BB: Alright, so obviously the Chargers – really impressive football team. Spent a lot of time watching them the last three or four days here and really pretty good at everything. That’s the reason they won 13 games. So, well-coached, very disciplined. Again, outstanding in every area, they make big plays, play good defense, got an explosive group, strong in the kicking game. They just challenge you on every play. So, we’re going to have to do a good job all the way around. There’s no one guy that’s going to be able to stop them or block all of them or cover kicks or anything else. We’re going to need a good team effort from all the units, all the players, coaching staff, everybody, and go out there and be ready to compete on Sunday afternoon. But, it’s a good football team and a lot of respect for their coaching staff, their players, the team, the way they play and what they’ve accomplished this year. So, it will be a big challenge for us.
Q: You mentioned the other day that it’s a disciplined defense with Gus Bradley coaching there. How does that show up with their defensive ends, specifically Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram?
BB: Yeah, they’re hard guys to deal with, but everybody’s where they’re supposed to be. They play multiple personnel groups, even though it’s a similar defense, and they can interchange those people in and out of there. They do what they’re supposed to do, they’re where they’re supposed to be, make it hard to successfully move the ball and score points.
Q: Do they move Ingram and Bosa around or just let them do whatever they need to do because of how dynamic they are?
BB: Yeah, it depends on the game plan, depends on what front they’re in, what group they’re in, depends on what down it is. So, sometimes they stay, but they’re not always in the same spot, no.
Q: What are your thoughts on how Philip Rivers has played this year?
BB: He’s played great. He plays great. Very accurate, obviously a smart guy, offense runs through him, handles things at the line of scrimmage, makes good decisions with the ball, uses everybody, as he always does – he gets the ball to everybody, all of the receivers, all the tight ends, all the backs. He’s very, very efficient, makes big plays, good in situations – third down, red area. He’s really good, outstanding. Hard guy to tackle, big, strong guy, has a good feel for the pocket, knows how to use his blockers, kind of like [Ben] Roethlisberger – same type of thing. He’s good.
Q: He is the prototypical drop-back quarterback, and this year it seems like you guys have faced more mobile quarterbacks. Is facing a stand-in-the-pocket type of quarterback a different challenge on defense?
BB: Yeah, played Roethlisberger a couple weeks ago. We see our quarterbacks out here every day. You know, look, everybody’s got good skills in this league. Whatever they are, that’s what we have to play against.
Q: How much of a challenge will it be to disguise your coverage when you’re going up against an experienced quarterback like Rivers?
BB: Yeah, they do a real good job of that. They do a good job of game-planning, trying to force you into looks where they can tell what they are. So, that will be a part of the game.
Q: Is the comparison to Roethlisberger that both are hard to tackle? Or is it more the passing style?
BB: Yeah, I don’t know. Both good pocket quarterbacks.
Q: Do you see any similarities with Williams and Keenan Allen?
Q: Wide receiver.
BB: Well, there’s two of them.
BB: Look, they have a very good receiving group. They’re big, they’re fast, they’re hard to tackle after the catch, they make big plays down the field. Both the Williams’, I think they’re averaging about 15 yards a catch, something like that. [Travis] Benjamin’s obviously an explosive guy that can score from anywhere on the field. Keenan Allen’s as good a receiver there is in the National Football League – big, quick, tough after the catch, hard guy to tackle, very good route runner, an exceptional route runner, great hands, concentration. So, I mean, they have a great group of receivers, good group of tight ends, good group of backs, and he uses all of them. It’s not one guy you’ve got to stop. Clearly, Allen’s been the most productive receiver by far, but I mean, I wouldn’t take anything away from any of those other guys.
Q: You played Rivers a bunch early in his career. What has his evolution been like from then to now?
BB: He’s good. He’s really good. So, look, he’s played in different systems and so forth, but right now he’s playing extremely well, again with a good offensive team, good offensive system with Coach [Anthony] Lynn, Coach [Ken] Whisenhunt. They’re a good football team. He does a great job of orchestrating and running the offense.
