Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa isn’t worried about route tendencies. He’s not concerned with whether the quarterback throws the football to the left side of the field or the right side of the field.
Bosa gets to play free — and free means fast.
In the second quarter of the Chargers’ game with Oakland last Sunday, Bosa had no other concern than beating Raiders right tackle Marshall Newhouse.
With two hands on the turf, he exploded into the backfield, pressing two hands into Newhouse’s chest before getting a paw on the football, which Oakland quarterback Derek Carr had exposed.
From snap to sack, 2.25 seconds elapsed. According to the NFL, it was the fastest sack of the season.
“I don’t worry about scheme,” he said.
That Bosa’s voice is commonly compared to that of Sean Penn’s character in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” Jeff Spicoli, only makes him sound even more carefree.
There’s a lesson to be learned in Bosa’s limited set of worries. Too much information can paralyze a coaching staff, it can freeze a football player and it can make playing fast a near impossibility.
It’s something teams deal with every week, but Sunday against the Denver Broncos, it’s a bigger deal than usual.
The teams are divisional opponents. The personnel is largely unchanged from past years, and just six weeks ago, they played each nother in Denver.
“They know you well. It’s only been five weeks since we played them. It’s a team and a defense that, they play their scheme. They believe in it. And they’re really, really good at it,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “It’s not, let’s turn on the tape from five weeks ago and going, ‘Gosh, they’re doing a lot of things different.’ They’re doing what they’ve done, and they do it well.”
Sunday will be the 25th time in Rivers’ career that he’s played against the Broncos — the most he’s faced any opponent in his career. “You get in on Monday morning, and you can write up every player on the defense and you know what they play — here’s their top coverage, there's this — before you even look at a tape,” Rivers said. “And they can do the same for us.”
It can spiral out of control. Here’s Rivers trying to explain it: “You can almost get to where you overthink things,” he said. “You overthink, well, they know that we know this about them, and we know they know this, so maybe we need to do this.”
You start, in a sense trying to counter moves three, four, five counters down the road to the point where you get overwhelmed.
“You can get to where you overthink things,” Rivers said. “It’s [got to be] like, 'No, we're going to trust what we do.’”
While it’s best for the players to keep a narrow focus, coaches in divisional games get to flex their creative muscles, using the familiarity the players have with one another as an advantage.
“Both sides will have some wrinkles to throw everyone off the scent,” Denver coach Vance Joseph said. “That’s what happens in divisional games.”
Sunday will be a test for Joseph and Chargers coach Anthony Lynn — the first time in both of their careers they’ll see a divisional opponent twice in the regular season.
They’ve spent the week scouring the scouting material available, talking to the players who know their AFC West rival best, trying to find the right tendency to deviate from and the right one to stick with.
But on the first third-and-long of the game, when Denver’s Trevor Siemian is back to pass, No. 99 in the powder blue jersey won’t be thinking that Siemian is more likely to throw it left against the Chargers than right or that he might try to go underneath against the Chargers’ Cover 3 defense.
Nah, Bosa will just be trying to hit the quarterback hard.
It’s easier that way.
“I really never rely on too much information,” Bosa said.