The Chargers swear they aren't stressed over their 0-2 start. Maybe that's their problem. The Chargers shifted through the ashes of their second consecutive loss to open the season, this one coming in Denver by a 20-17 verdict. "The mood and sense is one of frustration and disappointment," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "But you better not get caught up in the past whether it's good or it's bad." So far it's been bad. But Schottenheimer is still in love with his team. "We have a good football team," he stressed. "And I like this football team. But we have to find a way to capitalize on opportunities presented to us." This year was promised to be in which the Chargers would return to the playoffs — and dare we say deep in the playoffs. But those plans have blown up faster than a trick cigar. What's so troubling about the Chargers' stroll from the gate is what awaits around the next turn, a Sunday night contest with the visiting New York Giants. After that, a daunting stretch includes a road trip to New England, a home game against the Steelers and two more away games at Oakland and Philadelphia. That gives many in Charger Nation cause for concern. Except Schottenheimer, who has seen his overall mark in San Diego slip to 24-26. "If we were 0-14, there would be some cause for alarm," Schottenheimer said. "But we are 0-2 in two games that we had an opportunity to win. We are 0-2 — the roof is not falling in." Loss Sunday night and the beams could be bouncing off the Bolts. And what makes the weekend matchup even more exciting is Eli Manning will be directing the Giants' offense. Still, Chargers quarterback Drew Brees tried to downplay how critical Sunday's contest is. "It's just another game," he said. "I say just another game, but maybe just a little bit more important just for the fact that we need a win; but it doesn't matter who is coming in." And if you believe that, there are ocean-front mansions for sale in San Diego for $100,000. The Chargers would love nothing more than to slap Manning in the face after he did just that before the 2004 season when telling the Chargers not to draft him. "The fact that we are playing on Sunday night, there is going to be a lot of excitement," Brees said. "Maybe it makes the fans just a tiny bit louder to yell profanities at Eli, I don't know. But for us, it's just another game." Yeah, right. It's hard to say there's a must-win game in September. But if there ever was, it might come Sunday night for the Chargers. NOTES, QUOTES — RB LaDainian Tomlinson set the NFL record for rushing touchdowns in consecutive games at 14. He shared the mark with John Riggins and George Rogers. — How bad was the Chargers' offensive line in Sunday's loss? "We played as bad a second half as a unit that I have ever played, even in college," right tackle Shane Olivea said. "Things have to change." - Coach Marty Schottenheimer was, for the most part, upbeat over DE Luis Castillo's first NFL start. "He's got some work to do, but I feel quite sure his progress will be accelerated because he is such a diligent worker and obviously he is extremely bright." Castillo had two tackles. PLAYER PERSONNEL — OLB Shawne Merriman, the draft's 12th overall pick, had one special teams tackle in his first NFL game. He played very briefly on the base defense. — LG Toniu Fonoti was benched in the second half in favor of Kris Dielman. Fonoti was playing with a broken hand, but coach Marty Schottenheimer said that wasn't the reason he was replaced. Schottenheimer said he didn't anticipate any changes, so Fonoti's job appears safe. — DE Jacques Cesaire (elbow) will be eased into the practice week. — WR Vincent Jackson (calf) is hopeful he can return to practice this week; he's yet to play. — DE Igor Olshansky (leg) could return to action Sunday after missing the Denver game. STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL REPORT CARD VS. BRONCOS PASSING OFFENSE: F — Drew Brees gets a back-slap or two for standing in tall against a consistent, blitzing pass rush. He threw one pick, though, which turned the game around. And lost a fumble when blindsided — probably should have got the ball out quicker. That being said, the real crime here was the pass blocking which was terrible. Brees was often met in the backfield with shirts of another color. Antonio Gates was up to his old tricks, leading the team with six catches for 80 yards — many of them in traffic. Keenan McCardell continues to show he still has some tread on his tires. But it won't matter unless the big uglies can get it right. RUSHING OFFENSE: D — See above. The run-blocking was dismal as LaDainian Tomlinson couldn't even make it to the line of scrimmage on numerous occasions before getting smoked. He only had 12 yards on his final 11 carries. And seven of his final eight rushes were for 2 yards or less. Pitiful. PASS DEFENSE: C — The secondary didn't get torch marks this week, although it still seems to give way too much cushion as if it is playing scared. Jake Plummer had plenty of time — he did get sacked three times — for the most part and threw for 248 yards and an interception. Trouble continues to find Sammy Davis at the nickel back spot and it's not a Sunday of NFL football without at least one pass interference call on Quentin Jammer. RUSH DEFENSE: C — Kept the Broncos under 100 yards, but by just 2. The Broncos turned to Ron Dayne — remember him? — down the stretch and he did something against the Chargers he couldn't do throughout his disappointing career — gain consistent yardage. This unit did force a fumble by a hurting Mike Anderson at the San Diego 2. But as the game wore on, this unit wore out. And that comes from an offense failing to convert on its final third-down conversions. The defense could never stay off the field for an extended period of time. SPECIAL TEAMS: D — The field position was horrible for the Chargers all day. They never did win the kicking game as Mike Scifres was average and returner Darren Sproles never could break a long one. If not for a silly penalty for too many men on the field, this unit would have also given up a 61-yard punt return for a score. Nate Kaeding was true on his lone attempt. But this unit took a step back from the opener. COACHING: F — The brain trust continues to seem befuddled on how to attack a blitz. Where's the swing pass to Tomlinson — no receptions in two weeks; he caught 100 passes in 2003. Where's the screen, the misdirection, the toss. Nothing. This is like having a high-performance vehicle and driving around on a kiddy go-cart track. It's unreal how little this offense is producing. Some of that falls at the players' feet, but also some at the coaches. Not sure what OL coach Carl Mauck is telling that offensive line, but he would be wise to put a call into Miami to ask Hudson Houck — the OL coach last year — what works with this bunch.