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Here we Cro again: Cromartie & Bolts face Manning & Colts in playoffs

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Jan 10, 2008.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ap-chargers-secondary&amp;prov=ap&amp;type=lgns" target="_blank">Associated Press</a>

    By Bernie Wilson

    <img src="http://d.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/ap/20080110/capt.c63b233a0f614ed8a79f30577ce5c7d7.chargers_secondary_football_ny154.jpg" alt="San Diego Chargers' Antonio Cromartie runs through the end zone after one of his three interception against Indianapolis Colts during the first quarter of their football game in this Nov. 11, 2007 file photo in San Diego. Cromartie and the Chargers get another shot at defending Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning when they visit the Colts on Sunday Jan. 13, 2008 in a divisional-round playoff game." align="right" height="248" width="226" />SAN DIEGO (AP) -- It's amazing what a three-interception night against Peyton Manning will do for a player's reputation.

    Just check out Antonio Cromartie of the San Diego Chargers.

    In barely more than one quarter on Nov. 11, Cromartie went from being a promising but raw nickel back to beginning the transformation to All-Pro cornerback.

    Those three picks included a spectacular one-handed grab. Cromartie accounted for half of Manning's franchise-record six interceptions that rainy night, when the Colts were without several starters and watched Adam Vinatieri inexplicably miss a gimme field goal. The Chargers won just 23-21.

    Cromartie and the Chargers get another shot at the defending Super Bowl MVP -- and maybe Marvin Harrison -- when they visit the Colts on Sunday in a divisional round playoff game.

    Cromartie finished the season with an NFL-high 10 pickoffs and joined teammates LaDainian Tomlinson and Lorenzo Neal on the elite All-Pro team.

    It was those three pickoffs against Manning that set Cromartie apart.

    "To tell you the truth, my goal is just to have one pick a game," Cromartie said. "I happened to have one of the biggest games of my career playing against Peyton Manning. My thing, I just want to do it on top of that."

    Cromartie was filling in for injured Quentin Jammer that night and said he thought Manning was picking on him early on. "But I was just trying to cover my guy and make the plays," Cromartie said.

    He did it so well that his third pick came on the second play of the second quarter. That one was a beauty, when Cromartie leaned back, reached up with his right hand and pulled the ball down to his chest in one motion

    "It was big," said safety Clinton Hart, who also had an interception that night. "Three picks on Peyton Manning, that rarely, ever, ever happens, and it probably won't ever happen again by one player. For a young guy like that to get that jump, that's big. You can see his confidence has risen to a different level. You can see how he plays, how comfortable he is out there. I told him, you get one early and it relaxes you for the rest of the game and the rest of them just come to you.

    "Definitely he's looking forward" to Sunday's game, Hart added. "I'm pretty sure Peyton's looking forward to going against him also."

    Manning was asked about that pickoff this week.

    "I'm probably the wrong guy to ask," the quarterback said. "He's an excellent player and he certainly had an excellent game that night."

    A week earlier, Cromartie returned a missed field goal 109 yards in a loss at Minnesota, the longest play in NFL history. On Oct. 28, Cromartie single-handedly outscored the Houston Texans. He scored his first NFL touchdown by jumping on a botched punt snap, then had a sensational 70-yard interception return for a score.

    Rangy and fast, Cromartie replaced Drayton Florence in the starting lineup on Nov. 25.

    The Chargers led the NFL with 30 interceptions and 48 takeaways. The Chargers are plus-24 in turnover margin, and the Colts are next at plus-18.

    The Chargers have beaten the Colts twice since December 2005, and the key is getting a strong pass rush.

    "We applied some pressure, made him throw some bad balls," Cromartie said. "I think we did everything that we're supposed to do as a defense, and I think we'll just come out this game and try to do the same thing."

    Said Hart: "I guarantee you he's watched that film a million times and it's probably eating him up that he gave up that many. We don't expect him to make those mistakes, but we expect him to make some just because we are going to put pressure on him and move around him a little bit and try to make it difficult for him to read us."

    Harrison, an eight-time Pro Bowler, has been out since Oct. 22 with an injured left knee. Coach Tony Dungy wouldn't say definitively Harrison would play Sunday, but that's clearly the expectation.

    "We don't expect 88 to be as effective as he's accustomed to being, you know, with his knee bothering him, because we're going to hit him," Hart said. "If he catches it, we're going to hit him. So we think he may be a decoy, if he's out there. It's win or go home, so whatever he can do to help his team, he's going to try to do it. Same with us. We're going to bang him. We're going to be as physical as we can be."

    Jammer missed the Nov. 11 game with a hamstring injury, so he's excited to be going against Manning.

    "I mean, we're going into their environment, so you have to prepare for a fast-paced game, you know, almost like a basketball game, because that's the type of offense they are," Jammer said. "It's always fun to play against Peyton. They're one of the two top offenses in this league, and anytime you can go against a quarterback of that stature, with the receivers that he has, it's always a challenge."

    Added Cromartie: "I'm looking for another competitive game. My job is to go out and have fun. I'm looking forward to it."

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