Chargers determined not to blow a lead

The Chargers conservative offense is taking the heat for the loss in Baltimore, but it was the team's No. 1 ranked defense that disappointed with the game on the line. With the team one defensive stop away from victory, it took the Ravens but six plays to travel sixty yards and score the winning touchdown.

The defense is supposed to be the money unit in San Diego.

Most observers felt the offense would take time to develop, especially with a first-time starter at quarterback and a rookie playing left tackle. The defense, on the other hand, has no such excuses.

Luis Castillo anchors the league's best 3-4 defensive line; Shawne Merriman leads the league in sacks per game; and Quentin Jammer has two interceptions through three games after averaging only 1.5 picks per year during his first four seasons. With so many playing so well, the Chargers defense still failed to come up with the highest priority stop of the season.

"We still have something to prove," Merriman said. "We didn't close the game out and that is what kept us out of the playoffs last year. We have to do the things we didn't do in Baltimore."

The defense will have an opportunity to redeem itself this Sunday when the Pittsburgh Steelers come to town. If this game elicits feelings of déjà vu, it's understandable.

In 2005, the Steelers came to San Diego to play a primetime game in week five. In that game, just like last week, the Chargers defense was one stop away from assuring victory. Instead, the Steelers drove downfield and won the game with a 40-yards field goal with just 10 seconds remaining.

If this game is going to have a different outcome, the Chargers defense needs to approach it with a different attitude.

Dominating for 55 minutes is great and all, but this unit needs to embrace a closer's mentality. With the game on the line, Castillo & Co. need to shut the opposition down.

"When you play a great team, all you can ask for as a defense is to have an opportunity at the end of the game to have it in your hands, control the game with a lead, put the win away," Castillo said.

This was the same team that blew four fourth quarter leads last season – and that number sits at one this year – and counting?

The opportunity should be there against Pittsburgh. The Chargers and Steelers are mirror images of one another and so this contest figures to be a tightly contested one. If the Chargers defense can make a big play late, all will be forgiven. If not, this inability to finish – which cost the team a playoff spot last season – will only be compounded.


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