FOXBOROUGH — It’s not as difficult as a Where’s Waldo? challenge, but if you don’t figure out this puzzle, you’ll end up with a lot more than a bruised ego.
Such as a battered quarterback, for instance.
The Los Angeles Chargers boast two of the best edge rushers in the game in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, but their position description is a bit misleading. Oh sure, they’ll hang out on the edge and catch tackles flatflooted with their speed and quickness. But they’re just as likely to line up inside and try to overwhelm interior linemen with power moves.
Identifying where Ingram and Bosa are is job No. 1 for the Patriots in Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium.
“It’s not blocking those guys,’’ Bill Belichick said. “It’s finding them and trying to get things set as much as you can to deal with those two players.’’
Tom Brady gets first crack at solving the mystery — or finding the Waldos — as he the puts out an APB by setting the protections he hopes will buy him the most quality time in the pocket.
Brady’s barks (everyone by now is familiar with the quarterback’s “55’s the Mike” call) will filter down to David Andrews. The center then passes along the information to the offensive line as the quintet gets set to get their collective mitts on Ingram and Bosa, whom Belichick labeled “very disruptive” players.
“Not only in pressuring or sacking the quarterback but also strip-sacking and knocking the ball off the quarterback,’’ said the Patriots coach. “Ingram lines up inside on passing situations a pretty decent amount of the time, so he’s not always on the edge, so really anybody could get him. Bosa’s in there some, too, but Bosa’s more outside than inside. In third-down situations, Ingram shows up inside quite a bit. He’s had very good production in there against a number of teams.’’
Belichick said Chargers defensive line coach Giff Smith does a good job of mixing things up.
“They have good fundamentals, good techniques, they’re explosive, and it’s a very talented defensive front,’’ Belichick said.
Right tackle Marcus Cannon said knowing where the duo is has been a point of emphasis in film sessions.
“They’re everywhere,’’ said Cannon. “They’re on both sides. We’re well aware of where they play, where they’re at. Three-technique, five-technique. On the ends, sometimes not, sometimes floating. We’ve just got to study where they are, and we’ll block it wherever they are.’’
Offensive lineman Ted Karras said another component to preparing for Ingram and Bosa is the level of competition right in there own building. Linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy and defensive end Trey Flowers all are adept at rushing off the edge or up the gut.
“Yeah, we have really great, versatile players on our team,” said Karras, “and obviously Ingram and Bosa are very dynamic players and we’ll have to be at our best.’’
Ingram (7) and Bosa (5½) didn’t have gaudy sack numbers during the regular season — though the Chargers registered seven sacks against the Ravens in the wild-card round — part of that can be traced to the fact that the Chargers have made a concerted effort to shore up their run defense.
“Stopping the run has been something that we’ve taken some pride in, and our pass rushers, they’ve been very unselfish,’’ said Chargers coach Anthony Lynn. “Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, they’re playing run techniques a lot of times instead of pass techniques. I’m sure that’s costing them some sacks and us some pressure, but we have to be able to stop the run. If you can’t stop the run, it’s going to be a long day.’’