Game Primer: Chargers vs. Falcons

The Chargers look to start 3-0 for the first time since 2002 when they host the Falcons on Sunday. It's a contest that has a chance to help the Chargers regain the contender status they have lost over the last couple years. The set the stage for this big clash, we break down every phase of the game.

When The Chargers Run

Ryan Mathews is ready to return to the starting lineup after a week of full participation in practice. However, the Chargers now have the luxury of easing Mathews back into the rotation thanks to the emergence of Jackie Battle. Battle rushed for 69 yards and a career-high two TDs last week in a performance that will almost certainly move him up the depth chart.

The offensive line opened up big holes for the running game last week, creating 10 rushing first downs. The Atlanta Falcons are giving up an average of 135.0 rushing yards per game.

When The Chargers Pass

QB Philip Rivers
Jake Roth/U.S. Presswire
Three is the magic number. Philip Rivers and Norv Turner are both 0-for-3 in their careers against Atlanta. If they can buck that trend on Sunday, San Diego will open 3-0 for the first time since 2002.

The odds are stacked against them with Atlanta taking seven of its last eight games against San Diego. The last meeting between these two teams was in 2008 where the Falcons won 22-16 in San Diego.

With the exception of an interception last week, Rivers continues to impress with 515 yards already this season. Going into his 103rd career game, he sits 200 yards shy of tying New Orleans QB Drew Brees as the sixth fastest player to reach the 25,000 milestone.

Rivers has to exploit the offensive mismatches downfield. WR Malcom Floyd has 7 inches on CB Asante Samuel and is primed for another breakout game.

TE Dante Rosario has arrived, scoring three touchdowns against the Titans. Rosario allows the Chargers to limit Antonio Gates, who is still recovering from a rib injury. However, Rosario was limited in practice this week due to a calf injury.

WR Robert Meachem was held without a reception on four targets last week. This week is as good as any for Meachem to get on track. Last season with New Orleans, he racked up 144 receiving yards and two TDs in a pair of meetings with Atlanta.

RB Michael Turner
John Bazemore/AP
When The Falcons Run

RB Michael Turner was arrested and charged with a DUI early Tuesday morning after the Falcons' 27-21 victory over the Denver Broncos. Turner is expected to remain in the Falcons' lineup on Sunday.

Turner, who was drafted by San Diego in the fifth round of the 2004 NFL Draft, signed with Atlanta in 2008. Since then, he ranks third in the NFL with 5,355 rushing yards and second in with 51 touchdowns.

After two weeks, San Diego's rush defense is ranked No. 1 in the league giving up only 41.5 yards per game.

When The Falcons Pass

Matt Ryan is on fire this season, completing 47 of 67 passes for 518 yards with five TDs and 0 INTs. Ryan leads the league with a QB rating of 117.6. The Falcons are 25-0 when Ryan has a QB rating of 100.0 or more.

Arguably one of the best wide receiver duos in the league, Roddy White and Julio Jones have torn up secondaries so far. Yet both receivers were limited in practice this week with injuries. White (knee) and Jones (thigh) figure to play. Coach Mike Smith claims their injury status is only due to the Falcons' short week after playing on Monday night.

The Falcons need to utilize TE Tony Gonzalez, who has been a Charger killer throughout his career. Gonzalez has five career 100-yard games against San Diego. In the last three meetings, he has 315 yards on 26 catches.

Eric Weddle is tied for the NFL high with eight interceptions since 2011. Weddle and SS Atari Bigby have to own the field. They can stabilize a wounded secondary with CB Quentin Jammer (hand) still in a cast and nickel CB Shareece White (foot) out a second straight week. The Chargers have given up only 24 points this season; only two of those scores were touchdowns.

Just For Kicks

The Atlanta Falcons rank second in the league averaging 31.8 yards per kick return, compared to the No. 11 ranked Chargers who average 25.0 yards.

Rookie LB Melvin Ingram was close to getting the Chargers' second blocked punt of the season last week. The Falcons have been hammered on the punt-return game. Return man Dominique Franks has only averaged -2.0 yards per return.

How will Turner fare against his former team? Talk about it in the message boards.

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