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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Dec 7, 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>

    <img width="291" height="193" alt="Philip Rivers eggs on the crowd after throwing a TD pass to Vincent Jackson to go ahead 28-27." title="Philip Rivers eggs on the crowd after throwing a TD pass to Vincent Jackson to go ahead 28-27." src="http://photos.signonsandiego.com/gallery1.5/albums/061119broncos/SMHchargers260208x0017.jpg" />
    <div class="inside-copy">Lets see, the Chargers have a two-game cushion in the AFC West and are tied with the Indianapolis Colts for the best record in the AFC at 10-2. That means if they can sweep their final four games, the first of which is Sunday against the visiting Denver Broncos, they could get a first-round bye.</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">And, if the Colts drop another game - they hold the No. 1 seed by virtue of one fewer conference loss - the Chargers could have home field advantage until the Super Bowl.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"If you sit down and try to match up (playoff possibilities), you're wasting your time," Schottenheimer said. "I understand why the fans do it. Were I fan, I would be in the same mode."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> But Schottenheimer isn't. He has to keep the Chargers zeroed in on the task at hand, and it is a pretty considerable one.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers haven't swept the Broncos since 1982 and Denver is fighting for their playoffs lives at 7-5.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"With the position we're in, we can't worry about anything down the road," Schottenheimer said. "Our focus is on the Denver Broncos. It's obviously an important game for us. It's a divisional opponent and an AFC opponent. That's relative to the playoffs, but it's for later."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Really, how the Chargers do the next two weeks goes a long way in determining if they claim their second AFC West title in three years. In fact, if they beat the Broncos Sunday and the Kansas City Chiefs either lose or tie, the Chargers are the champs.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"You have to take care of your business, and for us, that's the Broncos," LaDainian Tomlinson said. "When its game time and you're preparing for a team, you can never overlook them. You have to be able to make sure you are focused on that particular team. We still have two division games left back-to-back, Denver and Kansas City, and that's going to determine really what happens for us, if we win the division or not."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>SERIES HISTORY:</strong> 94th meeting. The Broncos lead the series over the Chargers, 52-40-1. The Chargers seized a rare victory in Denver earlier this month, only their second in Colorado since 1999. The Broncos have split their last four games at Qualcomm Stadium. The Broncos capped their 1997-98 season with a Super Bowl victory over the Packers. Denver beat the Chiefs - then coached by Marty Schottenheimer - during those playoffs.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers are upbeat about having three of their final four games at home. The Chargers are undefeated at Qualcomm Stadium this year at 5-0. "Our fans have been great this season," said TE Antonio Gates. "They've gotten behind us and really given us an advantage all season. This is the time that we really have to turn it up."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Luis Castillo worked Wednesday for the first time in about a month. Castillo, who has 5.5 sacks, has missed the past four games with a high ankle sprain. His return would give an already solid defense a boost.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Vincent Jackson has taken heed of what receivers coach James Lofton always tells his receivers: you can contribute without catching the ball. Jackson had the key block that sprung Tomlinson on his 51-yard touchdown. Jackson will be looking to do the same come Sunday, especially if he is in the game more with Keenan McCardell (calf) ailing. "Vincent goes in there and he can block anybody," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "He's a big, strong young man. He'll block linebackers. On occasion he'll bang into defensive linemen. That's really helped our running game because what happens is, that one defender that that receiver is responsible to block, when you get him blocked, that generally means that your ball carrier, when he gets to that point in the run, he's got one guy to beat and it's probably the corner."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB LaDainian Tomlinson is going big-time. He was a guest of Jay Leno's on "The Tonight Show" Tuesday night. "It went OK, although I haven't watched it," Tomlinson said. "I would give myself a B-minus." Rivers wasn't among the TV audience. "My eyes wouldn't stay open," Rivers said. "I kept wondering when Dennis Miller was going to get off there. I can't say up past 12 o'clock."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-OLB Shawne Merriman said the Chargers are able to pull out close games because of their confidence. "I think we were a lot more confident, especially when it came down to the wire and we had to win a game," Merriman said of Sunday's 17-14 squeaker in Buffalo. "That's what good teams do. They have to win close games. You're not just going to blow teams out. You're going to see better teams and see better games."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Tomlinson is but 20 points shy of Paul Hornung's single-season record for points (176) in a season. "I never even look at it," said Tomlinson, of the milestones he has passed and is approaching. "I try not to think about it."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Hopefully the Chargers' Wednesday practice wasn't an indicator of what's to come this week; "It was spotty at best," Schottenheimer said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Schottenheimer continues to praise the work of LG Kris Dielman. "I think (he) has performed as well as any of our offensive linemen this year."