Must-Win Matchups: Chargers vs. Falcons

The San Diego Chargers enter Sunday's game with three fewer wins than the Atlanta Falcons, yet hardly feel like underdogs. There are several matchups in all three phases that the Chargers are capable of exploiting. SDBoltReport.com takes an in-depth look at the top-five such matchups.

When the Chargers Run: FB Jacob Hester vs. MLB Curtis Lofton

Hester will make the first start of his NFL career in place of the injured Mike Tolbert (shoulder). Hester proved last week that he can make plays with the ball in his hands, hauling in three receptions in the fourth quarter, and now must show he can get it done as a lead blocker.

Hester will be asked to eliminate Lofton, who has started every game this season at middle linebacker and leads the team with 67 tackles. The Atlanta Falcons give up an average of 120.9 rushing yards per game, and if Hester is successful, the Chargers are capable of exceeding that number.

When the Chargers Pass: OT Jeromey Clary vs. DE Jamaal Anderson

OT Jeromey Clary
Doug Pensinger/Getty


Most people are focused on the sexier matchup between Marcus McNeill and John Abraham on the other side, but this one is just as important. Clary is looking to bounce back after allowing two sacks to Indianapolis Colts DE Robert Mathis last week, including one on which Mathis stripped the ball from QB Philip Rivers and forced a turnover.

Anderson is not as accomplished a pass-rusher as Mathis, but his raw talent in undeniable. Anderson, who was the eighth overall pick in the 2007 draft, is a stout two-way defender who must be accounted for. Nonetheless, Anderson has only two sacks this season; it will be up to Clary to prevent him from finding No. 3 this Sunday.

When the Falcons Run: NT Jamal Williams vs. C Todd McClure

All eyes will be on Michael Turner, who has sparked Atlanta's rejuvenation project after spending his first four seasons in San Diego. But if the Chargers hope to slow down the NFL's third leading rusher, Williams must control the middle of the field. The Chargers know Turner is a powerful north-and-south runner, so the objective is to make him bounce his runs to the outside.

Williams will be pitted against Atlanta mainstay McClure, a 10-year veteran who gets by with savvy and leverage. However, McClure gives up 47 pounds to Williams and will require help from guards Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock. Williams must hold his ground or Turner will steamroll San Diego's second- and third-level players.


CB Antoine Cason
Scott Boehm/Getty

When the Falcons Pass: CB Antoine Cason vs. WR Harry Douglas

When Atlanta goes to its three-receiver set, there will be a matchup between rookies Cason and Douglas. Cason is having a quiet rookie season and has not made much noise since generating takeaways in Weeks 1 and 2. However, he has made steady progress and is rarely caught out of position.

Douglas is coming off his best week as a pro, as he caught a 69-yard pass and brought back a 61-yard punt return against the Carolina Panthers. Cason, not exactly known as a burner, must play with unwavering concentration and technique to ensure Douglas doesn't rip off another big play this week.

Just for Kicks: K Nate Kaeding vs. K Jason Elam

Kaeding is money in Qualcomm Stadium, converting more than 90 percent of his kicks there this season. He hit another big one last week, a game-tying 47-yard field goal with less than two minutes to play. Although the Chargers eventually lost the game, it was important for Kaeding to come through in the clutch.

Elam is no stranger to clutch kicks, or to the Chargers for that matter. Elam has scored more points against the Chargers (228) than any other player in the history of the NFL. He'll look to add to that number this week in his first game against the Bolts not as a member of the Denver Broncos. Elam has converted on 91.7 percent of his attempts this season.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.


SD Super Chargers Top Stories

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