The Packers defense has notched 20 sacks this season, second-most in the league (only behind the Denver Broncos, at 22). Sixteen of those sacks have come in the last three games. It’s not just sacks, either. It’s pressure and hits. Last Sunday, Rams quarterback Nick Foles was hit 14 times in the loss to Green Bay.
“[Against the Rams] we did a number of pressures with which we were able to get after the quarterback and hit him early,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. “You’ve got to think that affected him for the rest of the game. We really liked what we were able to do as far as getting after the quarterback and letting our guys sit back there and cover the receivers. We work in tandem with them. Last week we were having success.”
The opportunistic pass rush will be trying to get their hands on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who’s been sacked 14 times this season, fourth-most in the league. The three QBs who have more sacks than him — Russell Wilson (22), Alex Smith (21) and Colin Kaepernick (16) – have one thing in common: They’ve already played the Packers this season.
“The ability [of the Packers] to get after the quarterback and create pressure, the way they fly around on defense, all 11 guys are working together,” head coach Mike McCoy said Wednesday. “You don’t see a lot of breakdowns on film.”
PATCHWORK OFFENSIVE LINE (WHAT’S NEW?)
The Green Bay pass rush sees blood in the water as it eyes the injuries on the offensive line. Left tackle King Dunlap, center Chris Watt, reserve tackle/guard Chris Hairston and left guard Orlando Franklin did not practice Thursday, and of those four, only Franklin practiced Wednesday (he was limited). Right guard D.J. Fluker was also limited this week, but should play Sunday. Expect the Chargers to patch it together another week with the likes of Trevor Robinson, J.D. Walton, Kenny Wiggins and company. The good news is that these injuries aren’t catching anyone off guard. The backups-turned-starters are used to this, and likely more prepared now than at any point earlier in the season.
“STOPPING” AARON RODGERS
Okay so “stopping” Aaron Rodgers is a dream every NFL opponent of the Packers has in the week leading up to take on the Packers. Rodgers is a two-time MVP and is probably the best player in all of the NFL. The Chargers best chance at winning this game is by keeping No.12 off the field. That starts with controlling the clock on offense and praying the defense can hold its ground. Disguising the looks on defense, a fine line between blitzing and coverage schemes, will be an emphasis for the Chargers on Sunday.
“Anytime you play a quarterback that’s seen what he see’s, and the things that he’s done at this level, the more disguise, the more looks that you can give him is going to help us, defensive coordinator John Pagano said. “You just got to be smart with it. You see a lot of times where (the Packers) take advantage of the blitz pickups, not only because the ball comes out so quick. Some teams that you see have gotten to him or not have not gotten to him and have paid for it. You got to have a balanced attack. You got to be smart with it but you still just can’t sit there and just play coverage all day. You got to mix things in.”
If running back Melvin Gordon is to finally find himself in the end zone at Lambeau, it will be in front of family and friends, many of whom are attending the game. The rookie first-round pick is from Kenosha, Wisconsin — about three hours away from Green Bay – and set rushing records at the University of Wisconsin, also a few hours away.
Gordon’s rushed for 270 yards on 70 carries this season – for an average of 3.8 yards per attempt — but has yet to get a touchdown for the Chargers.
“It’d be awesome,” Gordon said, when asked what it would be like to score at Lambeau. “I haven’t been in the end zone for so long. Regardless of where I’m at, when I get in there, I’m going to be happy because, one, I got my first touchdown under my belt and, two, we’re putting points up on the board. I’ll be excited. It’ll be really exciting if I get to do it in front of all my family members that are there.”
WIN ON THE ROAD
The Chargers not only have a tall task in beating the Packers, they must try and do it at Green Bay. The Packers haven’t lost a home game at Lambeau Field since 2013 and are historically 9-1 when facing the Chargers. San Diego’s lone win against the Packers, surprisingly, happened at Lambeau Field way back in 1984 with Dan Fouts at quarterback.
“It’s one of my favorite places to go on the road,” said head coach Mike McCoy. “I think it’s a great place to play, with just the whole game-day atmosphere, the way they tailgate and the fan support. It’s unbelievable. And they’re very successful on the football field, too. It’s a great place to go and play.
For a more in depth look at the Chargers matchup against the Green Bay Packers, listen to Annie and Andrew’s game preview podcast here: