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Inside Slant - 12/28/06

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Dec 28, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/home.htm">USA Today</a>
    <div class="inside-copy"><img width="207" height="308" align="left" alt="Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws a pass to Antonio Gates for 13 yards." title="Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws a pass to Antonio Gates for 13 yards." src="http://photos.signonsandiego.com/gallery1.5/albums/061210broncos/JM_Broncos265734x1x0204.jpg" /> Once again, the Chargers go into a game wondering about their quarterback.</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">To a degree.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers welcome the visiting Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, wrapping a bow around a regular season which has seen them set a franchise mark with 13 victories.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">And at the helm of every victory has been Rivers, the first-year starter who will cap his season at the Pro Bowl.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But of late, he hasn't bowled over anyone with his numbers. In his last two games, he's completed 18-of-53 for 278 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a fumble.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">He's also gone 2-0 in those games and that is what Rivers and coach Marty Schottenheimer are focusing on.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> Plus, Sunday's victory came when Rivers successfully ran a two-minute drill which had the Chargers scoring the winning touchdown on a 37-yard pass to Vincent Jackson with 29 seconds remaining.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"The thing that's exciting about it is that he plays his best in the fourth quarter when the game's on the line," Schottenheimer said. "That shows that he doesn't let things get to him; he continues to make plays in a timely fashion."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Schottenheimer went as far as to compare Rivers to Hall of Famer Joe Montana. Like Montana, Schottenheimer said Rivers forgets a play - good or bad - as soon as it is over, concentrating on what's next.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">What's next for Rivers is defeating the Cardinals, which would give the Chargers home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs. Those shaky numbers are just that, and no need to hit the panic button.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"It's nothing that can't be corrected and won't be corrected," said Rivers, who remains the NFL's top-rated fourth-quarter passer with a 116.6 mark. Overall, he is No. 8.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"Ultimately, it comes down to if your quarterback feels that," LaDainian Tomlinson said of Rivers' confidence. "You can feel that all you want, but your quarterback has to make the throws. I think it's obvious that he felt like that."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The team still feels certain Rivers can get it where it wants to go: Super Bowl XLI. And about those rough patches the past two weeks?</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"He's going through a learning process," Schottenheimer said, "and there is no way to do it other than go play the game.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>SERIES HISTORY:</strong> 11th meeting. The Chargers lead, 7-3, although they have dropped two of the last three games with Arizona. The Chargers beat the visiting Cardinals in 1995, 28-25, in their last meeting in San Diego.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DT Jamal Williams is coming off one of the better games of his Pro Bowl season. He dominated the middle of the line in Seattle. "Absolutely terrific," coach Marty Schottenheimer described Williams' play. "He really, really controlled the center of that line and his performance was evident; all the tape did was reconfirm it."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-QB Philip Rivers caught some heat form the CBS announcers Sunday for not spiking the ball to kill the clock when the Chargers - who were out of time outs - were driving for the winning score. But Schottenheimer said Rivers did the right thing by forcing the issue. "We didn't want to spike it," Schottenheimer said. "We felt like he had a little but of rhythm and to spike the ball and give everybody a chance to calm down may have worked to our disadvantage. So we went ahead and kept it going."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-A review of the game tape led to Shawne Merriman being credited with another half of a sack. That gave him 3.5 in the game and a league-high 16 on the year. But Merriman claims he isn't interested in the sack totals. "I hear about it and I know about it because so many people are in tune about numbers, but what really matters to me is how far we go in this run," Merriman said. "I'll get more satisfaction from that."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Someone not satisfied with what Merriman is doing is Miami DE Jason Taylor. Merriman could be Taylor's strongest rival for the Defensive Player of the Year award and Taylor doesn't think that is right. Not after Merriman was suspended for four games for testing positive for steroids. "You really shouldn't be able to fail a test like that and play in this league, to begin with," Taylor said Wednesday. "To make the Pro Bowl and all the other awards, I think you're walking a fine line of sending the wrong message. A performance-enhancing drug is, obviously, what it is. You enhance your performance by doing that. You fail that test, I think it's not right, it's against the rules and ultimately I think it's sending the wrong message to the youth in America and the people who look at this game not only as entertainment but also to learn lessons from it."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Cards S Robert Griffith was a standout at San Diego State.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Cards coach Dennis Green has a home in Del Mar. Some speculate he'll be there more than he wants when the season ends and he gets canned.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Cards S Hanik Milligan was a Pro Bowl special teams player last year for the Chargers.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Cards T Brandon Gorin played the 2001 season in San Diego.