and Jones.
Sunday will be a measuring stick for starting cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason.
Both Jammer and Cason have said they have improved during the offseason, and covering the extremely talented duo of White and Jones will show exactly how true those offseason assertions were.
The Chargers will require lots of safety help on White and Jones, and Eric Weddle should be up to the task.
For the Chargers to come out of Sunday with a win, it is necessary for both Jammer and Cason to play extremely well.
Continue to Shut Down the Running Game
After two games, the Chargers lead the NFL in run defense. The team has allowed a paltry 83 yards on the ground.
The Falcons are 28th in team rushing with just 151 yards. Therefore, one might not expect them to run the ball often.
However, the Chargers cannot allow themselves to get caught up in statistics after just two games.
Michael Turner might be coming off a DUI and two poor games, but he finished 2011 with 1,340 rushing yards and a 4.5 yard per rush average.
The Chargers' defensive line has been very impressive thus far, and they will need to continue their dominance at the point of attack on Sunday.
Turner will feel like he has something to prove following a disappointing start to 2012, but the Chargers can't let this game be the turning point of his season.
The team also has to be prepared to defend the Falcons' Jacquizz Rodgers.
If the Chargers shut down Turner, the Falcons could turn to the much quicker runner. However, containing Rodgers would be a completely different task to containing Turner.
The Chargers must be prepared for the elusive Rodgers.