Chargers vs. Saints: Who to Watch

Three players to keep an eye on Sunday at the Q

Melvin Ingram at Chiefs

Chargers Defensive Coordinator John Pagano was on the coaching staff when Drew Brees was with the Bolts so he knows how good the Saints quarterback is. In his Thursday media session, without even being asked a question, Pags started right in on praising Brees.

“I think the one thing you see with this unit is explosion,” said Pagano. “Explosive plays. They’re efficient, how Drew runs the offense. They’re attacking people down field. They do a great job of really taking what the coverage gives you and the one thing is they’ve got big plays all over the place. Explosive, explosive, explosive plays so you’ve got to deal with those.”

Now, if you listen to that you probably start to ask yourself … if their offense is really that good, why are the Saints 0-3? Good question, I'm glad you brought it up.

It's because the Saints defense gives up more points than your typical NBA team. That is only a slight exaggeration.

New Orleans allows up the second-most points in the N-F-L (31 per game), the second-most yards in the NF-L (448.3), and features the worst rushing defense on the planet (149.3). So logic would dictate that the Chargers want to attack the Saints with running back Melvin Gordon, a tactic that worked well in their only win of the season against Jacksonville yet one they abandoned in a loss to the Colts. Right, coach?

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to win the game,” said head coach Mike McCoy. Really, he really actually said that. Again. So I asked him if running the ball frequently would be what it takes to win the game.

“We’re going in to it with a game plan and go through the game plan and if you’ve got to adjust but I’m not going to put a carry count on anybody ever. Do we want to run the football? Without a doubt we do.”

Then prove it and give Gordon 20-plus carries and odds are the Chargers will win this game. That brings us to our three players to watch:

Craig Mager or Pierre Desir, CB

Brandon Flowers is out with a concussion so Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward are going to be joined by a new guy in the starting secondary. Whichever guy it is, either Mager or Desir, you can bet your bottom dollar Drew Brees is going to want to test him. We saw last week how big an impact just one wideout can be when T.Y. Hilton ran roughshod over the Bolts. Of course, there is a way to keep a receiver from taking over a ball game: not giving the quarterback time to throw him the ball.

Melvin Ingram, OLB

Ingram has a pair of sacks and a forced fumble this year but all of that came in that win over the Jaguars. In two Chargers losses he has been pretty close to a non-factor on the stat sheet. Ingram is being counted on to be the best pass rusher on the roster and put heat on opposing team’s quarterbacks. Brees has only been sacked five times and he has the ability to get the ball out so fast it can be hard to get to him. Ingram has shown a propensity for getting in to the backfield quickly on occasion. He’ll need to be disruptive and put Drew on the ground to keep him from picking apart the Bolts defense.

Dexter McCluster, RB

The Chargers liked what they saw from McCluster in his first game in Indy and that came after just three days of practice. If McCoy doesn’t want to put a carries count on any one player then how about putting a carries count on the offense in general? I’m thinking 35 would be a good number. That would help the Bolts control the clock and keep Brees and that offense off the field. McCluster should have an expanded role in the offense, not just catching the ball, but taking a few handoffs, too.

Derek’s Prediction

What I think is going to happen is the game will roll along and have a final score in the mid-20’s somewhere. But for this pick I’m going with what I selfishly want to see, and that is one of those old WAC games that looked like they belonged in the Arena Football League. I want to see two offenses that are capable of putting up ridiculous point totals actually put up ridiculous point totals. Just light a couple of gasoline fires on each 20 yard line and let’s go! I know I usually would not take a McCoy-coached team in a close game but this time I’ll make an exception.

Final score: Chargers 52, Saints 49

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