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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Oct 5, 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="280" height="218" alt="Antonio Gates runs for an 11-yard gain in the fourth quarter." title="Antonio Gates runs for an 11-yard gain in the fourth quarter." src="http://photos.signonsandiego.com/gallery1.5/albums/051010chargers/SMH5.jpg" />
    <div class="inside-copy">The Chargers have set their sights on getting right against the world champions. The Pittsburgh Steelers arrive Sunday night at Qualcomm Stadium, with the Chargers looking to make a statement that they really do belong among the AFC's elite teams.</div>
    <p class="inside-copy">More importantly, they are looking at finally put Sunday's disappointing loss behind them. It was a devastating defeat that in some ways is still penetrating the team's locker room, although many of the players say that isn't the case.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"> But after leading the majority of the game, the Chargers were clipped by the Ravens at the end. And coach Marty Schottenheimer has come under unprecedented criticism for playing too conservative, trying to milk 13 first-half points into a road victory while passing the ball but eight times in the final 30 minutes.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Again, the players and coaches stress that once a game is done, they don't think about it once midnight the following Monday arrives - that's one of Schottenheimer's steadfast rules.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">But someone should tell Schottenheimer, as he seemed motivated to defend himself once again, even as the week reached its midway point.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">That begs this question: will the Chargers be ready for the challenge the Steelers will present if they still have their heads in Baltimore?</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Without being specifically asked, Schottenheimer didn't apologize for how he coaches. One wonders if he is still trying to sell the players on that as well.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"I find it interesting the dialogue about the conservative nature of what we do," Schottenheimer said. "My personal feeling is I think it is more about the style.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">"Apparently some aren't pleased with the style. I've coached for a long time and won a few games and I've never gotten a single style point. It's all about winning football games. And that's the substance of what we do: wins, losses. That's the way we approach it, that is the way we have always approached it. Winning is the key."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Especially this year for Schottenheimer, who is on the hot seat in sunny San Diego. Schottenheimer's overall mark since coming to San Diego is 35-33.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Schottenheimer and general manager A. J. Smith, it must be noted, have strictly a business relationship. And that relationship could become further strained if the Chargers' season goes sideways, especially at such an early juncture.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Team president Dean Spanos said he expects the Chargers to go deep in the playoffs. If so, they must win games like Sunday's against the Steelers.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">That's not saying Sunday is a must-win game. But it wouldn't be overstating the fact that the team is desperate for a win even after prevailing in two of its first three games.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Schottenheimer knows it. And he knows he'll never change his approach - he'll go down or up doing it his way.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">Oddly, a coach who does it the same way - the Steelers' Bill Cowher, who at age 28 got his first NFL coaching job from Schottenheimer - is wearing a Super Bowl ring.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>SERIES HISTORY:</strong> 25th meeting. The Pittsburgh Steelers lead the series, 19-5, and won the last meeting when traveling to San Diego and knocking off the Chargers 24-22 on "Monday Night Football." Good thing for the Chargers the game isn't in Pittsburgh as San Diego as never won there in 12 regular-season visits. Of course, the Chargers did prevail in the Championship Game for the 2004 AFC title, when upsetting the Steelers and advancing to their lone Super Bowl.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>NOTES, QUOTES</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB LaDainian Tomlinson said getting the running game humming against the Steelers is key. "That is a point of emphasis every week," said Tomlinson, who missed his second 100-yard game by 2 yards last week. "When you are playing teams like this, if we can establish the run game early, it is going to make it a lot easier on our offense, period. If we can't run the football then obviously it is going to make it tough on our offense."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-TE Antonio Gates is preaching patience when people bring up his numbers: 10 catches for 122 yards and one touchdown. He also said it's important the Chargers don't repeat the lessons they absorbed in Sunday's crushing defeat. "You have to able to learn from the loss and a win," he said. "Hopefully, you want to learn from things you do correctly, but some time the more pain, the more you look at it. We understand we had a chance to win that football game and we didn't do it. Ultimately you got to look at yourself. As long as we all take that approach, I think we'll go into the next game with a clear mind and be ready to play Pittsburgh."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-SS Terrence Kiel, who pleaded not guilty to five felony drug charges on Tuesday, was back running with the first string on Wednesday. "It feels good to be running around," he said. "It's always been a blessing to play football, for me it has. Any time I can get out there on the field I think you should take advantage of it."</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers' defense is ranked No. 1 overall, No. 1 against the pass and No. 2 against the run.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Schottenheimer said playing the Steelers right after the Ravens may give the Chargers a slight edge as they in some ways mimic each other; both employ a 3-4 scheme. "There are a lot of similarities there," he said. "(The Steelers) play more zone coverage than maybe in recent years but they are coming from everywhere." The 11th-ranked Steelers defense has 10 sacks.