De­fense fi­nally pro­vides some bonus points

Los Angeles Times - - NFL - By Jeff Miller jeff.miller@la­ Twit­ter: @Jef­fMillerLAT

They have held their last four op­po­nents to fewer than 20 points and clinched con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries with last-sec­ond stops, caus­ing in­com­ple­tions in the end zone.

Trend­ing in the right di­rec­tion, the Charg­ers de­fend­ers also did some­thing Sun­day they hadn’t done all sea­son: They scored.

Des­mond King pro­vided the first non-of­fen­sive points of the sea­son when he re­turned a fourth-quar­ter in­ter­cep­tion 42 yards for a touch­down in a 25-17 win at Seat­tle.

Be­fore that, the de­fense and spe­cial teams had been shut out, the Charg­ers’ first 213 points of the sea­son sup­plied by the of­fense. Last sea­son, they scored three touch­downs on de­fense and one on spe­cial teams.

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Gus Bradley ex­plained that the lack of of­fense from his de­fense was not the re­sult of a short­age of de­sire.

“We’re de­fined by our abil­ity to get the ball and score,” he said. “It’s not just by our abil­ity to get the ball, but it’s more that mind-set. Third down, ‘Hey, we’re look­ing to get a third-down stop.’ No, we’re look­ing to get the ball.”

King’s in­ter­cep­tion of a Rus­sell Wil­son pass came on first down and helped se­cure a fifth vic­tory in a row. The touch­down put the Charg­ers up by two scores with 6:44 re­main­ing in the game.

When Seat­tle scored five min­utes later, King’s points be­came more sig­nif­i­cant, al­low­ing the Charg­ers enough room to hold on.

“I think that men­tal­ity, the play­ers have re­ally bought into it,” Bradley said of seek­ing turnovers. “I think the abil­ity to get some pres­sure and then the cov­er­age be­ing tight enough to where you have op­por­tu­ni­ties to make plays.”

The Charg­ers are sev­enth in turnover ra­tio at plus-six. They’ve re­cov­ered two op­po­nents’ fum­bles and in­ter­cepted 10 passes, and the of­fense has three fum­bles lost and has had three passes in­ter­cepted.

Though the de­fense hasn’t scored much off the turnovers, it has pre­vented points by tak­ing the ball away. Three of those in­ter­cep­tions have come in­side their five-yard line. The de­fense has forced two other turnovers in­side the 25.

Then there are the backto-back, game-sav­ing stops. The de­fense pre­vented a po­ten­tial game-win­ning two­point con­ver­sion at­tempt by Ten­nessee with 31 sec­onds re­main­ing and then stopped Seat­tle from the six-yard line with no time left.

Bradley called those “gotta-have-it sit­u­a­tions” and cred­ited coach An­thony Lynn for pre­par­ing the de­fense by prac­tic­ing such oc­ca­sions not only in train­ing camp but also dur­ing the sea­son.

“I think that guys can re­call from be­ing in those sit­u­a­tions,” Bradley said. “It al­lows them to play fast, like, ‘We’ve been here. We just had this sit­u­a­tion in prac­tice. Now let’s go do what we do.’ ”

Road weary

The Charg­ers faced Oak­land on Oct. 7 in Car­son, mean­ing the Raiders have played at StubHub Cen­ter as re­cently as the Charg­ers have.

Af­ter vis­it­ing Oak­land-Alameda County Coli­seum on Sun­day, the Charg­ers fi­nally re­turn to play in their home sta­dium — against Den­ver — end­ing a stretch that will reach 41 days be­tween home dates.

“It was a tough month, just in gen­eral, with travel,” quar­ter­back Philip Rivers said. “So we have one more here that will be on the road be­fore we come back home. So it’s the back­stretch. We all know a lot of things hap­pen on this back­stretch.”

The Charg­ers are 6-2 for the first time since 2006, a sea­son in which they fin­ished 14-2.

Since Week 11 of last year, they’re 12-3, the sec­ond-best mark in the NFL, a half game be­hind New Eng­land.

“Cer­tainly, we’ve put our­selves in po­si­tion at the half­way mark to have a bet­ter chance than some years,” Rivers said. “But po­ten­tial is dan­ger­ous. Now you’ve got to go do it.

“The task at hand is the Oak­land Raiders. … That’s keep­ing it as sim­ple as that. I know it’s bor­ing. But that’s the best bet.”

On the mend

The Charg­ers de­fense could be thin­ner this week, with tackle Dar­ius Philon (an­kle), end Chris Lan­drum (hip), linebacker Kyle Emanuel (hip) and corner­back Trevor Wil­liams (knee) listed as ques­tion­able. Emanuel and Wil­liams didn’t prac­tice Fri­day, while Philon and Lan­drum were lim­ited.

The po­ten­tial ab­sences could mean more play­ing time for linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, a sec­ond-round draft pick out of USC.

“He’s not a rookie any­more,” Lynn said. “He’s played more than three games, so we treat him like a vet and we ex­pect him to know the play­book like a vet­eran. I think he’ll han­dle it well.”


Be­cause of the lo­cal wild­fires, the ra­dio broad­cast of the game Sun­day will be moved from KFI-AM (640) to KLAC-AM (570). The pregame show will be­gin at 11 a.m. …The Raiders, af­fected by poor air qual­ity from the Camp fire in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, were forced to con­duct a lighter prac­tice Fri­day. Coach Jon Gru­den said he “did not know” if the air qual­ity could af­fect the game Sun­day. … The Charg­ers coach­ing staff elim­i­nated one prac­tice in pads this week in an at­tempt to ease the work­load. “You want the guys to get to game day fresh,” Lynn said.

Luis Sinco Los An­ge­les Times

DES­MOND KING re­turns an in­ter­cep­tion for a touch­down, a rare feat by the Charg­ers de­fense.

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