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Inside Slant - 12/23/08

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Dec 23, 2008.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/home.htm" target="_blank">USA Today</a>
    <div class="inside-copy"><a href="http://i1.chargers.com/assets/258/45394_600w600h.jpg"><img class="alignright" title="The Bolts forced three turnovers and Philip Rivers threw a career-high four touchdown passes Sunday in an emphatic 41-24 win over Tampa Bay. (Mike Nowak/Chargers.com)" src="http://i1.chargers.com/assets/258/45394_600w600h.jpg" alt="" width="203" height="165" /></a>Monday came, and yet again the Chargers' dream is alive.</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">In fact, not since this wacky season started has optimism seen such light as it did Monday at Chargers Park.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">A three-game winning streak during the Broncos' free-fall has the Chargers back in the AFC West race.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">For real.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The 7-8 Chargers need only a win Sunday night at home against the 8-7 Broncos to climb all the way off the mat and into the playoffs.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">When the fading Chargers were trailing the Broncos by three games with three remaining, few gave them a shot.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But a thumping of Oakland, a heart-stopping, one-point win at Kansas City and then Sunday's 41-24 breakout at Tampa Bay has put a spark in the Bolts.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"After everything that's happened this season, we've got an opportunity to win this division," tight end Antonio Gates said. "We've taken care of business the last three weeks, and it all comes down to next week against Denver."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Coach Norv Turner has seen his stock rise with the team's success. The drumbeat to chase him from town is difficult to hear.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"The season's 16 weeks long, and you commit yourself to playing hard during that entire span," Turner said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We've had some unusual and amazing things happen throughout the season. We went through a stretch playing four of five games on the road, three of them on the East Coast or beyond."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">That's what made Sunday's conquest so significant. It kept them in the hunt and zapped their road curse of playing someone outside their division.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">All those close losses, all that chatter after they dropped five of six games, all that yapping about letting a special season slip away is in the past. The Chargers are one home win shy from entertaining the Colts the first week of the AFC playoffs.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"Our players have been through a lot," Turner said, and he could have speaking about himself as well. "But I give them credit for hanging in there and giving ourselves a chance."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-K Nate Kaeding set a team mark with a 57-yard field goal, thanks to a little wind and a lot of body English. "In college, I hit a couple of 55s," said Kaeding, a former Iowa standout. "But this is the longest one I've ever kicked in any sort of a game." It's estimated the kick traveled a good 60 yards.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB LaDainian Tomlinson reached 1,000 yards for the eighth consecutive season; only two others have started their career in a similar fashion. "I was getting a little worried that I wouldn't reach it," said Tomlinson, who finished with 90 yards in the win over Tampa Bay. "It has been tough to say the least, but I am happy that we got it done." Tomlinson has rushed for 100 yards in a game only twice this year.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-TE Antonio Gates has 51 touchdown receptions in his career after 92 games, following his two on Sunday. Gates reached 50 faster than any other tight end in league history. The previous mark was held by Jerry Smith, 100 games. "Considering all the guys that have paved the way for me and the tight ends that you hear about today, it is definitely an honor," Gates said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PLAYER NOTES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DT Jamal Williams (foot) could be limited more so than usual in practice this week.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Malcom Floyd (collapsed lung) could miss a second game Sunday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Legedu Naanee filled in for Malcom Floyd and looked comfortable with the increased playing time. He had two catches for 29 yards.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB Darren Sproles was in during critical stretches of the game. His 32-yard scoring reception gave the Chargers a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-ILB Stephen Cooper continues to find the ball, recording his fourth interception in three games. Cooper is also the team's leading tackler.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LB Brandon Siler (foot) was injured before Sunday's game and didn't play much.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">REPORT CARD VS. BUCCANEERS</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PASSING OFFENSE: A - Philip Rivers continues to prove what an injustice it was keeping him off the Pro Bowl team. The NFL's top-rated passer threw for 287 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. The pass-blocking was superb - the lone sack was more about Rivers having so much time to look at various receivers. Antonio Gates had two scoring catches, showing off his athletic skills on both of them. Vincent Jackson continues to rack up No. 1 wide receiver numbers, as he went over 1,000 yards for the season. Darren Sproles is turning short passes into big gains and touchdowns.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus - LaDainian Tomlinson fell 10 yards short of 100, but the run-blocking was keen for the majority of the game. Tomlinson had some of the better running lanes he has seen in a while, as the offensive line played well. It was a promising effort by this unit, which no longer holds the spotlight as in years past.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PASS DEFENSE: B - Jeff Garcia threw for a score and 232 yards as the secondary did a decent job. San Diego did blow coverage on a 71-yard touchdown to Antonio Bryant, but S Clinton Hart was able to recover a fumble, and rookie Antonio Cason scored on an interception to seal the win.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">RUSH DEFENSE: B - DT Jamal Williams continues to play like a Pro Bowler - he's not - and the linebackers also were pretty good. The Bucs running backs never could get a rhythm going, and the leading rusher was Garcia with 45 yards. ILB Stephen Cooper (10 tackles) was solid, and CB Quentin Jammer made an impact by laying a monster hit on Garcia on one late scramble.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">SPECIAL TEAMS: A - Sproles is again gobbling up big yardage on returns, finishing with 127 off kickoffs and 45 off two punts. He often delivered great field position, and once when he didn't, Nate Kaeding boomed a franchise-best 52-yard field goal. There was one hiccup on a 72-yard return by Clifton Smith that led to a touchdown.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">COACHING: A - To go into Tampa Bay and deliver the Bucs their first home loss late in December is impressive. Coach Norv Turner was creative on offense, leaning on Rivers most the day, not forgetting about Tomlinson, then dropping Sproles into the mix late. The defense was aggressive, and it created two turnovers. Special teams were on the mark as well. It was likely the Chargers' most complete game, and certainly it came with the most on the line.</p>

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