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Inside Slant - 12/30/08

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Dec 30, 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/259/45662_600w600h.jpg"><img class="alignright" title="The Chargers posted a season-high 491 yards of total offense, including a team-record 289 yards rushing, as they rolled to a 52-21 victory over the Denver Broncos to claim the Bolts� third-consecutive AFC West title. (Mike Nowak/Chargers.com)" src="http://i1.chargers.com/assets/259/45662_600w600h.jpg" alt="" width="175" height="182" /></a>Now the real playoffs start - and the Chargers are part of them.</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers faced do-or-die situations the final three weeks of the season while trying to erase a three-game deficit in the AFC West.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">They completed the task Sunday with a win over the Broncos, and they move on as the division champ and play host to the Colts on Saturday in the playoff opener.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">That the Chargers have a .500 record and that none of their eight wins came over a 2008 playoff team doesn't dampen their enthusiasm, although they recognize the difficulty of the task at hand, trying to stop MVP candidate Peyton Manning.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"If we let Peyton sit back there and set his feet, he is going to kill you," Chargers linebacker Stephen Cooper said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But the Chargers were left for road kill long ago, when they fell to 4-8 back on Nov. 30. It marked the team's fifth loss in six games and all but torpedoed their hopes of another AFC West title.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Then came the four-game winning streak and total collapse by the Broncos. That allowed the Chargers to win their third consecutive division title and entertain the Colts - despite their shoddy record.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We took a different route than we thought we would, but we're here," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "We're all 0-0 now. We know the Colts are going to be tough, but we're excited and we'll be ready."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">What looked to be a quiet January now has a buzz. And the team that fell four quarters shy of its second Super Bowl in team history last season suddenly has a fresh pulse.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We know the expectations we set out and how high they were at the start of the year," Rivers said. "All we've done is re-open some of those goals now that we've gotten ourselves into January."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">How far they go remains to be seen. But to even reaching the playoffs after being 4-8 is something to build on as they try to knock off the Colts.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-San Diego's offense is getting the headlines after putting 93 points on the board in the past two games. But the defense is playing well, too. It held the Broncos to 21 points.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"I couldn't be happier in the way the defense performed," coach Norv Turner said, "because this is an explosive offensive team."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB LaDainian Tomlinson isn't shy about voicing who he thinks should be the NFL's MVP. He will face him Saturday at Qualcomm Stadium. "I would say he is the MVP, no question," Tomlinson said of Colts QB Peyton Manning.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-QB Philip Rivers passed Dan Fouts to break the Chargers record for most touchdown passes in a single season, 34. What's funny is Rivers' coach, Norv Turner, was a backup to Fouts at the University of Oregon. Turner said he has yet to hear from Fouts. "I'm sure I will," Turner said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers were sitting at 4-8 before their amazing run to a third straight AFC West title, and team president Dean Spanos said one person is more responsible than others for that run.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"I think it says a lot about the resiliency of the team - they stuck together," he said. "The catalyst and person who made it all happen was the head coach. I think Norv has done a tremendous job.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We are fortunate to be where we are, there is no doubt about it. But we are 0-0 right now and starting all over. Just get in the playoffs - that is the whole thing."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers eliminated the Colts last season in the playoffs, beating them in the final game played in the RCA Dome. The Colts are the only hotter team than the Chargers, ending the season on a nine-game winning streak.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We have a lot of respect for them guys," Tomlinson said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PLAYER NOTES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB LaDainian Tomlinson underwent an MRI exam Monday that showed a groin strain. He said he is not 100 percent and could be compromised in practice. He'll likely play, but Tomlinson didn't dance around how an injury like his hampers a running back cutting and changing direction as much as he does.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Malcom Floyd (collapsed lung) will try to increase his practice time this week and has a shot at playing Saturday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-TE Antonio Gates (ankle) should be OK for Saturday, although could miss some practice time.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Luis Castillo (groin) could miss some practice time, but he will play Saturday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-OLB Shaun Phillips (knee) should be OK this week.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LB Brandon Siler (foot) should be able to go this week.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">REPORT CARD VS. BRONCOS</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus - Philip Rivers didn't make the Pro Bowl, but his play helped the Chargers make the postseason. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns. He got some great catches by Vincent Jackson and steady routes by Chris Chambers. Darren Sproles had a nifty 13-yard screen for a touchdown. The pass protection was fine - he was sacked twice - as Rivers continued to have time to go through his reads.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">RUSHING OFFENSE: A - LaDainian Tomlinson was awesome, jumping around, making cuts and making defenders look foolish. Tomlinson had a season-best 6.9 yards per carry and finished with 96 yards and three TDs. Sproles was equally solid, rushing for a season-high 115 and a score. The run-blocking was strong, probably the best it has been all season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PASS DEFENSE: B - Considering how lethal Jay Cutler's right arm can be, the Chargers did a well holding him to 316 passing yards and two touchdowns. They didn't sack Cutler, but they did make him uncomfortable in the pocket. Brandon Marshall had six receptions - 12 fewer than he had in the last matchup. An interception by Paul Oliver was huge near the end of the first half, and Luis Castillo got one off a tip by Shaun Phillips.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">RUSH DEFENSE: C - The Chargers made Tatum Bell look good, and that shouldn't be done at this stage of the season - and his career. Most troubling were 37-yard and 26-yard touchdown runs by Bell. The Broncos ran only 10 times - including two by Cutler - but managed to gain 90 yards in the process.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">SPECIAL TEAMS: A - Sproles contributed 112 return yards and continues to be one of the most dangerous players in the league at that position. The coverages were fine; P Mike Scifres had only one punt for 43 yards. The key to this unit remains Sproles, as he consistently gives the offense good field position.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">COACHING: A - Norv Turner continues to give more credence to the running game, and the results have been spectacular. With Tomlinson running as in years past and the offensive line buying into the more physical play, the entire offense is looking better and more diverse. Turner also gets credit for keeping the Chargers engaged down the stretch, and that was evident Sunday night when they demolished and demoralized the Broncos. Ron Rivera, the defense coordinator, mixed up his coverages to keep Cutler under wraps for the most part.</p>

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