Poor Ereck Flowers. The New York Giants left tackle lined up for a third-down play early in the third quarter Sunday with two of the NFL's most menacing edge rushers in his face, Joey Bosa just off his right shoulder pad and Melvin Ingram off his left.
The Chargers tandem is difficult enough to contend with when they're on opposite sides. When they line up on the same side, as they do several times a game, they can be lethal.
"When he and I are on the same side, the sky is the limit," Ingram said. "It's a pretty sight. We try to mix it up and be unpredictable."
As quarterback Eli Manning took the snap, Bosa bull-rushed Flowers, driving the lineman backward. Ingram stunted off the edge, flying to the left of Bosa and getting a clear path to Manning for a 13-yard sack, one of the many defensive highlights of the Chargers' 27-22 win.
"There's a bunch of different situations we can put the offensive line in, and if they don't slide to us we get a two on two," Bosa said. "That's what we're always looking for, to create good matchups and confuse them. Every time we get both of us on one side, they kind of panic a little bit."
Bosa had been relatively quiet in the previous three games, but he asserted himself Sunday with two first-quarter sacks for a loss of six yards. He had six tackles (one for a loss), one forced fumble and two quarterback hits.
Ingram had the biggest play of the game, a fourth-quarter sack of Manning for a loss of 12 yards. As Ingram flung Manning to the ground, the ball popped loose. Ingram recovered on the Giants' 11-yard line, and the Chargers went on to score the winning touchdown.
Reserve tackle Darius Philon, who hurt the Chargers with a late illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty in last week's loss to Philadelphia, had a big 11-yard sack of Manning on a third-down play earlier in the fourth.
And the Chargers snuffed out any chance of a Giants rally when free safety Tre Boston intercepted a pass that was tipped by tackle Corey Liuget with 40 seconds left, giving the Chargers two turnovers after forcing only three in their first four games.
"The defense came up huge," Bosa said. "Mel with a sack to turn it over and somehow come up with the ball was unbelievable, and then that pick at the end … it was an awesome feeling to turn around and see our guy get his hands on it instead of their guys."
There were still a few too many missed tackles. Even without injured running back Paul Perkins, the Giants racked up 152 yards rushing, and the Chargers secondary gave up two long touchdown passes. But the overall effort was good enough for a win.
"We played Chargers defense — we were fast, physical and smart," Boston said. "The last few games, it's been us against ourselves first, then the other team. Today we did a good job of executing, doing our job, and not beating ourselves."
Nick Novak had a relatively stress-free return to the Chargers on Sunday when the veteran kicker, who was signed Thursday to replace struggling rookie Younghoe Koo, kicked field goals of 20 and 31 yards and made all three of his extra-point tries.
But Novak did have one harrowing moment late in the fourth quarter when his extra-point kick to give the Chargers a 17-16 lead hit the right upright and caromed through the goal posts.
The same exact thing happened to Giants kicker Aldrick Rosas, whose point-after kick to give the Giants a 16-10 lead midway through the third period hit the right upright and bounced through.
"That must be the first game in NFL history where both kickers hit the upright and the ball went in," Novak said. "Somebody has to fact-check that. The referees were amazed. Thankfully, it went in."
Leaders of the pack
Prior to the season, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said he didn't want to name team captains, using the honor as an incentive. Each week, Lynn planned to name different captains depending on who was deserving that week.
But after a 0-3 start, the team decided to formalize their leadership, making Ingram, quarterback Philip Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and left guard Matt Slauson permanent captains, with a "C" sewn into each of their jerseys. Lynn also named left tackle Russell Okung an honorary captain Sunday.
The Giants lost three of their top four receivers to injury during the game, including Odell Beckham Jr., who suffered a broken left ankle with about four minutes left. The injury could require surgery that would sideline the star for at least eight weeks. Beckham was carted off the field and later carted out of the locker room. Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall suffered ankle injuries on the same drive in the second quarter and didn't return.