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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Nov 30, 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="283" height="214" alt="Marty Schottenheimer" title="Marty Schottenheimer" src="http://photos.signonsandiego.com/gallery1.5/albums/051211dolphins/051211marty_tell.jpg" />
    <div class="inside-copy">In one of Marty Schottenheimer's hands is hammer. The other hand holds one of the Chargers' 53 players, as he pounds his message into the noggin loud and clear: don't fall into the NFL trap.</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">There is one poised to snap the Chargers back to reality on Sunday in Buffalo. The Chargers are riding high with a five-game winning streak, have a two-game cushion in the AFC West and get their best defensive player, Shawne Merriman, back from a four-game suspension.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Plus they are playing a team they waxed just last season to the tune of 48-10.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But the Chargers are making their second-longest road trip of the year. And these Bills are not the same woeful outfit that stunk up Qualcomm Stadium on their way to a 5-11 record.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> "It's going to be a tough battle because they are a good football team," Schottenheimer said, repeating a chorus he has told his player.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">It's not all coach speak, either.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Bills are coming off two dramatic victories and have won three of their past four. Quarterback J.P. Losman has seen his completion rate rise as he finally gets comfortable in his second year as a starter.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"His completion percentage over the past two weeks has been 71 percent," Schottenheimer said, hoping to get his players' attention. "It's obvious he is getting comfortable with what they are doing."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Schottenheimer also points to the Bills' defensive speed - never mind it has trouble stopping the run. The old coach also says, without qualification, that the Bills' special teams are the NFL's best.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Linebacker Shaun Phillips can almost recite Schottenheimer's mantra to the letter.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"Marty has it instilled in our head, he pounds in our head every day that we got to concentrate on one thing at a time," Phillips said. "Concentrate on one day at a time. Then when we get to Sunday, we concentrate on Sunday. That is all we can do."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">If not, this wonderful season that has the Chargers poised to snatch their second playoff appearance since 1995 will be gone.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"When you start to look too far down the road, that is when you slip up," Phillips said. "And we don't want to do that."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">What they want to do is get their defensive swagger back, something that will come with the arrival of Merriman. Phillips said the key Sunday is to treat Losman like an inexperienced quarterback - never mind that his counterpart, Philip Rivers, is even more green.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"We're going to try to get after him a little bit," Phillips said. "Hopefully we can rattle him up a little bit. He is kind of a young quarterback still learning and we are definitely going to get after him."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Schottenheimer has been after the Chargers all week. Come Sunday, we'll find out if they've been listening.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>SERIES HISTORY:</strong> 34th meeting. The Chargers lead the series over the Bills, 20-11-2. The Chargers return to Buffalo for the first time since 2002, when they lost, 20-13. The most recent pairing of these teams came last year when the Chargers prevailed in San Diego, 48-10. The Chargers have won five of their last seven games with Buffalo.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Two of the game's best players are familiar with each other. The Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson was a TCU teammate of Bills RE Aaron Schobel. Tomlinson was the WAC Offensive Player of the Year the same year (2000) Schobel was the Defensive Player of the Year. Schobel, who has a team-high 8.5 sacks, is always ribbing Tomlinson. "Ever since college I can never do anything right by Aaron," Tomlinson said. "If I have 300 yards rushing he'll come up to me and tell me about something I did wrong that day. But it's been fun watching him over the years. He's having a great year this year. We're going to have to block him up."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Bills caused the Chargers much heartache back in the AFL days. Buffalo twice defeated the Chargers in the AFL title game: 1965 and 1964.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Chargers general manager A. J. Smith was once an executive in Buffalo when current Bills GM Marv Levy was coaching Buffalo to four straight Super Bowls. "I hope we meet every year in the AFC title game," Levy said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Coach Marty Schottenheimer was the Bills' seventh-round pick in 1965 and played four seasons at linebacker, mostly in a backup role. "I was a practice player," Schottenheimer has often said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers are only 8-10 in December games under Schottenheimer.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Only five NFL teams have four players with at least 30 catches and the Chargers are one of them: Antonio Gates (50), Tomlinson (48), Eric Parker (38) and Keenan McCardell (30).</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-It's believed the Chargers' Dec. 17 game against the Chiefs will be moved to Sunday night.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Duke Preston is starting at guard for the Bills. His father, Ray, was a Chargers linebacker from 1976-84.