The Los Angeles Chargers crushed the Cleveland Browns, 38-14, on Sunday to win their third straight game since beginning the season 1-2. Now, after the Chiefs loss to the Patriots on Sunday night, the Chargers sit just one game back in the AFC West and look primed to make a playoff run. Their two losses have come against the Chiefs and the crosstown-rival Rams, two of the league’s best teams.
This week, the Chargers head to London for a matchup with a team on an opposite trajectory. The Tennessee Titans have lost two straight games since getting off to a 3-1 start and they gave up 11 sacks on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. To get some insight into the matchup and what it’s like to prepare for a game in London, we caught up with NFL on CBS analyst Bruce Arians who will be on the call for the game alongside Greg Gumbel, Trent Green and sideline reporter Melanie Collins. (Editor’s note: This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.)
CBS Local Sports: The Chargers have ripped off three straight wins, including a rout of the Browns last weekend, what do you see from them that is working so well on both sides of the ball right now?
Bruce Arians: Philip Rivers is playing at a very high level which is big. But, their defense, even without Joey Bosa, has been playing really well. Gus Bradley has done a great job of getting their defense rolling.
CBS Local Sports: The Titans have been headed in the opposite direction however with losses in their last two games. Marcus Mariota in particular seems to be struggling, when you look at what he’s done this year compared to previous years, what’s the biggest difference you’re seeing?
Bruce Arians: Well, it’s another new offensive system. For young quarterbacks, when you start changing systems for the second or third time, it’s really hard. The other problem is, they don’t throw the ball a lot so it’s hard for him to get into a rhythm in the offense.
CBS Local Sports: With Mariota against this tough Chargers defense, how do you think they’ll look to get him on track?
Bruce Arians: Their thought is to run the football and then use play action off of it to open up some things. But, I would like to see them spread it out a little bit more just to let him get the ball out of his hand quickly. Then he can hit some guys in stride, running through a zone or beating man-to-man and give him a little more confidence. I would like to see them do that early in the downs so that he can play quarterback before third down. It’s difficult to play quarterback if you’re only playing on third down.
CBS Local Sports: This game is in London, and we’ve seen some lopsided scores in these games in the last year. You made the trip with the Cardinals last year, what’s the most difficult part of the week leading up to the game?
Bruce Arians: The travel and amount of time that you’re in the plane is the most difficult part. It’s not a distraction but it can be when you’re out of your routine. We flew out on Monday, got there Tuesday which allowed us to practice and get on their time zone. We had a good week of preparation too. I don’t think preparation was the reason that we played so poorly.
CBS Local Sports: Elsewhere on CBS, the Cowboys and Redskins meet for the first time this season in D.C. What’s the biggest matchup to watch in that game?
Bruce Arians: Right now they’re both coming off big wins this past week. The biggest thing for both teams is which defense can create more turnovers? The reason is, both of these offenses need short fields.
CBS Local Sports: The Cowboys offense seemed to figure some things out against the Jaguars this weekend, what did you see that’s allowed them to get Ezekiel and Dak going?
Bruce Arians: They don’t need much to get Ezekiel going but Dak has started taking more chances. He’s running and freelancing a little bit more which I think is more his style. That’s how he gets into the rhythm of a game. On top of that, Cole Beasley had a big ball game against Jacksonville. If you’re going to play soft, zone coverage against the Cowboys, they can light you up.
CBS Local Sports: Finally, the Patriots coming off that thrilling win over the Chiefs on Sunday night head out to Soldier Field for a battle against the Bears. The Bears struggled to stop Brock Osweiler last week, giving up 380 passing yards, what’s the biggest adjustment they need to make as they get ready to face Brady and Belichick?
Bruce Arians: A lot of it is going to depend on Khalil Mack’s health. If he’s healthy and ready to go, they (the Patriots) have always struggled with a four-man rush. I think Vic Fangio will do a heck of a job game planning for the Patriots. The big thing for this game is not allowing the Patriots to get yards after the catch. New England does such a good job of gaining yards after the catch that you have to tackle immediately after the catch to slow them down.