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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Nov 16, 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="309" height="222" alt="LaDainian Tomlinson scores his second touchdown in the first quarter." title="LaDainian Tomlinson scores his second touchdown in the first quarter." src="http://photos.signonsandiego.com/gallery1.5/albums/050918broncos/KCchargers238497x596.jpg" />
    <div class="inside-copy">It could be a historic Sunday when the Chargers travel to Denver to face the Broncos, with sole possession of the AFC West at stake.</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Chargers will be aiming for a rare victory in Colorado, and LaDainian Tomlinson could help them by breaking an impressive NFL record.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Tomlinson, the NFL's touchdown machine, needs two more scores to reach 100. If he does it Sunday, the milestone will be reached in his 89th game. The record is shared by Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith; both did it in 93 games.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> While Smith was always a favorite of Tomlinson's when growing up in Texas, Brown - in Tomlinson's eyes - is in a class by himself.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"Well, I admire runners because that's what I do and I think there's an art to it," said Tomlinson, the league-leader with 16 touchdowns. "There are no two runners that are alike, pretty much. Every guy has his own style.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"So in the course of being a young man, you look at all the different types of runners that have come before you, and some stick out more than others. You know, Jim Brown was obviously a guy that really stuck out, not only because of his size and strength, but the way he was able to move just because he is a big guy. He was able to move in and out of the hole, cutting, and it was just awesome to see him run."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But can the Chargers move the ball on the ground against the Broncos like they are accustomed? History, particularly where it involves Tomlinson, says otherwise.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Even if he has rushed for 100 yards in three straight games.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Tomlinson has never won at Invesco Field and has never enjoyed a big day statistically. In five outings there, he has averaged 52.8 yards rushing and a 3.4-yard average. He has not scored a touchdown in four of the five games.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But the Broncos are expecting Tomlinson, the NFL's second-leading rusher, to deliver his best shot on Sunday. Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey has watched too much film to think otherwise.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"He shows up every week and produces, scoring a lot of touchdowns," Bailey said. "He's having a great year rushing and catching the football. He's having a great year."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But for the Chargers to have a great chance Sunday, they need to stay competitive early so not to be forced into having to pass. That would give the Broncos a heavy dose of Tomlinson, although their run defense has been stout all year.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Denver is allowing but 86.2 rushing yards a game and have been hit for but two rushing touchdowns - total.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"Well, they take me out of the game," Tomlinson said of his sub-par games against the Broncos. "I haven't had the ball much in Denver. They end up taking me out of the game, whether we get behind and we're not running the ball much. That's been the case."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">A case could be made that Tomlinson is the NFL's MVP. He gets to prove it Sunday, if he can direct the Chargers to a rare victory at Denver.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>SERIES HISTORY:</strong> 93rd meeting. The Broncos lead the series 52-39-1, including a 34-11-1 mark in home games - Sunday's game is at Denver. The Broncos 52 wins against San Diego are their highest total against any team. The Chargers have won but twice in Denver since 1987; that includes a six-game losing streak in Colorado.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-From his spot in the backfield, QB Philip Rivers might have the best seat for RB LaDainian Tomlinson's amazing runs. "Some of those cuts - TV doesn't do it justice," Rivers said. "He is such a jump-cut guy, you call him. He jumps, but he is only in the air for two seconds."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Coach Marty Schottenheimer once peddled real estate in the Denver area before turning to coaching. Ditching real estate was a wise move as he has 193 regular-season victories, which ties him with Chuck Noll for fifth all-time.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-A glance at All-Pro TE Antonio Gates' numbers shows he is down in receptions, receiving yard and touchdown when compared to last year. But the Chargers know what he is capable of if defenses quit double-teaming him. "We play against him every day and we know what he can do," LB Shaun Phillips. "He may not have 80 or 70 receptions, but look at last week - he had a big play for us. And we are winning and that is the most important thing. It's just a matter of time before Gates has one of his breakout games."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Denver TE coach Tim Brewster held a similar position with the Chargers and was instrumental in Gates' development.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Wounded LB Steve Foley is getting a kick out of watching his teammates. He was placed on IR before the season after being shot three times by an off-duty police officer. "The guys that are filling in there, you know what, we haven't really missed anybody production-wise and all that," Foley said. "I think that is what has been asked - fill in and do your job and they have been doing a good job. That is always exciting to see." Foley is hopeful of resuming his career next season, but he still needs a cane to walk with some two months after the shooting.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Shawne Merriman was serving the second of his four-game suspension, but he was on the minds of the Bengals on Sunday. After one of his touchdown catches, Chad Johnson mimicked Merriman's Lights Out dance, as did a few other Bengals after big plays. That didn't sit well with the Chargers. "You know how Chad is, but then again - is he mocking our guy because he is not here? it is a mixed emotional feeling," Tomlinson said. "But ultimately you want to make sure he is not able to do that again." Added Quentin Jammer: "We got the win so they can try and do the Lights Out all they want. But they are not doing the Lights Out right now."