Q: Prior to the season, did you see the Chargers making the jump that they made this year going from nine wins to 12 and where they are now?
BB: Yeah, well they were 9-3 last year [after starting 0-4].
Q: Did you anticipate them ascending to where they are this year from the team you saw last year?
BB: I just said, they were 9-3 last year [to finish the year]. So, it doesn’t really surprise me to see them go from 9-3 to 12-4. I wouldn’t say it’s that big of a jump. Maybe I’m missing something. I don’t know.
Q: What traits did Stephen Anderson show to earn that promotion to the active roster?
BB: Yeah, he’s done a good job. Obviously, he hasn’t had a chance to play, but he’s done a good job for us in practice. We put Jacob [Hollister] on injured reserve. So, I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.
Q: Is he a versatile tight end? Does he move around or does he play mostly in line?
BB: We’ll see. I mean, he’s done multiple things. He hasn’t been active for us for a game yet.
Q: What has Derwin James brought to their defense this year?
BB: A lot. This guy’s a tremendous football player. He’s good at everything. He usually plays around the line of scrimmage. I think he leads their team in everything – tackles, assists, pass break-ups, interceptions, big hits. He does play away from their line of scrimmage at times. He’s good back there, too. He’s got good range, good speed, he’s long, he’s hard to block, very instinctive, good tackler, good blitzer. He’s good at everything. He’s a good player.
Q: The Chargers went with that seven defensive-back look last week. How much experience does your offense have facing that kind of a look?
BB: Well, again, it’s within kind of the same system. They played mostly six DBs against us last year, so they’ve been doing a lot of it this year. They went with the seventh guy against the Ravens, but it’s been a lot of six defensive backs the last, I don’t know, month or so. Jatavis Brown played a lot in their six D-back system, so they just kind of replaced him with [Jahleel] Addae or with actually the safety, [Rayshawn] Jenkins. Jenkins didn’t play down – Jenkins played back, Addae played down, but it was essentially the same defense with Addae taking Brown’s spot.
Q: Towards the end of the regular season, how has their run defense held up despite the lighter front?
BB: Yeah, well, they’re fast. All those guys are fast, so they pursue well. The defensive line’s very disruptive, they have a good front, those guys make a lot of plays. It’s hard to get the linebackers, whether it was whoever it’s been in there, and they played, I don’t know, about six, seven linebackers this year. But, it’s a problem getting to them because their front has been so effective. It’s hard to get past those guys up front.
Q: Rather than the obvious physical traits, what makes Melvin Gordon so special?
BB: Yeah, he’s big, strong, fast, got good vision, he’s hard to tackle, he’s got good patience, uses his blockers well. He’s got good speed so he can attack from sideline to sideline, but he gets downhill, he’s tough in line, he’s a tough guy to tackle. He’s got breakaway speed, he’s got home run ability, so he’s had a bunch of big plays – some in the running game, some in the passing game, screen passes, check-down routes, end routes. So, whenever he gets the ball, it doesn’t really matter how he gets it once he gets it. All their backs are a problem. They have good backs – good depth at that position. Sometimes they play two of them in the game. Usually it’s just one, but sometimes they have them both in there, or have two of the three in there – their halfbacks. I mean, the fullback, too, but the two or three halfbacks and just another way to attack the defense, put more good players on the field.
Q: With Allen, they seem to move him inside and outside. For a defense, especially a cornerback, what’s the biggest difference between covering a guy in the slot versus covering out wide?
BB: Yeah, he plays everywhere. He can do it all. So, whatever you need him to do, he can play inside, play outside, run option routes, run vertical routes, double moves, good stem route runner. Again, big hands, strong, big target, tough after the catch. It doesn’t matter where you put him, he’s a problem. He’s one of the best receivers in the league.
