Returning Woodyard, Titans’ D eager to face Chargers’ Gordon
LONDON (AP) — Tennessee Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard knows that the Los Angeles Chargers are going to get the ball in the hands of running back Melvin Gordon on as many plays as possible on Sunday.
That means it will be up to his unit to keep Gordon out of the end zone.
“In the red zone, he’s one of their top targets, and we know what type of runner he is,” Woodyard said Friday. “He’s a guy that’s good on the edge and fine to beat you with his speed. Most importantly, (we need to) just understand the runs that he’s going to give us in different backfield sets.”
Gordon, the Chargers’ do-everything running back, enters the game at Wembley Stadium third in the league with 466 rushing yards and six touchdowns, and his nine total touchdowns rank second only to the Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley.
And while the Titans (3-3) have allowed 14.5 points per game, the third-fewest in the league, they have also surrendered an average of 123.2 rushing yards, the sixth-most of any team.
“The biggest challenge is all 11 of us just getting to the ball, point of attack, wrap up and make sure we make the tackle,” defensive end DaQuan Jones said. ”(If) we just swarm, do our job up front, we horde the point of attack, set the edge ... we’ll be fine. We have to be consistent. We can’t do it a couple plays here, a couple plays there. It’s got to be all 60 minutes of the game.”
Quarterback Philip Rivers, in his 15th season, is off to one of the finest starts of his career, having thrown 15 touchdown passes and averaged 8.8 yards per pass attempt for the Chargers (4-2) — marks that are both good for third in the league.
His success, though, has relied heavily upon Gordon, who is also the Chargers’ second-leading receiver with 30 catches for 279 yards and three touchdowns.
“Philip Rivers obviously is Philip Rivers,” outside linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “He’s a top, elite quarterback in this league, but everything goes through Gordon. Whenever the receivers are not open, the checkdown to Gordon is always there and he’s always getting positive yards.
“The running game is wide open and guys want to rush the passer, (so) they do a lot of draw plays, things of that nature to get Gordon free. So we have to contain and stop Gordon and then we’ll worry about all the other (explosive) plays.”
Woodyard, who is expected to make his return on Sunday after missing two games with a shoulder injury, should help with that.
Hurt in the overtime victory against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 30, Woodyard had a career- and team-high 172 tackles last season and had played in every game since joining the team in 2014.
“It was really tough, especially seeing my guys not being able to get a victory,” said Woodyard, who was with the Denver Broncos in 2010 but was inactive for their game at Wembley. “I felt like that was my fault for not being able to get out there, but I’m excited to be back out there making calls and making plays.”
The Chargers, who rolled to a 38-14 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, remained in Ohio for practice before departing Thursday evening to cross the Atlantic.
Tennessee also arrived on Friday, and free safety Kevin Byard said he hopes players can acclimate to the time difference quickly in order to avoid the Titans’ third consecutive loss.
“That’s the most important thing,” Byard said. “Nobody wants to lose three straight games. We have to get back on track. Nobody’s panicking. Nobody’s living like the sky is falling or anything like that, but we have to play with more consistency.”
AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.