SANTA CLARA, Calif. – We laid an egg.
Those were some of the words defensive players for the San Diego Chargers uttered after the team’s disappointing performance last week at Seattle, giving up 243 rushing yards to the Seahawks.
Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said his coaching staff challenged players on the defensive side of the ball to play better, especially in regards to consistent tackling and getting after the quarterback.
To their credit, the starters on defense responded, holding the San Francisco 49ers to 69 total yards on four drives in the first half, and just 22 yards on the ground.
“I thought it was an overall great team effort,” Chargers inside linebacker Donald Butler said. “Definitely, a little more focus than last week. We had something to prove after last week.”
Chargers outside linebacker Jarret Johnson described the loss to Seattle more bluntly: “We got our (butts) handed to us.”
San Diego defensive lineman Corey Liuget served as the catalyst to a bounce-back performance for the Chargers. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder could not be blocked by the 49ers in the opening quarter, and lived in San Francisco’s backfield.
Liuget finished with four tackles (two tackles for a loss), a strip sack and forced fumble, two quarterback hurries and a pass deflection in just over a quarter of work against one of the better offensive lines in the NFL.
“When he gets hot, makes plays early and gets rolling, he’s as good as anybody in the league,” Johnson said about Liuget. “If he keeps playing at that level, people are going to recognize him. He is a big-time talent. And as he continues to progress, get older, better and more consistent, everybody’s going to know his name.”
Like the rest of his teammates, Liuget said last week’s loss to Seattle served as extra motivation to play better against a talented offense such as San Francisco.
“We were motivated as a defense and as a team,” Liuget said. “We got our butts handed to us last week. And we just knew for a fact what we had to come into this game and do -- tackle and make sure we get off of the field.”
Everyone around the league knows how dangerous San Diego’s offense is, how tough the Chargers are to stop on that side of the ball. But San Diego’s defensive players made a statement on Sunday against the 49ers that they will have to be reckoned with as well.
“Our energy and excitement was up, and we played like it,” Chargers safety Eric Weddle said. “When our front and backfield play together and do what we’re coached to do, we can play really well.”