Breaking down how the Chargers (0-1) and the Tennessee Titans (0-1) match up heading into their game at 10 a.m. PDT on Sunday at Tennessee. The game will be shown on CBS and streamed on Paramount+ and NFL+.
When Chargers have the ball
In Week 1, Miami routinely deployed two deep safeties, basically asking the Chargers to run. They answered with 234 yards on the ground and a 5.9-yard-per-attempt average. This is an offense that has Justin Herbert and still ran the ball 40 times, five of which were carries by Herbert. Now comes a Tennessee defense that surrendered the fewest rushing yards in the league last season. The 2022 Titans gave up only nine rushing touchdowns. The Chargers ran for three scores against the Dolphins. “They have big guys up front,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “They have solid edges. They have linebackers and safeties who can tackle.” In its Week 1 loss, Tennessee permitted just 69 yards on 27 rushes to New Orleans. The Saints ran for first downs only twice. That means this could be a game where the Chargers turn back to Herbert, who did throw for 313 yards against the Titans in Week 15 last season. But Herbert also was picked off twice in that game and failed to throw a touchdown pass as the Chargers won late 17-14. He did engineer the game-winning drive, going 52 yards in 44 seconds to set up Cameron Dicker’s 43-yard field goal in the final 10 seconds.
When Titans have the ball
While the Chargers enter Sunday hoping for a bounce-back game from their pass defense even with starting linebacker Eric Kendricks out, Tennessee might be readying to unleash a furious ground game behind Derrick Henry. One of the NFL’s biggest bruisers, Henry carried only 15 times in Week 1, gaining 63 yards. He also caught two passes for 56 yards on a day when the Titans failed to score a touchdown in a 16-15 loss at New Orleans. Staley called Henry “one of the big engines for their offense,” a fact Henry proved nine months ago at SoFi Stadium by totaling 163 scrimmage yards (104 rushing, 59 receiving). Another reason Tennessee could be looking to run Henry more in its home opener: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed fewer than half his passes (16 of 34) and had three intercepted last weekend. Tannehill has reached 300 yards passing 25 times in his career but only once over his last 19 games. Then again, having witnessed the Chargers’ dreadful attempt to stop the Dolphins and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Week 1, perhaps coach Mike Vrabel will give Tannehill the bigger bounce-back opportunity.
When they kick
Dicker had a perfect Week 1, making both field-goal attempts and all four extra-point tries. He also set a career regular-season record by hitting a 50-yarder. Each of Dicker’s seven kickoffs went for a touchback. Speaking of perfect, Nick Folk went five for five in Tennessee’s opener. Folk, 38, is in his 16th season and with his fifth team. When Folk made his NFL debut in 2007, Dicker was 7 years old.
By the numbers
Jeff Miller’s prediction
There’s every reason to think the Chargers will prevail in this game. Forecast to be playoff contenders, they had an overwhelmingly also-ran showing last weekend. Trusting this Titans team to put together a winning performance is risky at best. Still, at some point, Titans coach Mike Vrabel has to right this ship, correct? He’s too good of a coach, right? But can the Chargers still be considered postseason worthy after starting 0-2? Well, we’re going to find out. TITANS 23, CHARGERS 22
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.