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-CB Markus Curry, who was cut last week, was brought back to the practice squad.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-Since defensive line coach Wayne Nunnely was hired in 1997, the Chargers have allowed rivals to rush for but 94.5 yards per game, the third-lowest total in the NFL over that span. This year, the team is allowing but 66 yards rushing per game.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-A pair of the elite defensive tackles will be on display with the Chargers' Jamal Williams and the Steelers' Casey Hampton. "You may see the two best nose tackles in football in this ball game Sunday night," Schottenheimer said.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The 23 points by the Chargers in the opening three games is the fewest ever by a team in a three-game stretch to open the season.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-QB Philip Rivers said the Chargers are in big trouble if they let Sunday's loss carry over: "If we let that one affect this one, with this team coming in here. We'll say 'what happened after a quarter' and that is the fact of the matter. "</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-<strong>BY THE NUMBERS:</strong> 2 - Number of head coaches from Western Pennsylvania in Marty Schottenheimer and Bill Cowher.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>QUOTE TO NOTE:</strong> "Against good teams, you cant win with 13 points, period. You just can't do it. So if we don't score more than 13 points we probably won't win the game." - RB LaDainian Tomlinson commenting on how the Chargers need their high-scoring offense to show up Sunday night against the Steelers.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL</strong></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">There is a chance strong safety Terrence Kiel could return to the starting lineup after appearing in court on Tuesday on five felony drug charges. Kiel has returned to practice and he could send Clinton Hart back to the bench and resume his starting role.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"></p>
    <p class="inside-copy">PLAYER NOTES</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Keenan McCardell is still fighting a tender hamstring and while he'll likely go on Sunday, how effective he will be is another question.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-TE Antonio Gates could be in for a big game, which he has yet to happen this season. Odds say the All-Pro will be a reliable safety value for Philip Rivers as he tries to avoid the Steelers' blitz package. Strangely, Gates has but 10 catches for 122 yards and a touchdown in three games.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-RB Michael Turner is being called the best backup at his position in the league. Not only are his numbers impressive - a 7.4-yard average on 30 carries - but LaDainian Tomlinson is no comfortable with deferring to Turner - he's more of a power runner built to break tackles - if rivals are stacking the box and the Chargers are running between the tackles.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-DE Igor Olshansky continues to show more lateral movement with his mending left knee. He suffered the injury in the season-opening drive and returned to action last week.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-CB Antonio Cromartie could see more time as a kickoff returner; he fielded one last week for 16 yards. But the role still belongs to Turner.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>GAME PLAN:</strong> Conventional wisdom says the Chargers try to stuff the ball down the Steelers' throat with a heavy dose of LaDainian Tomlinson. But don't be surprised if first the Chargers try to loosen up the defense by letting Philip Rivers throw the ball. There was much grumbling, inside and outside the organization, in how Rivers' was handcuffed in the second-half when throwing only eight passes. Schottenheimer should throw his offense a bone - while throwing a curveball at the Steelers' defense that is stout against the run.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>MATCHUPS TO WATCH:</strong> The Chargers' run-blocking, with C Nick Hardwick in the middle, vs. the Steelers' run defense, which is anchored by NT Casey Hampton. It was for days just like this Sunday that Hardwick added about 20 pounds to his frame this offseason - to wrestle with the likes of Hampton. While the linebackers on the Steelers get much of the glory for the team's great run defense (ranked No. 4) it's the work of Hampton that is the key. Hardwick likely can't handle Hampton by himself, which is going to open some lanes for the linebackers to shoot through. If Hardwick is on his game and can stop Hampton, it allows the other blockers to work elsewhere.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers punt return game, with Eric Parker returning punts, vs. the Steelers' punt return team, which has been struggling. Parker has given the Chargers a spark, averaging 9.8 yards per game. Parker, though, had a bruised leg after getting rocked in Baltimore but says he is OK. The Steelers' punt return team is ranked 29th in the league, so there could be some yards to be had here for the Chargers. And in what figures to be a game that revolves around good field position, this matchup could be a key.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-The Chargers' pass-blocking, which must protect a quarterback making his fourth NFL start vs. the Steelers' zone blitz package, which can confuse even the best offensive lines. Philip Rivers has been good about getting the ball out in a timely matter - there's no doubting his quick release - and he has been sacked but once all year. But mastering the Steelers' array of blitz packages born from their 3-4 alignment is no easy task. Look for the Chargers to put a tight end - and maybe two - up on the line to help and go to max pass protection in other cases to make sure Rivers stays upright. The Steelers have 10 sacks, and what makes that number impressive is they come from six different players which illustrate the various people from various angles that the Steelers' attack rival quarterbacks.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy"><strong>INJURY IMPACT:</strong> S Bhawoh Jue (knee) is out this week at least two more weeks after a recent knee surgery.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-LT Leander Jordan (neck) didn't practice and won't play Sunday.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-TE Ryan Krause (hamstring) practiced and is questionable.</p>
    <p class="inside-copy">-WR Keenan McCardell (hamstring) practiced and will play Sunday.</p>
     

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