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Brees gets it going

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Oct 2, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/sportsNews/view.bg?articleid=110445" target="_blank">MetroWest Daily News</a>

    <img src="http://bolttalk.com/images/brees04.jpg" alt="Drew brees" />
    By Albert Breer

    FOXBORO -- It wasn't long ago that many a prognosticator opined that San Diego housed the worst roster in the National Football League.

    Before last season, the Chargers were coming off a 5-11 campaign, Drew Brees had regressed in his third year and a defense that was putrid in 2003 wasn't showing any sign of climbing out of its funk.

    Then, the games started. Brees was suddenly a Pro Bowler. Antonio Gates emerged as arguably the most dangerous tight end in the game. Keenan McCardell was added weeks into the season and hardly showed his age. Jamal Williams became an All-Pro at nose tackle, anchoring a defense that ranked third against the run.

    And the Chargers were the biggest surprise in the league and went 12-4.

    "They're tough, they're good, they're explosive," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, making the statement before being asked any questions on Wednesday. "We have a lot to get ready for. This is a good football team and they're ready to play every week."

    It starts, as most good Marty Schottenheimer teams do, with the running game. If fifth-year tailback LaDainian Tomlinson (316 yards rushing, 6 TDs) isn't the best in the game, he's one of the first names that comes up in the argument.

    But he was never the problem. What's turned the team around, more than anything, is consistent play from Brees, who was more or less put out to pasture before breaking through last year.

    "Last year, that organization had basically given up on Drew," said Patriots backup Doug Flutie, who served as a mentor of sorts to Brees in his four years as a Charger. "They drafted Philip (Rivers), tried to trade Drew and, if it weren't for Philip holding out of camp, Philip may have been the starter. So then all of the sudden, Drew had his back to the wall and said, 'OK, I'm gonna show you,' and worked as hard as I've ever seen anybody work."

    It paid off with 3,159 yards, a 65.5 percent completion rate, 27 touchdown passes and just seven picks. Brees -- a guy whose accuracy, field awareness and clutch play rank near the top -- has 575 yards and 65.0 completion percentage through three games and has plenty of help from the ageless McCardell (17 rec., 257 yards, 4 TDs) and Gates (12 rec., 172 yards, TD).

    While Belichick called the skill players among the best in the league, the Chargers can be had up front. Before keeping the Giants at bay, Brees was sacked four times by the Broncos and Tomlinson was forced to fight for yards in each of the team's first two games.

    There's more of a problem on the other side that ranks 24th in total defense and 28th in pass defense. Guys like Williams and linebackers Donnie Edwards and Steve Foley ensured the run defense out of Wade Phillips' 3-4 is stout. Guys like corner Quentin Jammer ensure the pass defense isn't.

    Look for San Diego to use Shawne Merriman -- the hybrid end/outside linebacker -- in a expanded role in its nickel defense, and bring him off the edge to shorten the time the corners have to cover.

    Merriman was the first player the team drafted last year (12th overall), but the most impactful rookie to this point was taken 118 picks later. That would be Darren Sproles, a 5-foot-6 college workhorse tailback who is averaging 31.9 yards per kick return and is being used as a third-down specialist on offense.

    "If the coverage doesn't do a good enough job, he's fast enough to get outside and get up the sidelines, and that's a problem," said Belichick, whose coverage units ranked 22nd on kickoffs and 30th on punts. "But what he really likes to do is just pour it up in there, he runs very hard and breaks tackles."

    Just like another guy on the team who wears No. 21. Despite all the other weapons, any of them, there's little doubt that Tomlinson keys everything. The Chargers have won the last eight games in which he's rushed for over 100 yards and are 16-8 in such contests, including a 21-14 win over New England in '02.

    When he fails to hit triple digits, the Chargers are 13-29. So that makes a complicated game a lot more simple.

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