San Diego Chargers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 10 Keys to the Game for San Diego
The Chargers will have their hands full with a Buccaneers offense that has been firing on all cylinders recently.
The Chargers cannot play like they did against the Chiefs if they want to come out of Tampa Bay with their fifth victory of the season.
Let's take a look at 10 keys to today's game.
Don't Allow the Deep Ball
Josh Freeman has completely turned things around this season, and he has done so by firing the ball deep down the field.
Freeman averages 8.1 yards per passing attempt, which is good for second in the NFL.
Vincent Jackson leads the NFL in yards per reception with 22.9. Mike Williams ranks fifth in yards per reception with 17.4
The Chargers cannot allow the Buccaneers to complete too many deep balls in today's game.
Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason are both susceptible to double moves, so the Chargers will have to give both cornerbacks a lot of safety help.
Don't Let Vincent Jackson Get Going
Vincent Jackson tried his best to get A.J. Smith to offer him an extension, but Smith did not want to pony up the money to keep Jackson in San Diego.
Smith hoped that Jackson was a product of San Diego's offense, and he let Jackson go to Tampa Bay.
Boy, was the stubborn Smith wrong or what?
Jackson has 710 receiving yards and six touchdowns this year on 31 receptions. He has been the definition of a big-play receiver, which the Chargers sorely need.
Today, Jackson will be out to prove that the Chargers should have re-signed him.
The Chargers cannot allow Jackson to get going and build his confidence.
If Jackson gets going, he could easily duplicate his 216-yard performance from three weeks ago against the New Orleans Saints.
Slow Down Doug Martin
Doug Martin was the talk of the NFL following his 251-yard, four-touchdown performance last Sunday.
Martin has 608 yards from scrimmage in the Bucs' last three games.
The Chargers started off the year shutting down opponents' run games. However, the Chargers have allowed 246 rushing yards in their last two games.
The Chargers run defense will need to play like they did in the beginning of the season for them to have a chance to shut down the talented Martin.
Pass, Pass, Pass
Philip Rivers will need to have his biggest game of the season against the terrible Bucs' passing defense.
The Buccaneers allow 321.1 yards per game through the air.
If Rivers doesn't have a big game today, the football world will continue to wonder, "What happened to Philip Rivers?"
Pressure Josh Freeman
Josh Freeman is prone to big mistakes if he is under duress.
Unfortunately, the Chargers haven't been able to apply much pressure to opposing quarterbacks.
For the Chargers to force Freeman into interceptions, John Pagano will need to show exotic defensive looks to pressure the young quarterback.
When Freeman is sacked two or more times this season, the Bucs are 1-3. When Freeman is sacked one or zero times, the Bucs are 3-1.
Don't Let the 10 A.M. Start Time Affect the Team
The Chargers don't do well when they have to fly east and play games with a 10 a.m. PT start time.
The Chargers are 1-3 in their last four games that started at 10 a.m. PT.
Hopefully, the coaches were able to mentally prepare the team for today's early game.
Robert Meachem Needs to Step Up
The Chargers hoped that Robert Meachem could step in and seamlessly replace Vincent Jackson this year.
It's now obvious that Meachem's talent level is nowhere near Jackson's.
The most memorable moment of Meachem's first year in San Diego is his heart-wrenching drop against the Cleveland Browns that would have likely won the game.
Meachem needs to have a big game against the Bucs' poor secondary today. Otherwise, Chargers' fans will be cursing his name for weeks to come.
Keep the Buccaneers Pass Rush Away from Rivers
This should be relatively easy, considering that the Buccaneers only have 13 sacks on the season.
However, nothing should be taken for granted when it comes to the Chargers.
The offensive line needs to keep the Buccaneers pass rush far away from Rivers so that he can carve up the Bucs' poor secondary.
Ryan Mathews Must Play Smart
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have shut down opposing running backs to a tune of 77.3 yards per game.
In fact, the Buccaneers lead the NFL in rushing defense.
Ryan Mathews has to realize when a play won't develop, and he can't try to do too much. Trying to do too much could potentially lead to a game-changing fumble.
Mathews needs to hold on to the ball on his runs so that Rivers has a chance to keep passing the ball.
Turnovers in the running game could kill the passing game for the Chargers.
Utilize Antonio Gates
Last week, the Buccaneers allowed Oakland Raiders tight end Brandon Myers to score two touchdowns and rack up 59 receiving yards. They also let the Raiders' fullback Marcel Reece—who occasionally lines up on the line of scrimmage—total 95 receiving yards and one touchdown.
Antonio Gates should have a field day against the Bucs' defense today. He is much more talented than Myers and Reece.