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> 2 - Touchdowns needed by LaDainian Tomlinson to tie Shaun Alexander's single-season mark of 28.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "There's been times where it's fun and times when you are just like, 'no way, did that just happen.'" - RB LaDainian Tomlinson on what the last six weeks have been like</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">If DE Luis Castillo is able to go this week, the Chargers will have the benefit of rotating their defensive line more. That keeps them fresher and should pay off in getting to Denver quarterback Jay Cutler. Unlike previous starter Jake Plummer, Cutler isn't as savvy about leaving the pocket and throwing on the run. So the Chargers just need to get to a spot, and that's some 3-5 steps behind the center. With Castillo playing, Jacques Cesaire (2.5 sacks) should have an extra boost to his step.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Also, with Turner back working, Tomlinson could get a few more breathers than he has in the past. With Turner out, the Chargers were reluctant to inset Andrew Pinnock into the game. Not so with the bruising Turner.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PLAYER NOTES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Keenan McCardell might have one of those nagging injuries which are tough to shake at his age. McCardell didn't work Wednesday after aggravating a calf injury on Sunday. He is no lock to play Sunday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB/KR Michael Turner is back working after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury, but he is limited to individual work early in the week. Turner is a dynamite backup to Tomlinson and a decent returner.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Igor Olshansky will resume his battle with Broncos C Tom Nalen on Sunday. When they played earlier this month, Olshansky and Nalen fought at the end of the game. Nalen was fined $25,000 for going at Olshansky's knees on a spike play; Olshansky was docked $10,000.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-FB Lorenzo Neal should get plenty of consideration for another Pro Bowl selection. He has having a sensational year, and is among the reasons RB LaDainian Tomlinson is on a record-pace.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-FS Marlon McCree is back working after missing the past two games with a calf injury. McCree's contributions aren't restricted to the stat sheet as he is keen at getting the secondary lined up in the right place. He is a real leader of the back end.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>GAME PLAN:</strong> The Chargers will run, clearly. But the reasons the team will point Tomlinson toward the line of scrimmage is they have the confidence they can run against a solid run defense after eclipsing the 100-yard mark in their matchup earlier this month. Plus, MLB Al Wilson could still be feeling bad about his neck injury, which figures to slow him down if he is able to play. If the Chargers can establish the run, then they can go to their play-action and possibly go deep against SS Curome Cox. He is a backup filling in for the injured Nick Ferguson.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>MATCHUPS TO WATCH:</strong> Chargers pass rush, led by Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips, vs. the Denver passing game, led by rookie quarterback Jay Cutler. Merriman and Phillips are eager to get after Cutler, and give him his welcome to NFL life on the road. This will be Cutler's first road start, and he's already shown the ability to make poor decisions when flinging two interceptions in his starting debut. Merriman, too, is eager to pay back the Chargers fans who stood by him when he was suspended for four games for steroids. At San Diego, he won't have to hear the ster-oids, ster-oids chant which he heard Sunday in Buffalo. Cutler could be in for a long day and it's not a stretch to think Jake Plummer might see action at some point.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Chargers run defense, led by DT Jamal Williams, vs. Broncos running game, which is led by Tatum Bell. The Chargers run stoppers showed some renewed swagger last week in Buffalo, when the Bills could manage but 63 rushing yards. DE Igor Olshansky is showing more mobility as he rebounds from a recent knee surgery. The Broncos will counter with the Bells, Tatum and Mike. Mike Bell had 90 yards on 20 carries when these teams played earlier this month; the Broncos were able to collect 158 rushing yards.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Chargers kickoff-return game vs. Broncos coverage teams: The Chargers figure to get a boost with the return of Turner, who has missed two games with a tender hamstring. Turner doesn't have the burst of his replacement, rookie Antonio Cromartie, but he is much tougher to tackle and can flat run over people. The Broncos' kick coverage team stinks, giving up a whopping 27.4 yards per attempt - only the Raiders are worse in the NFL. If Jason Elam's sore hamstring is hampering him and Turner's feels good, that might be a key advantage for the Chargers in gaining valuable field position.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>INJURY IMPACT:</strong> S Bhawoh Jue (knee) didn't work on Wednesday, but that is a weekly occurrence. He will play Sunday in a backup role, although he could be pressed into more action if McCree's calf starts barking.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LG Kris Dielman (ankle) didn't work on Wednesday and he may not until Friday's light practice. Although he is a tough guy and will probably play Sunday, he may be limited and that's a key because the Chargers usually run to the left side.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-S Clinton Hart (ankle) didn't practice but will try to on Friday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Malcom Floyd (ankle) didn't work and is on crutches. He probably won't go Sunday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-ILB Randall Godfrey (calf) didn't practice but he should go on Friday.</p>
     

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