Belichick heaps rare praise upon pair of Chargers pass rushers

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FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick saved the best for last during his lengthy opening remarks on Wednesday. As he praised for the Chargers for five minutes without stopping, he hit on their special-teams units, their passing game, their running game . . . and then their defense.

Carried by two of the best 10 pass-rushers in football at the moment, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, Belichick knows his team will have its hands full up front this weekend.

"Two great, great pass rushers . . . Those guys do a lot of damage," Belichick said. "[Chris] McCain comes in and he does a lot of damage, too, and that moves Ingram inside. They’re very explosive players. They’re good inside with Corey [Liuget] and [Brandon] Mebane, two very disruptive guys on the inside part of the defense. They create a lot of negative plays there, very good on third down.

"Third-and-long's basically just a sack-and-turnover reel. They create a lot of bad plays in those situations. Obviously, we need to try and stay out of as many of those as possible."

The scheme the Chargers employ will be a familiar one to Belichick and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels given who they faced last weekend. Bolts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and Falcons head coach Dan Quinn both have a background coaching defenses under Pete Carroll, and as a result their styles are similar.

Single-high safeties. One-gapping fronts. Aggressive. Fast.

What gives Los Angeles a different wrinkle is its pass rush.

"Bosa and Ingram make this defense, I would say, put that into a special category," he said. "There’s not many teams in the league that have one player like this. They have two."

Ingram has 8.5 sacks this season, placing him fourth in the NFL in that category. Bosa, the No. 3 pick in the draft last season, has 7.5 sacks already after notching 10.5 in 12 games in 2016 to pick up Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

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"He plays really hard," Belichick said of the second-year standout. "Every play he’s all out. He makes plays from the back side, chase, outstanding pass rusher. He’s got good strength but he’s got good quickness and he knows how to use both of them. If you are over-aggressive on him he’s quick enough to get by you. If you sit back then he is explosive enough to power the blockers into the quarterback or into the backfield. He’s a very disruptive player.

"He’s got a lot of length so he gets to a lot of plays, tackles, tipped balls, can reach out and get the quarterback. He’s a hard guy to throw around or over. He’s really just good at everything but he’s got a great motor so you’ve got to deal with him every play. You can’t run away from him; that’s not the answer because he'll chase down plays.

"Running at him is not the answer either because that’s a problem, too. So to say 'Well, let's just run away from him,' well A) – you're running into Ingram and B) – these guys, Ingram and Bosa, will both make plays from the backside. They’re good. They’re really good . . .

"They can both throw a number of different pitches. They do one thing and then you go to stop that and then they do the next complementary move that goes with it then you’re thinking about that and then they just run you over. It’s just a continuous [process]. Honestly, as you go through each game it’s just a continuous highlight reel between the two of them. It’s usually one of them, but a lot of times it’s both of them that are just being disruptive."

The Chargers are fifth in the league in pass defense (185.4 yards per game) and eighth in points allowed (18.7) thanks in large part to their front. They haven't allowed an opposing offense to crack the 30-point threshold this year, and after shutting out the Broncos last weekend, they're allowing an average of 12.6 points during their three-game win streak. 

Had it not been for a pair of missed field goals -- a potential game-tying kick in Week 1 and a would-be winner in Week 2 -- the Chargers record could look very different. And their defensive turnaround, after ranking 29th in points allowed in 2016, would be one of the more well-worn storylines of what has been a wild first half of the season in the AFC.

"They could easily be 6-1," Belichick said. "A good football team, playing well right now."

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