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Inside Slant - 1/9/07

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Jan 9, 2007.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: USA Today
    <div class="inside-copy"><img width="209" height="299" align="left" alt="San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson (L) gains yards in the first quarter at Gillette Stadium." title="San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson (L) gains yards in the first quarter at Gillette Stadium." src="http://photos.signonsandiego.com/gallery1.5/albums/chargers-patriots/chargers12.jpg" />Yes, the Chargers are gunning for their first playoff win since 1994 on Sunday. Yes, Marty Schottenheimer will try to break his five-game postseason losing streak on Sunday. And yes, they must do both against the New England Patriots, a team which has won three of the past five Super Bowls.</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We've obviously drawn a very, very fine opponent," Schottenheimer said. "They are an outstanding football team in every phase of what that they do. They are extremely well-coached and they have good players.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"But we still intend to show up."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Rim shot, please.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers can't joke around any more. After kicking back and enjoying a bye in the playoffs' first weekend, the rubber hits the road Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The AFC's No. 1 seed entertains probably the AFC's most dangerous team: the Patriots.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers, publicly, just shrug about their opponent. But privately, it would be an upset if they thought that all a franchise-best 14-2 regular-season got them was a matchup with one of the grandest dynasties the NFL has experienced.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"My feeling is if you are going to be a champion you have to play and win along the way," Schottenheimer said. " Play them in the first-round, second-round, championship game, it really doesn't matter. You are going to have to win.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"For us, it's staying in the moment and finding a way to win one game this weekend."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Patriots may not be as hot as the Chargers - winners of 10 straight - but they looked awfully good in pasting the Jets, 37-16 on Sunday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We're going to see a team that knows how to win," said linebacker Shawne Merriman, the NFL sack leader who'll make his playoff debut. "It's big for me to come and to see Tom Brady and the Patriots."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But not so big that the Chargers will lose their focus on the task at hand.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"They are a team," Merriman said, "that we have to beat to get to where we want to go."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">- RB LaDainian Tomlinson eyes that Pats' defense and it's obvious to him where the strength lies. "To me it's the front seven," Tomlinson said. "The defensive linemen and the linebackers. That is the core of their defense." Tomlinson, though, has fared well in three games against the Patriots, rushing for 425 yards and five touchdowns.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-S Marlon McCree, who came over as a free agent from the Panthers, has faced Patriots QB Tom Brady twice, splitting the games. But he said that - and the Chargers previous games against the Patriots - mean zilch in the playoffs. "Whatever we have done in the past is irrelevant because none of us have played them in the postseason," he said. "He's only got one loss in the postseason so he's another animal (then) and we have to prepare really well for him."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">- Among the reasons for the Chargers landing in the divisional playoff game is their defense. Why is it better than in 2005?" I think last year we had the talent to win and do certain things, but we didn't have the togetherness," LB Shawne Merriman said. "We hadn't been on the field for the whole year, like we have now. Even early on during the year when we didn't close out the game against the Ravens like we should have you say we got better as a team as the course of the season went on and we are going to continue to get better.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Tomlinson, the NFL MVP and elected as an All-Pro on Monday, knows what a special chance the Chargers have starting Sunday. "I'm not concerned with my career, this is about this team. To me this has been a special team from the beginning and so I think it will be missing from all our careers to miss out on this opportunity that we have."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Respect is different than being afraid of a team, according to All-Pro TE Antonio Gates. "You definitely respect them for what they have done in the past and throughout the season," he said. " You just want to go out and play with respect, but at the same time you fear no one."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers, who had nine Pro Bowlers, landed five in on the All-Pro team: DT Jamal Williams, LB Shawne Merriman, FB Lorenzo Neal, Tomlinson and Gates.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">- DE Luis Castillo (ankle) will practice this week and try to go Sunday. Castillo, who has seven sacks, skipped the final two games.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">- WR Eric Parker (neck) will practice and go on Sunday. He will also return to his punt return duties.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">- DE Jacques Cesaire isn't expected to practice until later in the week, if at all. He is the team's biggest injury concern.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">- QB Philip Rivers (foot) has been cleared to return to practice. He is fine.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">- DE Derreck Robinson (foot), a backup but key member of the defensive line rotation, is expected to practice this week.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">- ILB Randall Godfrey (hamstring) in what could be his final game, will practice this week and go Sunday. For the second straight season, Godfrey, an 11-year pro, is contemplating retirement.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">REPORT CARD THROUGH 16 GAMES:</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PASSING OFFENSE: B- - If not for RB LaDainian Tomlinson almost single-handedly leading the offense, the Chargers' mediocre passing game would have been far more exposed. QB Philip Rivers has to be commended for a strong first season as the starter, but he struggled with uneven play down the stretch that has to have the coaching staff concerned entering the playoffs. TE Antonio Gates isn't always featured as much as he should be and the receiving corps lacks a big-play threat on the outside, although second-year man Vincent Jackson is showing signs of developing into a big, dynamic target.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">RUSHING OFFENSE: A - The Chargers finished the regular season No. 2 in rushing, but that's only because Atlanta has QB Michael Vick padding its ground stats. San Diego had the league's most potent running game week in and week out, even though everyone knows Tomlinson will be featured every game. And backup Michael Turner will get a chance to be a starter somewhere soon.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PASSING DEFENSE: B - The secondary is often pointed to as the team's biggest weakness. But the Chargers finished No. 13 in pass defense even though most opponents threw the ball heavily while playing from behind. Then again, San Diego's strong pass rush often prevents opposing quarterbacks from having much time to attack downfield.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">RUSHING DEFENSE: A- - DT Jamal Williams is one of the most underappreciated dominating players in the game. He anchors a run defense allowing just 100.8 yards per game. Stopping the run is critical to San Diego's success with the Chargers relying heavily on attacking with their pass rush on long passing downs.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">SPECIAL TEAMS: A - Few are better than K Nate Kaeding, who was second in the league with 136 points and connected on 26 of 29 field-goal attempts. Only one of those misses came from under 40 yards. P Mike Scifres' 41.9-yard average wasn't outstanding, but he often was angling his punts with the offense rarely backed up deep in its own territory. Most important, Scifres landed a league-high 35 punts inside the 20-yard line while having only two touchbacks, the fewest in the league among regular punters.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">COACHING: A - Coach Marty Schottenheimer led his team to the AFC West title and home-field advantage despite the major change from departed QB Drew Brees to first-year starter Philip Rivers. And he even broke free from "Marty Ball" when he realized during the first half of the season that he had to take the shackles off Rivers if the Chargers were to realize they're potential.</p>
     

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