Chargers Defense a hit in loss

The biggest curiosity surrounding this team involved the anticipated unveiling of the new defense, with Wade Phillips introducing his 3-4 to the Chargers for the first time. <br><br> "I am anxious to see the defense," Marty Schottenheimer said before the game began.

And it was a success, despite the loss. Whether it was the first team or second team on the field, they made more significant plays on Saturday than they did all last year. From stuffs to sacks to simple excitement, it was there on the field. There is no better way to get the home crowd in a game than a stellar defensive play. Fans had plenty to cheer about.

The Chargers opened with Igor Olshansky making a surprise start at defensive end. The Chargers are hoping that their second round pick brings sorely needed size, power and speed to the line.

"I am just glad to get things rolling," Olshansky said.

Zeke Moreno started ahead of Randall Godfrey at inside linebacker.

"Me and Zeke are going to compete and the best man is going to be out there," Godfrey said. "We are just going to push each other and everybody is going to push each other."

Ben Leber provided early pressure on two plays in the first series, one forcing Peyton Manning to make a short pass to Dallas Clark for a small gain and another time forcing Edgerrin James to the outside. On third down, Terrence Kiel was picked by a route runner and a wide open Clark had a pass slip through his hands. Three and out.

Steve Foley and Stephen Cooper made a stuff on a crucial play during the second series. Foley and Cooper snuffed out a run targeting the left end by James and knocked him for a loss. It was followed by Otis Leverette getting pressure on Manning and forcing him to throw quicker than he wanted on third and four. Although Reggie Wayne made the catch, it was short of the first down.

In the end, the Chargers defense held Peyton Manning and his offense to six plays in two series, two three-and-outs.

The Chargers first team defense continued its assault on the second team offense. After stopping the Colts, a 12-men on the field penalty on the special teams unit gave the Colts the ball again with a first down and new life.

Foley and Cooper again penetrated into the backfield to tackle James Mungro behind the line as Jamal Williams literally threw the center out of the way. Olshansky then provided the pressure and forced the quarterback to throw the ball quickly into the flat where a running back awaited. Covering backs has been a big problem for the Chargers in the past but not on this day. Foley was again there to blanket his man and take him down after a short gain.

It was then that the rotation of linebackers and linemen began with a mix and match of first and second team players taking the field.

"The system is such that it is not real complicated," Schottenheimer said, clearly pleased with the results.

Stephen Cooper got the first sack for the Chargers, one of five on the day from the swarming defense.

Dave Ball got the second sack, coming in on a stunt in the third quarter. Shaun Phillips got in for a sack in the third quarter and was close to another a few plays earlier but the quarterback was able to scramble forward and get away from him as Phillips whiffed on the tackle. Phillips and Ball converged on another sack opportunity and adversely affected a ball that was being thrown with their hit on the quarterback. Hanik Milligan was the next player to get in on the act with a fourth quarter sack. Robert Pollard added the fifth sack of the game for the Chargers.

"I just go and am trying to close fast to the quarterback," Phillips said. "Sometimes you do get washed out. (The offensive lineman) gets a check just like I get a check. My thing is just that I want to win more battles than I lose. You are not going to win all of them. Everyone is too good out here. I just want to win more than I lose."

Shaun Phillips, incidentally, just missed an interception with less than twenty seconds to go in the game that would have sealed the game with a Chargers victory.

Overall, the defense made huge strides in their first live action. It was evident that Wade Phillips needed to test some of his toys out and he did not shy away from showing a few different looks. The results were positive and showed more than a few glimpses of promise. Although they produced no turnovers, five sacks a game and even more pressure will surely change that.

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