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Are the Chargers an elite defense?

SAN DIEGO -- Shutouts are rare in the NFL.

So when the San Diego Chargers held on late in the game for a 31-0 victory against the New York Jets, defensive co-captain Eric Weddle did not take the team’s shutout for granted. The bagel was the NFL’s first shutout this season.

"It means a lot," Weddle said. "You always strive to have that great game, where everything clicks and you play well for all four quarters. It does not come around often in the NFL -- especially in today’s NFL -- so you’ve got to be proud of it."

Rightfully, the play of Philip Rivers and San Diego’s talented offense has grabbed the headlines nationally. But quietly, the Chargers are building one of the elite defenses in the NFL.

Through Week 5, the Chargers are No. 1 in points allowed per contest (12.6), No. 2 in passing yards allowed per game (195) and No. 3 in yards allowed per contest (290).

The Chargers also are tied for fifth in the NFL with 12 sacks, and have not allowed a point in the fourth quarter in four straight games.

"It’s a good building point," Weddle said. "We’re really turning into a dominant defense, from the front all the way to the back end. We’ve just got to keep putting that pressure on us to be great week in and week out, and see how it goes."

Though the Chargers are playing well on defense, there is still room for improvement. San Diego is tied for No. 26 in the NFL in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns 70 percent of the time. And the Chargers are No. 13 in the league in third-down defense (41 percent).

"We have to make them earn it," said Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano this week, when asked what his unit needs to do to become an elite defense. "We have to make teams go earn it against our defense. We cannot sit there and give up certain plays on certain downs.

"Everybody’s going to make plays, and there’s going to be certain mistakes in the game. But our mindset on third down is we've got to make them go earn it."