Q: When you had time with Philip Rivers at the Pro Bowl more than a decade ago, what did you learn from the time around him?
BB: Yeah, that was a long time ago, but he’s a smart guy, he’s a great guy, good football player, really cares and knows a lot about football. He’s an impressive guy to talk to.
Q: Did his competitiveness stand out to you?
BB: Yeah. Yes.
Q: What are your memories of the last time you played the Chargers in the playoffs?
BB: Well, last time we played them was last year.
Q: In the playoffs.
BB: Yeah, I mean, that was a long time ago. I don’t think that game really has much to do with anything.
Q: Philip Rivers’ accuracy is something that everyone has noticed this year. You mentioned that he spreads the ball out to different guys on the offense. Is that a rare trait to be able to build chemistry with a bunch of different guys like he has?
BB: He’s always done that. Yeah, I’d say he’s always done a good job of that. I mean, certainly, he has guys that are go-to guys. I mean, you’d think of him throwing to Gates and Keenan Allen – you don’t get 1,400 yards by one or two passes a game. So, there’s certainly guys that he has a lot of confidence in, goes to and they produce for him. But, the backs, the tight ends, the receivers – he uses everybody and has very good field vision and he’s very accurate, and he’s accurate on deep balls, intermediate throws and he’s good on the catch-and-run plays. Those guys gain a lot of yards. They’re one of the best catch-and-run, yards-after-catch teams in the league because a lot of times, they’re getting the ball in full stride, so they don’t have to slow down and they can outrun the defender and gain extra yardage. So, he’s extremely accurate on all the throws.
Q: How do they use Antonio Gates? Obviously, he’s getting less snaps.
BB: Yeah, he’s in there in most critical situations – third down, red area, some second-down situations, occasionally on first down. But, really, I’d say the more important the situation, more of a possession play it is, probably more he’s going to be in there.
Q: He doesn’t look particularly fast. What allows him to get open?
BB: He’s quick, he’s got great route savvy, he’s got obviously outstanding hands and size. He knows how to body guys up well – he can get on one side of them, Rivers throws it on the other side. A lot of third-down conversations, red area touchdowns. But, he’s a slick route runner. He’s very crafty, does a good job stemming the defenders, he’s got good quickness at the top of the routes to separate and he’s pretty good after the catch. He can make guys miss with the ball in his hands. He’s still pretty effective.
Q: Yesterday, Brendan Daly talked about how you can see Mike Pouncey identify fronts and communicate to the offense. What kind of a difference has he made with their offensive line, and does that have anything to do with their success on the road in terms of communication and making adjustments during the course of the game?
BB: Yeah, I’m sure it does. I mean, you’d have to talk to him about the communication. But, he’s very athletic, he gets out and pulls on – I mean, these guys run the ball outside well, and they do it a decent amount, probably more than most teams do. So, they can get the ball to the edge. The center usually has a tough block on that where he has to get the middle linebacker, who sometimes he can go through and get him because of his quickness. Sometimes he has to pull around and get him, which is going to be challenging for some offensive linemen. But, I would say Pouncey does a real good job of that, whichever one it is. A, he makes good decisions, and B, he can make those blocks. So, a lot of times on the outside runs, you can get the edge, you can scheme it and set up blocking angles and numbers and all that. A lot of times, it’s the inside pursuit, especially the off-the-line linebackers that are hard to get because of traffic in front of him or they just outrun the blocker who has to try to run 20 or 30 yards to get to him. But, Pouncey’s very good at that and he does a real good job of either around or through, however he decides to do it depending on the play and the alignment and so forth, he’s pretty effective in making those blocks – certainly one of the best in the league. But, look, he’s a smart guy, he’s very aware in pass protection and you can see, obviously, he and Rivers have a good communication and chemistry with the snap count, the cadence and the identification on blitz pick-up and things like that. So, he’s a very experienced guy. I’m sure he’s good at that. But, how exactly all that works – I mean, not sure. You’d have to talk to them about it.