KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For those looking for a hint of sunshine in the dark cloud that has been the San Diego Chargers' 2015 campaign, check out the development of the team’s young defense.
The Chargers have struggled to score during the second half of the season, even with one of the league's best quarterbacks in Philip Rivers. But defensively, young players such as outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, cornerback Jason Verrett, safety Jahleel Addae and inside linebackers Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman have grown. And that bodes well for San Diego’s prospects next season.
“For us, it’s all about playing together,” Te'o said. “It’s not that we didn’t play together before. But there’s a bond as a unit, and there’s a bond as individuals that we have out there -- it’s something that’s still growing, and I’m excited to see how far that we grow.
“You see guys out there flying around. You see guys out there playing for each other. The thing about it is we’re just getting started. But we’ve got to put in the work. We want to finish the season on a positive note, leading into next season. We know that teams change. You understand that this is a business, and this team has three games together.”
Over the past three games, San Diego’s defense has held teams to 17.3 points a contest, forced four turnovers and held opposing offenses to 50 percent efficiency in the red zone. And Verrett’s third interception of the season snapped Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith’s streak at 312 passes without an interception, the second-longest run in NFL history.
While the stats are improved from earlier this season, it’s the emotional intensity the Chargers are playing with each time the defense is on the field that fuels the team’s play.
“We’re fired up for each other,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We’re trying to be there for each other -- good, bad or indifferent. Whether you mess up or make a great play, we want to be there to pat you on the butt and tell them to keep going.”
No player exemplifies that unbridled enthusiasm more than Addae.
The third-year pro finished with seven tackles Sunday, including a tackle for a loss. Yes, he earned a 15-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty for hitting Smith out of bounds. But Addae is willingness to throw his body around creates an energy that the rest of his teammates feed off of.
“It’s about playing with passion, playing with pride,” Addae said. “We set a standard on defense that we want to be great. And every time we got out there, that’s what we want to do.”