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Rivers said it's hard to ignore how close the Chargers players are to each other. "Guys stay late Wednesdays and Thursdays, everybody wants to be around and that's not always the case," he said. "Those kind of things win you a couple of extra games, I thin they do."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Schottenheimer spent his Xmas like many other NFL fans, watching the Jets play the Dolphins. Except Schottenheimer was more than a casual observers as Brian Schottenheimer, his son, is in his first year the Jets' offensive coordinator. "It's a lot harder to sit on the sideline and watch and really care about whether somebody wins or loses than it does when you're standing on the sideline because you're busy and you're working at it," the elder Schottenheimer said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> 251: Rushing yards LaDainian Tomlinson needs to reach 2,000 on the year. His career high is 243.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "I think the Chargers are definitely a Super Bowl team." - Seattle RB Shaun Alexander, after getting an up-close look at the Chargers in Sunday's loss in Seattle.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Look for Michael Turner to get more playing time as the team tries to rest running back LaDainian Tomlinson for the playoffs. Although, with the Chargers needing a win - or a Baltimore loss - to secure the AFC's top seed, Tomlinson could be a full go until the one of the games - Chargers or Ravens - is close to being determined. They both kick off at the same time.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PLAYER NOTES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-S Clinton Hart, with two picks on Sunday, will continue to be a big part of the dime package.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LT Roman Oben held up well in his first action of season on Sunday. Oben replaced Marcus McNeill when he suffered a stinger. Oben was the left tackle on the 2004 AFC West championship team.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Keenan McCardell would remain the punt returner if Eric Parker (neck) isn't able to go. With McCardell, the Chargers trade off speed for ball security.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB Michael Turner is back running at full speed after being slowed recently with a strained hamstring. Turner will return kicks on Sunday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-ILB Donnie Edwards had two sure interceptions bounce of his usually reliable hands. Edwards, for the fifth straight year, is leading the Chargers in tackles with 131.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>GAME PLAN:</strong> Left, right up the middle. Linebackers, ends, defensive backs. The Chargers figure to throw everything and everybody at statue-like quarterback Kurt Warner. He is filling in for the injured Matt Leinart and could be quite a target for the NFL's top-sacking team. This is usually where defensive coordinator Wade Phillips shines as he confuses offenses by sending in various Chargers from numerous angles. Warner is no kid, so he'll be able to recognize what's headed is way. But that might not even help him against a pressure package which includes Shawne Merriman, the NFL's leading sacker with 16.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>MATCHUPS TO WATCH:</strong> The Chargers pass rush, which had six sacks for the second consecutive Sunday vs. the Cardinals pass protection, which features LT Leonard Davis. The Chargers' impressive pass rush was up to its all tricks again in Seattle, and it's revved to leave its mark on an immobile Warner. Merriman was matched against Seattle's Walter Jones on occasion Sunday and came out on top. This week he'll see the massive Davis now and then as the Chargers have been flipping their outside linebackers; Merriman and Shaun Phillips. The Cards will likely have to keep a back in for protection, or Warner might not be around to finish the game. If the Chargers can get to Warner, it neutralizes his big arm which could give the secondary problems.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers pass defense, with rookie Antonio Cromartie playing in the nickel package, vs. the Cards passing game, featuring three top-notch receivers. Cromartie will see the field a lot on Sunday as the Cards will often go to their three-wide set: Anquan Boldin (79 catches, 1,091 receiving yards, four TDs), Larry Fitzgerald (65-913-five) and Bryant Johnson (37-664-four). Cromartie and the other cornerbacks, Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence, have helped up fairly well this season - when a pass rush is present. That's why it is so important to get after Warner, or he will find Cromartie and the receiver he is covering.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers run defense, which allowed 153 yards last Sunday, vs. a Cards running attack led by Edgerrin James. Seattle's Shaun Alexander rushed for 140 yards in the last game - the Chargers point to one run good for 33 yards as padding his total. But it is what it is and now here comes James, who has shown a resurgence of late. The James the Chargers are facing isn't the same one of the first half, a running back who didn't have the burst getting to the hole. In James' last seven games, he's rushed for 577 yards on 136 carries (4.2 a carry). That's compared to 51 yards on 185 rushes (2.9 a carry) in the first eight games. Chargers could get a lift here if run-stuffing ILB Randall Godfrey (hamstring) is able to go.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">INJURY UPDATE: WR Eric Parker (neck) could be down this week. He would be replaced by Vincent Jackson in the offense and Keenan McCardell on punts.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LT Marcus McNeill (neck) is feeling much better after a stinger sent him to the sidelines on Sunday. He has a real chance of playing; if not, veteran Roman Oben would replace him.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Luis Castillo (ankle) still has a limp which will likely lead the Chargers to sit him down for the second straight week and saving him for the playoffs. Jacques Cesaire was stellar last week in replacing him as he collected a career-high two sacks.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-OLB Shaun Phillips hyperextended his elbow on Sunday, but said he will go on Sunday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-ILB Randall Godfrey (hamstring) is being eased back into practice this week after missing Sunday's game. The Chargers could rest him electing to go with Stephen Cooper, who played well in Seattle.</p>
     

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