Three teams have a better record than the Chargers, four have scored more often and five have a greater point differential.
But entering Week 7, they are leading the NFL in newfound national hype. Yes, the facts are unofficial and even made up.
Yet, it seems pretty clear that no team is being celebrated more at the moment than the Chargers. And remember, they still share the same city with the league’s only remaining unbeaten team.
The winners of three in a row and favored by nearly a touchdown to make it four straight Sunday in London against Tennessee, the Chargers are receiving boundless love on the Internet, television and radio.
Multiple players have appeared coast-to-coast since their 38-14 victory over Cleveland, answering questions about everything from Philip Rivers’ blocking to making a postseason run. From the surreal to the sublime.
“Just being present,” defensive lineman Damion Square said when asked how he and his teammates could quiet the potentially distracting noise. “That other stuff is coming and we’re going to have to perform.”
As a promising foundation in a sport in which continued success can be fleeting, the Chargers built their latest victory on the bedrock that makes up the line of scrimmage.
Coach Anthony Lynn began his latest session with the media by praising his offensive and defensive fronts, the Chargers having rushed for 246 yards while limiting the run-happy Browns to barely 100.
“They made it look easy,” he said of the offensive side. “It really wasn’t that easy. There were a lot of plays checked at the line of scrimmage, which changes their responsibility. They adjusted well and executed well.”
They have been without right tackle Joe Barksdale since he hurt his knee early in the season opener. Sam Tevi has taken over that spot, though Barksdale appears close to returning.
“We want to be an explosive offense, whether we’re throwing it over your head or running it on the ground,” Okung said. “We want to get the ball in our playmakers’ hands and allow them to do what they do best.”
On defense, the Chargers also have established a pass rush in consecutive weeks after struggling to generate pressure early.
They had eight sacks total in victories over Cleveland and Oakland, playing a scheme that defensive coordinator Gus Bradley acknowledged features “a little bit more creativity” in the absence of defensive end Joey Bosa.
“They’re winning one-on-ones. They’re taking some of the pressure away from Melvin Ingram,” Lynn said of the defensive end. “That’s what we need to see.”
Bosa has been sidelined all season with a foot injury but continues his rehabilitation in hopes of returning sometime after the Chargers’ Week 8 bye.
When he is able to come back, Bosa will provide a pair of fresh, Pro Bowl legs and further extend the depth the Chargers have been developing.
In each of the past two games, they’ve used six defensive linemen for at least 40% of the opponents’ snaps.
Against the Browns, they also had a more active Corey Liuget, the tackle playing in his second game after being suspended to start the season for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Liuget was in on three tackles and had 1.5 sacks as the Chargers were able to bring more pressure from the middle.
In thwarting Cleveland’s offense, the Chargers overcame the loss of linebacker Jatavis Brown, who missed the game because of a groin injury. Brown had been starting in place of the injured Kyzir White (knee).
Linebackers Denzel Perryman, Kyle Emanuel and Uchenna Nwosu shifted around to cover for the injuries. Safety Adrian Phillips also was employed closer to the line of scrimmage in the dime package.
“The secondary is getting used to it now,” Lynn explained. “The coverage is getting tighter on the back end when we have to bring secondary pressure and things like that. It came together well.”
Rivers the blocker
It wasn’t a pancake. But it wasn’t a cupcake, either.
On a reverse to Keenan Allen on Sunday, Rivers ran downfield and interfered enough with linebacker Jamie Collins to allow Allen space to pick up a first down. The Chargers were leading 28-6 at the time .
“That just lets you know he loves the game,” running back Melvin Gordon said. “Phil is a high-energy guy who’s going to do whatever it takes to win. Every snap, he shows that.”
Lynn wasn’t exactly thrilled seeing Rivers engage the rugged Browns defender, but he appreciated the effort and the result.
“Yeah, I saw that,” Lynn said. “He helped us get a first down with that. That was a critical first down. But I don’t want to see him doing that too many times.”