SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Chargers are about to find out just how good they are.
Wins against the hapless Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans got the Chargers off to their first 2-0 start in Norv Turner’s six seasons.
On Sunday, the Chargers will face the 2-0 Atlanta Falcons at home in a showdown of two of the NFL’s six undefeated teams.
“We will be tested as heavily as you can be tested,” said Turner, who’s on the hot seat more than ever before because his Chargers have missed the playoffs the last two seasons.
Traveling to Southern California has never been a problem for the Falcons, who are 5-0 at San Diego.
The teams last met in 2008, when then-rookie quarterback Matt Ryan led Atlanta to a 22-16 victory at Qualcomm Stadium.
Heading west on short rest after a 27-21 home victory over Denver isn’t big on the Falcons’ list of things to worry about.
“It’s something that you get used to the in NFL,” Ryan said. “There are going to be some weeks that are shorter than others and you have to adjust and adapt.”
Former Chargers running back Michael Turner will play five days after he was arrested on a DUI charge.
It will be a big test for the Chargers’ defense.
While Rivers has been intercepted once this season, Ryan has yet to be picked off.
“He doesn’t throw it to the other team,” said San Diego safety Eric Weddle, an All-Pro last season. “I mean, he’s playing at a high level. He’s extremely smart, crafty; his experience level each year has gotten better.”
Weddle said the checklist is long when playing against an offense with as many talented players as the Falcons have.
“Play aggressive, play tough, tackle well. Communicate. Don’t give up any big plays,” Weddle said. “Or if they do make a big play, whether it’s a great catch or something, be in position and don’t let it be that the guy’s wide open, or a trick play. Those things will get you down quick and it’s hard to recover when you’re playing a good team like this. Stuffing the run and making them one dimensional. We’ve done that the first two games. The front seven has played unbelievable so we’ve got to continue that.”
Peyton Manning found out the hard way how well the Falcons’ defense is playing. He was intercepted three times in the first eight minutes Monday night and the Broncos had turnovers on four on their first five possessions.
The Falcons have yet to commit a turnover while their defense has five interceptions and two fumble recoveries for a plus-7 differential, best in the NFL.
“Turnover ratio is incredibly important in relation to wins and losses in the NFL,” Ryan said. “Our defense has done an awesome job the first couple of weeks, specifically the secondary coming up with big plays. It takes everyone to create those turnovers. I think that the pressure from the defensive line has been good, and our guys have been on top of it. Hopefully they can keep it going.”
Ryan, who threw the 100th touchdown pass of his career, said the Falcons should have capitalized more. They led 27-7 midway through the third quarter before the Broncos started closing the gap.
“Any time that your defense creates as many turnovers as ours did, you’d like to capitalize with touchdowns. So it’s an area that we need to improve upon and get better at. But at the end of the day we got the job done, and that’s really all you need to do in this league,” he said.
Chargers tight end Antonio Gates is expected to return from a rib injury that kept him out of a 38-10 victory against Tennessee last Sunday. Ryan Mathews could make his season debut after being out since breaking his collarbone on his first carry of the exhibition season on Aug. 9.
The game will be blacked out in Southern California because 9,200 general admission tickets remained unsold at Thursday’s deadline.