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The cheat sheet: Lions must prepare for Chargers’ dink and dunk offense

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Breaking down the matchup between the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Chargers.

Indianapolis Colts v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Looking over the matchup this week for the Lions, I was struck by how similar the strengths and weaknesses are for both the Cardinals and the Chargers—both have pretty weak offensive lines, outstanding pass rushers, and beat-up secondaries.

And much like last week, the key for the Lions this week will be limiting the short, high percentage throws.

The Chargers had no problem dinking and dunking most of the game last week against the Colts.

Because of how weak they are in pass protection, the Chargers didn’t get too many opportunities to throw it downfield last week. Out of Philip Rivers’ 34 pass attempts in Week 1, 62 percent were of 10 yards or less. And he only had two completions over 20 yards.

NFL Next Gen Stats

Austin Ekeler had six catches for 96 yards last week, with a lot of those yards coming off of screen passes.

If Jarrad Davis is active on game day, that would give the Lions a nice boost against screens and short zone throws where he can read and react to make the tackle.

Opponent snapshot

Anthony Lynn returns for his third year as the Chargers’ head coach. And Philip Rivers is entering his 16th NFL season.

One key thing to note about this Chargers team is health and availability. They are currently without their left tackle Russell Okung, starting safety Derwin James, starting cornerback Michael Davis, and tight end Hunter Henry who were both lost to injuries last Sunday.

Running back Melvin Gordon is also holding out for a new contract and will almost certainly be out against Detroit on Sunday. However, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson split carries in Gordon’s absence and performed well–18 carries for 115 yards between them.

The Chargers are seemingly on the cusp of the playoffs every year, but they also have a habit of coming up short.

That almost played out last week in their overtime victory against the Colts. After giving up 15-point lead late in the fourth quarter (sound familiar Lions fans?) they were able to put together a long touchdown drive to seal the game in the first possession of OT.

If you watch this 10-minute recap, you’ll see a team that looks oddly similar to the Lions right now.

We’ll see if Chargers, like the Lions, can clean up some of their mistakes on Sunday.

Chargers’ biggest threat

Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa

It’s no secret the Lions pass protection was poor last Sunday against the Cardinals. PFF ranked them 31st against the pass and they have another monumental challenge on their hands this Sunday against Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.

The Lions will have to do better this week in order to protect Matthew Stafford.

“Protection-wise, some of it for us, trying to keep the width of the pocket with those two guys,” Patricia said. “They had some pretty good pass rush games, especially built up some of the protections that we had dialed up to get those guys where they were able to come inside and get into the middle of the pocket pretty quick off of some of those stunts, were pretty good on their end. They executed those really well.”

Just like Vance Joseph did in Week 1, Gus Bradley will move Ingram and Bosa around the defensive line to find the best matchup.

Here are a few a prime examples from last week’s game against the Colts.

The Chargers get Ingram lined up over a guard and make him pay.

Great scheme. Great execution.

Chargers’ weak link

Run defense

It’s a little ironic for the defensive line to be both a strength and weakness, but that is exactly how it played out for the Chargers last week.

They started out strong—giving up only 30 yards in the first half. But as the game went on the defensive line began to crumble. Marlon Mack ended the game with 174 yards on 25 carries.

Even if you take away his 63-yard touchdown run, Mack still averaged a healthy 4.6 yards per carry.

Bottom line

While the Chargers are certainly thought of as one of the top teams in the AFC, their performance last Sunday sure didn’t look like it. In fact, they were probably lucky to escape with a home victory against a Jacoby Brissett-led Colts team.

That said, the Lions will still have their hands full. Philip Rivers has shown little signs of wearing down, and the Chargers have plenty of offensive and defensive firepower to mask their weaknesses.

Prediction

Lions 31 Chargers 28