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-For the Chargers to climb back into Sunday's game, they needed to go with an up-tempo approach, which meant no huddles and no wasted time. And that can drain an offensive line. "Our offensive line is playing incredible," Tomlinson said. "This is the best I've seen a group play since I've been here. They really allow us to move the ball up and down the field with passing and running the football and I think the key is our offensive line."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers have five receivers with at least two TD receptions. Only two other teams (Chicago and Philadelphia) have done that this season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers-Broncos game at Denver on Sunday was switched to 8:15 PM ET on NBC.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> 1 - Number of Chargers victories in Denver in last 11 visits.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "We just going to turn it loose and let it all hang out. These are the kind of games you love to play in." - QB Philip Rivers on how the Chargers are going to master the Mile High jinx.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">The Charges are again hoping to generate a pass rush - they didn't have much of one last week. It's possible the Chargers could be without DE Luis Castillo this week, and he has five sacks. Shawne Merriman will miss his third of his four-game suspension. So the pressure is going to be on Wade Phillips, a former Broncos head coach, to come up with a scheme to pester Jake Plummer. Look for more disguises, more stunts, more trickery than usual to make up for the absence of Merriman and possibly Castillo. Because was saw last week what happens when the Chargers can't generate a pass rush: the Bengals Carson Palmer threw for 440 yards and three touchdowns.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PLAYER NOTES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-CB Antonio Cromartie will be back in his nickel role Sunday despite having his most challenging day as a pro last week. Cromartie, as was the entire secondary, was picked on in the win over the Bengals.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Keenan McCardell probably never thought he would be returning punts in his 15th year. But with Eric Parker (neck) not practicing, the job could fall to McCardell on Sunday. He had two fair catches last week.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-QB Philip Rivers has gone three straight games and thrown 122 consecutive passes without an interception. In four of his nine starts, he has recorded a rating over 100. Former Chargers quarterback Drew Brees had two such games in his first year as a starter.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Jacques Cesaire, it appears, will get another chance to start on Sunday with Luis Castillo (ankle) still hobbling. He didn't have a tackle last week but did get a hit in on Carson Palmer.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-FB Lorenzo Neal will have his 10th straight season of leading the way for an 1,000-yard rusher if LaDainian Tomlinson rushes for 68 yards on Sunday. Neal has also played in 201 straight games.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-T Roman Oben is back on the active roster after starting the season on PUP following two foot surgeries. It's expected Oben will be the main backup on both sides at tackle.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>GAME PLAN:</strong> The Broncos are going to be tough to run on, especially in Denver. But that shouldn't discourage the Chargers and make them start flinging the ball around more than they want. LaDainian Tomlinson is on a tear - 15 touchdowns in five games - so why not let him keep rolling. If he can be somewhat successful on the early downs, that will take the pressure of Rivers of producing on third-and-longs. It's not that he hasn't proven he can do it, but doing it on a consistent basis in Denver in a night game with that vocal crowd is in full voice isn't a recipe for success. The Chargers can't get careless with the football and the safest way to avoid that is to lean on Tomlinson.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>MATCHUPS TO WATCH:</strong> The Chargers' pass rush, against a Broncos passing game led by mobile QB Jake Plummer. The Chargers goal Sunday is to keep Plummer in the pocket. But he is so shifty and the offense is designed with so many rolling pockets and bootlegs it always seems like Plummer is on the run. But with Shaun Phillips' sore calf having another week to heal the Chargers are hopeful Plummer won't move around with the same ease he usually does. It's imperative the Chargers' pass rush makes Plummer uncomfortable, otherwise he could pick on a secondary which has had its confidence tested of late.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers passing game vs. a veteran secondary that includes CB Champ Bailey and S John Lynch. Rivers has been sensation in nine games, and no one can dispute that. But in eyeing the Broncos' secondary he will have to match wits with two guys who have tricked their share of quarterbacks - young and old. Bailey has five INTs and Lynch is playing well again after coming off a Pro Bowl year. Rivers has to continue being good at viewing the whole field and not locking into any targets. Because if he starts doing that and those two savvy vets - Bailey and Lynch - pick up on it, Rivers could be in for a rough outing.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers' secondary, which is coming off a torching in Cincinnati, vs. a passing game featuring wide receivers Javon Walker and Rod Smith. The Chargers are hopeful the backside of their defense has a short memory because what was turned in last Sunday wasn't pretty. The Broncos finally have a big-play guy in Walker and he will be eager to test a secondary that gave up 71- and 51-yard scoring plays. But the defensive backs also can't fall asleep on Rod Smith, as he has burned the Chargers countless times over the year. But this year, he has a real threat in Walker on the opposite side.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>INJURY IMPACT:</strong> WR/PR Eric Parker didn't work Wednesday with a neck strain.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-C Nick Hardwick (ankle) didn't work Wednesday but he will probably try to go Sunday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Malcom Floyd (ankle) didn't work Wednesday and is questionable.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Derreck Robinson (foot) didn't practice and is questionable.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Luis Castillo (ankle) is still in a walking boot and it looks like he'll be down for another week.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-S Bhawoh Jue (knee) didn't work but he will play Sunday.</p>
     

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