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Most teams need to get off to a fast start on the road to be successful. But the Chargers have proved in their past two away games that's not necessary the case. "We're starting to become a second-half team," Tomlinson said. The Chargers erased halftime deficits in wins over the Bengals and Broncos.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Bills run a pretty simple defense, compared to last year when the blitzed the Chargers often. RT Shane Olivea said the Bills will have to mix it up come Sunday. "I don't think they will stay in that on we will put 30 on them."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Schottenheimer said Shawne Merriman, who has 8 1/5 sacks, looked fine in his first practice Wednesday since his suspension. "He appeared to be fine," Schottenheimer said. "He's obviously taken good care of himself."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers signed TE Aaron Halterman to the practice squad.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> 7 -With nine victories, QB Philip Rivers has clinched his seventh season with a winning record as a starter. That dates to his junior season at Athens (Ala.) High School.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "He will be fresh and ready to go and I'm sure his mind-set will be trying to make up for lost time, especially this week." - QB Philip Rivers on the return of suspended OLB Shawne Merriman.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers might flip their running game, one that has been decidedly leaning toward the left.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">With regularity, the Chargers direct their running game to the left side. The team is confident going behind rookie LT Marcus McNeill and LG Kris Dielman.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But Dielman was hurt last week, didn't play and had yet to practice as of Wednesday with a sprained ankle. If Dielman is out, Scott Mruczkowski replaces him, and he's not nearly the run-blocker Dielman is.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Also, the Chargers are getting thin at safety where starter Marlon McCree is slowed by a bum calf and backup Bhawoh Jue has a balky knee. The Bills have been clicking on some big plays from J.P. Losman to Lee Evans and it's critical the Chargers safeties don't let anyone behind them.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PLAYER NOTES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DT Luis Castillo is at least out of the walking boot and jogging on his sprained ankle. But the combination of the cold weather and artificial turf could have him down for the fourth straight week.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Keenan McCardell is back working after sitting out last week with a sore calf. But it will be worth watching have much of a burst he will have off the line.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB/KR Michael Turner is still nursing a sore hamstring. If Turner can't go, rookie Antonio Cromartie replaces him on kickoffs. Cromartie had a 91-yard return last week. But if Turner is fit, the job is his, according to coach Marty Schottenheimer.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LB Carlos Polk resumes his backup role and concentrating on special teams with the return of Shawne Merriman. Polk, a run-stuffer, held up well in Merriman's absence.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Jacques Cesaire is making the most of his chance with Luis Castillo being out. Cesaire has 2.5 sacks in the last two weeks.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Derreck Robinson is a backup, but he's ailing with a sore foot. That could hamper the Chargers' rotation along the line, especially with Castillo likely to miss another game.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>GAME PLAN:</strong> The Chargers are looking forward to a party this weekend in Buffalo, with the meeting point being the Bills' pocket.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Look for the Chargers to unleash their impressive pass rush with OLB Shawne Merriman back in the fold and eager to show he's the same dominating player that he was before taking four weeks off for a dirty test.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Bills have issues with pass protection (32 sacks allowed) and the Chargers look at that as a way to maybe minimize the field position they figure to lose against one of the best special teams units in NFL.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">So look for the Chargers to get after Losman, especially if successful on the early downs stopping Willis McGahee.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>MATCHUPS TO WATCH:</strong> The Chargers' running game, led by LaDainian Tomlinson, against a Bills run defense which has been overpowered of late. The Chargers would be running no matter who their rival would be, but that's especially true this week. Tomlinson has a career-best five straight games with 100 yards rushing and now he eyes a run defense which is ranked tied for 26th.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers' kick coverage units have been leaky of late, and the Bills could make them pay. The Chargers are 21st in defending the punt and 18th in stopping kickoffs. Buffalo's Roscoe Parrish leads the NFL in punt returns with a 13.9-yard average and teammate Terrence McGee is fourth in the NFL in kick returns with a 26.5-yard average.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers' pass protection, with rookie LT Marcus McNeill against a Bills pass rush led by RE Aaron Schobel, who has 8.5 sacks. McNeill has been stellar in his first year, but he'll get a good test against Schobel.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>INJURY IMPACT:</strong> LG Kris Dielman could be down again this week, and that might hamper the running game.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-If RB Michael Turner (hamstring) can't go, the Chargers will be in a pinch if Tomlinson gets nicked. Behind Turner is Andrew Pinnock, a fullback. He's not much of a runner. Turner will probably be good enough to test that hamstring Sunday, but how long it holds up is another matter.</p>
     

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