It comes down to third down.
"We blitzed a lot on third down," Saints coach Jim Haslett said after his team was thrashed by the Bolts. "We played man and they converted, we played zone and they converted, so we blitzed and they converted, and we tried a three man (rush) and they converted; so nothing really worked."
"I think we were 12-of-18," Brees said of his success against the Saints and the numbers were dead on.
Drew Brees has been unbelievable with his conversion rate. He has completed 62.3 percent of his passes on third down, going 43-of-69 for 509 yards. He has five touchdowns to just one interception while attempting to keep drives alive and sports a quarterback rating of 102.9.
Brees is also tied for third in the NFL with 14 completions for a first down when faced in third and eight or more. He has had 35 such opportunities, giving him a 40 percent success rate.
As a team, the Chargers are 52-of-111 on third down, a 46.8 percent success ratio. That places them fifth in the league, pending the outcome of this weekend's games. The 52 first downs made is a mark that stands second in the league.
"Being efficient on third down is key," Brees said.
The Chargers have been impressive on fourth down as well, making five of six.
San Diego was fourth worst in the league last year, converting 31.5 percent of their third downs and making just 62 first downs on the year.
"Drew went through his rough times," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "Now you're seeing him get more mature and experienced and it's helping him out a lot."
His supporting cast has been augmented since last year, especially with the addition of Keenan McCardell and the emergence of Antonio Gates.
That and the protection from the offensive line has brought the offense to new heights.
"We have continued to play well on third downs and have continued to play well in the scoring zone," coach Marty Schottenheimer said.
The Bolts are 31-of-34 in the red zone and have scored 32 touchdowns, good for second in the league.
With the benefit of making third downs and continually converting scoring chances, the Chargers are keeping the defense off the field and making it impossible for the opposition to establish their own game on offense.
With seven games to go, the team simply needs to continue its offensive efficiency. The defense is slowly catching up to them and when they do this team could be really scary.
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