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Inside Slant - 09/13/07

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Sep 13, 2007.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/home.htm" target="_blank">USA Today</a>

    <img src="http://i1.chargers.com/assets/168/31900_600w600h.jpg" title="San Diego running back LaDanian Tomlinson speeds away from the New England defense in the Chargers AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Patriots at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California on Sunday, January 14, 2007.(Kevin Terrell/WireImage.com)" alt="San Diego running back LaDanian Tomlinson speeds away from the New England defense in the Chargers AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Patriots at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California on Sunday, January 14, 2007.(Kevin Terrell/WireImage.com)" height="219" width="271" />
    <p class="inside-copy"> Ah, revenge. Does anything drive NFL matchups with the same intensity as trying to settle a score?</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Doubtful.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> That's what makes Sunday's Chargers game in New England so compelling.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> The Chargers were among the favorites to reach last season's Super Bowl when spitting out an NFL-best 14-2 mark, earning the AFC's No. 1 seed and clinching a lead at home against the Patriots.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Final score: Patriots 24, Chargers 21.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "It's a new season," Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman said. "If we start thinking too much about last year's playoff loss, you are kind of living in the past."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> The future shows a juicy game awaiting for a nationally televised audience. And that was before the news broke that the Patriots had resorted to video cheating in their season-opening win over the Jets.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> But know this: The Chargers could win 41-0 and tear down the North Church on the way out of town and it still wouldn't erase one of the most heartbreaking defeats in Chargers history.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "But this game doesn't change that one win or loss," said quarterback Philip Rivers, who was among the Chargers getting upset with the Patriots doing the "Lights Out" dance after January's playoff game. "You can't fix that game. It's a new year.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "Two years ago we went out there and won and then we didn't make the playoffs. For us, what's important is this is the second game on the schedule. We're 1-0, one of 16 teams that are 1-0 after the first week. Chicago and New England are two teams picked to be playing in early February, so we're getting some tests early."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> The Chargers get testy talking about their reaction to the Patriots having all but a tea party at midfield after last season's playoff upset. But All-Pro tight end said the Chargers have moved on and grown up.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "We're much more prepared and experienced than last year," Gates said. "Emotions may get in the way of a game when you have a battle like we had last year. Emotions get involved, but at the same time we understand this is our job. This is our business to go out and perform to our highest level. We weren't able to do that last year."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Chargers head coach Norv Turner wasn't roaming the sidelines that dark day in team lore. But he said such a stinging defense can often pay positives down the road. That road on Sunday leads to New England.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "Those experiences, if you learn from it, help you," he said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> The Chargers won't need any assistance in getting up for this game. Not with the memories still so fresh of exiting Qualcomm Stadium with a Super Bowl dream all but dance on by the Patriots.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "To me, this is Game No. 2," general manager A. J. Smith told reporters. "That's all it means to me. And after that will be Game No. 3."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> The stoic Smith is trying to downplay a matchup that is the marquee pairing of the NFL's second week. Good luck is ramping down the adrenaline, which will be flowing through every player's veins come kickoff on Sunday night.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "The fact of the matter is, we've got to go out and play," Gates said. "The New England Patriots guys came out and they outplayed us, man to man. Going into this game, we understand the focus that we've got to outplay the New England Patriots team. It ain't got nothing to do with the coaches, it ain't got nothing to do with the play calling, it's got something to do with the execution."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>SERIES HISTORY:</strong> 33rd regular-season meeting. Patriots lead series, 17-13-2. The teams have also met twice in the postseason, with both games holding a special place in the Chargers history. In the last meeting, the Chargers squandered an eight-point lead at home as the AFC's top seed and fell in the divisional playoff game in January. The Chargers won their only league championship when beating the Boston Patriots for the 1963 AFL title. In the Chargers' last visit to New England in 2005, they blasted the Patriots, 41-17, and snapped their 21-game home winning streak.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Another week, another commercial to talk about. The chatter leading to last Sunday's game was LaDainian Tomlinson running through the Bears defense in a Nike ad. This week, Shawne Merriman's commercial in which he blasts past a Patriots' front line and sacks a Patriots quarterback is making the rounds. "It's not (Tom) Brady, it's another quarterback," Merriman said. "Who knows what kind of deal will be made out of it this week. Sometimes going through the week you look for a certain motivation and a reason to tune the game up a little bit. I don't think that should be one of them, but if so, it won't be something new that I'd be seeing."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-One game into his career as a Chargers head coach, Norv Turner already has something Marty Schottenheimer never received in his San Diego stint: a compliment from general manager A.J. Smith. "I'm really happy that we won the football game and I thought he did an excellent job," Smith was quoted as saying. "I was very pleased with game management and with how everything was run." Smith despised Schottenheimer; the only praise he would receive was that he let his coordinators do a good job.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Tomlinson isn't surprised the Patriots would resort to cheating in order to get an edge. It was Tomlinson who called Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his team "classless" after the way they celebrated after January's playoff loss. "I think the Patriots actually live by the saying, 'If you're not cheating, you're not trying,' " Tomlinson said. "I'm not surprised because you keep hearing different stories of people complaining about stuff they do."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Maybe the Chargers should embrace this revenge theme for Sunday. It has certainly worked in the past. Since the NFL switched to the current playoff format, the Chargers have faced the team that eliminated it from the playoffs the previous season the next year and are a perfect 5-0. After the Raiders bounced them from the 1980 AFC Championship Game, the Chargers swept them the next season. After the Bengals beat the Chargers in the 1981 Ice Bowl AFC Championship Game, the Chargers prevailed 50-34 in 1982. In 1992, the Dolphins ousted the Chargers from the playoffs only to get beat the next season, 45-20. And after the Jets upset the Chargers in the 2004 playoffs, they gained revenge the next year with a 31-26 triumph on the road.