Defensive adjusments, pre-game

That crossing route was nearly the end of the San Diego Chargers. One play over and over again. Beat me once, shame on you. Beat me twice, shame on me. Beat me again, shame on the entire defense.

"Through the first quarter they kept running that same route and we kept chasing them from behind," an exasperated Marty Schottenheimer said. "We finally got that sorted out. We went man-to-man on that guy and you have to cover him. We weren't doing that so we had to make some modifications to the way we were doing it."

"Honestly, after we figured out the crossing route that kept killing us, I felt as though the defense played pretty well," linebacker Ben Leber said.

On Monday, Schottenheimer spoke with cornerback Sammy Davis. While the second year player may be on shakier ground than he was a week ago, there will be no change among the starting cornerbacks.

The rest of the pass defense wasn't much better. It was a combination of factors that allowed the pass defense to remain so beatable when the rush defense was impenetrable.

The pass rush was not there.

Schottenheimer said it is not surprising that the defense has not come around to the new 3-4 scheme. He put a six to eight week timeframe on how long it would take for them to perform at their highest level.

The coach would not say they would blitz more, pointing to the fact that it puts even more pressure on a secondary that is underperforming.

"We got a little bit of it (pass rush) at times," Schottenheimer said. "I don't know that we have gotten the consistency between the coverage and the rush.

"We still have work to do from a coverage standpoint."

The secondary is unwilling to use youth as its defense. Although the only member of the squad with significant tenure is Jerry Wilson, both Terrence Kiel and Davis would not use it as a shield.

The immediate help must come from up front. The boost to using the 3-4 was the offensive line would not know where the pressure is.

There has been little evidence of that happening.

Schottenheimer says it begins with defending the run.

"That is where this thing has to start defensively," he said. "If they can run on you, they have both sides of the sword to work with. When you can do a good job in defending the run it gives you a chance."

They cut off the heads of the Chargers defense with that single-edged sword.

"We had to go through the air, and those guys were getting open for me," Denver quarterback Jake Plummer said. "The offensive line was giving me good time, and the receivers made some good catches for me.

"(San Diego) has been doing a good job all year against the run. They've given up just a few yards average per game. We didn't give up on the run, obviously we kept trying to run the ball. We knew we might have to change up our plan a little bit, and then we ended up throwing the ball really well. Like I said, the line gave me time, and the receivers made big plays."

That has been the story since the get-go. The Chargers have been adequate in run defense, perhaps only because the pass defense has been horrible. Each week it is something different. One week the running backs torch the linebackers, another week the wide receivers play with the secondary's emotion.

But come halftime, the team seems to make adjustments that prevent further damage.

"That is one thing about the 3-4," linebacker Steve Foley began. "It takes time."

Time – as in game time? Will they need a half each game to iron out the coverages and whatever else presents itself?

It seems strange that different people are calling for time when they can miraculously fix the issues at halftime. What is the plan when they enter a game? Do they not study the opposing offense?

Time is not on the Chargers side. With a shaky quarterback – the defense needs to be the steadying force.

Wait until halftime.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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