When looking at the stat sheet you would think defensive end Marcellus Wiley would have his awakening at the expense of John St. Clair this past weekend. Instead St. Clair put on a performance for the ages. Not only did he shut out Wiley in the sack game, he dominated him.
St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger literally had as much time as he needed to throw the ball. The result, 36-48 for 453 yards and 4 touchdowns. Bulger did not throw an interception on the day as he was not put into a position where he had to force a throw.
"I got hit a couple of times, but they were blitzing a lot," Bulger said. "For me to sit here and not be really sore right now is a real credit to those guys. They did a great job." Bulger has been sacked only six times in his four starts.
48 times Bulger dropped back and on more than one occasion you could count yourself to sleep before he delivered his strikes to his receivers.
Wiley was only one Charger who failed to reach Bulger. Not only did he have the favorable matchup, but he failed to do what he came to San Diego to do. The Chargers signed him to a six-year, $40 million deal before last season, and Wiley promptly rewarded them with a career-high 13 sacks in 14 games.
The pass rush has struggled this season. The Chargers had 16 sacks in their first three games to lead the league but have only 10 in their last six despite having the top bookend defensive ends in terms of sacks in the league. Ray Lee Johnson was not expected to get much pressure as he battled Orlando Pace, but he has not had the success he had last year either.
"I'm very disappointed because that's the area where I try to make the most impact," Wiley said. "They had a great day with the offensive line, and we didn't do so well. He didn't feel our presence and our pressure nearly as much as he should have. No sacks and, more importantly, he probably didn't have to disrupt his flow."
"That's unbelievable," he said. "I take it personally. A lot of that falls on my shoulders. It wasn't because of lack of effort; it was just lack of achievement. Whatever I have to do, I have to get there. I don't care if I'm getting single-blocked, doubled, tripled. Whatever the situation, some way in those 48 attempts I have to show up."
"They protected Marc unbelievably," Rams coach Mike Martz said of his line and blockers. "I was watching in the second quarter and made the comment at halftime, 'I'm not so sure that we just shouldn't throw this ball every snap.' "
In fact, 31 of the Rams' 37 plays in the second half were throws. Bulger responded by completing 22-of-31 for 312 yards and three scores. The quarterback's success left Wiley searching for answers.
"What I need to figure out is – I've got to get a little more technical," he said. "I think they know what I can't do and they overplay what I can do. I felt that in a couple of situations. That's smart on their behalf. Just like with an offensive play, you can kind of say, 'They can't do this.' If they go unbalanced in certain situations, you don't expect a rollout pass the other way.
"I think they see us lined up and they may say, 'OK, Marcellus, Raylee, whatever, has to stay outside, so let's play inside.' That's to their advantage. That's not going to be an excuse I allow. That's going to be something that I have to counteract. So, I'm not going to sleep. But I'll figure it out."
Now this week it gets worse. They face a quarterback in Jeff Garcia who is a master scrambler. San Francisco 49er coach Steve Mariucci knows that is part of the strength of his team and the Chargers defensive coordinator Dale Lindsey must prepare for the inevitable.
"It's organized chaos," says Garcia of his planned scrambling. "When I get out of the pocket, my teammates know where I am, and I know where I am."
In the past two seasons, Garcia has an amazing 145.2 passer rating when he is on the move out of the pocket. He also has rushed 57 times for 397 yards and four TDs when forced to scramble.
Instead of his usual hunting of quarterbacks, Wiley will be chasing one on Sunday. He just hopes he will catch Garcia in the backfield a few times.
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