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LB Junior Seau, a Dolphins captain, earned 12 Pro Bowl selections when with the Chargers.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Patriots backup QB Matt Cassel is the younger brother of Padres pitcher Jack Cassel.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The game is on Sunday Night Football, which is cool with the Chargers. They went 3-0 before Al Michaels, John Madden and crew last year. They defeated the Steelers at home, Broncos on the road and Chiefs in San Diego.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-ILB Stephen Cooper, one of three new starters on defense and last week's leading tackler for the Chargers, is from the University of Maine. He was an undrafted free agent.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-New England WR Wes Welker got his first NFL tryout with the Chargers and played one game with the team in 2004.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> 11 - Number of consecutive regular-season wins by the Chargers.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "You know what, if we had won, we would've been running around like crazy, to. It was more the emotions of the loss and the fact that the season was over, than it was any of their actions." - QB Philip Rivers, on the Chargers' response to the Patriots midfield celebration after last season's playoff defeat.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> New defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell wasn't shy about blitzing last Sunday in his Chargers debut - especially rookie safety Eric Weddle in the team's dime package. Look for the Chargers defense to once again test a rival's pass protection. It's imperative the front seven - and a blitzer or two - is able to harass Brady to give the back end some help in tracking the Pats' trio of dynamite wideouts.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Vincent Jackson took some grief for dropping ball in the end zone on Sunday. But replays showed the ball was tipped. Jackson remains the team's No. 1 wideout.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-TE Antonio Gates is being bothered by a sore back and didn't practice on Wednesday. Gates is not only the team's leading receiver, but his presence opens up running room for Tomlinson. Brandon Manumaleuna would replace him if he can't go.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-TE Brandon Manumaleuna is known more for his blocking than his pass receiving. That said, he does have a soft pair of hands and had three touchdown catches last year.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-It looks like Darren Sproles will return as the kick and punt returner. Sproles suffered a concussion in his first kick return last week.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Rookie WR Craig Davis filled in for Sproles on punts and didn't look that comfortable.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-OLB Shawne Merriman is being cautious with his Achilles' tendon. He won't go full blast until Sunday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Starting SS Clinton Hart had a quad strain during the game Sunday but has taken all his reps this week. Hart needs to stay in the lineup with rookie backup Eric Weddle continuing to impress.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-FS Marlon McCree is hoping to continue his solid start. He had five tackles and a team-high two passes defensed, along with an interception, in the season-opening win.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>GAME PLAN:</strong> Give the rock to Tomlinson! Why wouldn't the Chargers do something that has worked so well in the past. Consider that Tomlinson has three 100-yard rushing games against the Patriots - in one, he went for 217. The Patriots never seem to have an answer for Tomlinson, which makes the second half of the January playoff game all that much more baffling considering Tomlinson got the ball nine times. Anyway, if Tomlinson is churning up yards and the clock, it keeps the ball out of Brady's hands as well. Not sure the Chargers secondary wants to get into a shootout with Brady.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>MATCHUPS TO WATCH:</strong> Chargers CB Quentin Jammer and the pass defense vs. WR Randy Moss. The Chargers have seen plenty of Moss over the past two years, and quite frankly, haven't been too impressed - he didn't score a touchdown in the four Chargers-Raiders games. But he does have two 100-yard days on his resume against the Chargers from his Minnesota days. Jammer always seems to give up the big play at a critical time - see January's playoff game; Reche Caldwell - and it's obvious Tom Brady thinks he can expose Jammer just when the time is right. Thing is, with Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker, the Chargers can't just concentrate on Moss.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Chargers running game vs. Patriots run defense. Tomlinson, and Michael Turner, figure to see plenty of carries against a Patriots defense missing Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison. There is a special look in Tomlinson's eye this week that he is primed for a big game. Especially considering he is coming off a 25-yard affair against the Bears - the second-lowest total of his illustrious career. Turner is also feeling better after being slowed by a sprained ankle. The key here is how Chargers Pro Bowl C Nick Hardwick holds his own against NT Vince Wilfork. If Hardwick, who had a so-so day last week against Tommie Harris and the Bears, can rebound and be stout at the point of attack, the Chargers running game has a shot of bouncing back in a big way.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Chargers pass rush vs. Patriots QB Tom Brady. Shawne Merriman, who led the league with 17 sacks last year, had a quiet opening game. That could mean he is in for a big day against the Patriots. But while the focus is on Merriman, keep an eye on the opposite side where Shaun Phillips is blasting off the edge. Also, the majority of time rookie S Eric Weddle entered the game last week, he was sent on a blitz package. Trouble with Brady is that the ball gets out so quick, it's tough to lay a hand on him. But the thinking is he'll want to expose a Chargers secondary that still has problems with consistency on the deeper routes. If that's so, he has to hold the ball longer. That just might give Merriman and Co., time to reach the pocket. If so, the biggest benefactor will be a secondary trying to keep up with Moss, Stallworth and Welker.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>INJURY IMPACT:</strong> Eric Parker is out for likely the first month after toe surgery. Rookie Craig Davis replaces him in the starting lineup.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> TE Antonio Gates didn't practice Wednesday with a back injury. He is listed as doubtful; he usually has a pretty high tolerance of pain.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> FB Andrew Pinnock (hamstring) didn't practice and could be down Sunday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> OLB Shawne Merriman (Achilles) was limited in his work. He's questionable, but he should play Sunday night unless he suffers a big-time setback.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> RB Michael Turner's ankle didn't suffer a setback and he is a full go.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> KR/PR Darren Sproles seems to be OK after suffering a concussion on Sunday. He's getting all his reps, but he will be monitored closely.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> S Clinton Hart (quad) worked the entire practice.</p>
     

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