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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Dec 8, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/home.htm" target="_blank">USA Today</a>

    The Chargers' showdown with the Indianapolis Colts is still some 10 days away. But listening to coach Marty Schottenheimer talk it was hard to tell.

    "In a couple of areas, they perform at the level of a team that you expect to be 9-3, 8-4. Whatever. They have some things they do extremely well," Schottenheimer said.

    Was he really talking about the Miami Dolphins, who arrive at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday as the Chargers go for their sixth straight victory?

    To note, the Dolphins are 4-7 and have lost to the woeful Jets, the dreadful Bills (in the first meeting) and were shut out by the Browns.

    Schottenheimer was talking, though, as if they were the reincarnation of the 1967 Packers.

    But this is Schottenheimer's manner to keep his team focused. He builds up his opponents with great gusto, then watches the hyped Chargers take them apart.

    Schottenheimer knows that human nature dictates that the Chargers look ahead to their Dec. 18 date at the RCA Dome, a chance to put a blemish on the Colts' perfect record - if they get past the Jaguars on Sunday.

    The Chargers, though, first have to hip-hop the Dolphins. And that doesn't appear to be a big problem, though star running back LaDainian Tomlinson missing practice on Wednesday with a bruised chest caused some Chargers' hearts to skip a beat.

    But Tomlinson is expected to be fine. And the Chargers should find themselves at 9-4 when pulling into Indianapolis a week from Sunday.

    After all, they are a nearly a two-touchdown favorite - something no one in these parts could recall since the Air Coryell days of the early 1980s.

    So Schottenheimer is working overtime with his one-game-at-a-time mantra. That if you look ahead, you will stumble over what is right in front of you.

    That would be the Dolphins, a team that, according to Schottenheimer, is better than many believe.

    "Their kicking game is excellent," he said. "That defensive front seven is very, very active."

    Even their backs - when combining the numbers of Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, stack up to Tomlinson, Schottenheimer said.

    Schottenheimer is talking a lot these days. He knows the next four weeks will determine if this season is a stinker or a gem. But first, he must put a shine to the Dolphins, even if few others can see it.

    SERIES HISTORY: 21st meeting. The teams have split 20 regular-season contests and four in the postseason. The Dolphins have won five straight in the regular season. The Dolphins' last visit to San Diego in 2003 was derailed when wildfires forced the game to be moved to Tempe, Ariz. The last time the Chargers defeated the Dolphins was in a divisional playoff game in the 1994 season, as the Chargers were on their way to their lone Super Bowl. The Chargers defeated the Dolphins in overtime in the 1981 playoffs, 41-38, in one of the most celebrated NFL games ever.

    NOTES, QUOTES

    -Coach Marty Schottenheimer (185 victories) needs but one win to tie Chuck Knox for seventh place on the all-time list. But Schottenheimer hasn't done so well against the Dolphins; he is 4-10 against them.

    -Schottenheimer on the Miami RB Ricky Williams: "He actually looks to me to be quicker."

    -The Chargers are going for a sweep of their AFC East opponents, after defeating the Patriots (41-17), Jets (31-26) and Bills (48-10). They are already the kings of New York after beating the Giants, Jets and Bills.

    -OL coach Hudson Houck of the Dolphins held a similar position with the Chargers from 2002-04. "He knows everything you need to know about (our) offensive line," Schottenheimer said. "But I tend to think that stuff tends to be overrated."

    -How did LaDainian Tomlinson hurt his chest? He fingered Raiders LB Danny Clark for putting his knuckles into his chest at the bottom of a pile. A Raider giving a cheap shot?

    "Imagine that," QB Drew Brees said, sarcastically.

    -Tomlinson said he kind of enjoyed having an off day Wednesday, when he rested his bruised chest. "I enjoy just kind of sitting back and watching," he said. "I learn a lot from just watching sometimes. Sometimes when you practice all the time you get caught up in doing everything. When you are able to sit back and watch the blocking scheme and kind of see how guys come off blocks, there is a little bit different aspect to it and I enjoy it."

    -Keenan McCardell is one touchdown shy of his career high of eight.

    -QB Drew Brees, with 2,813 passing yards, is on pace to finish with more than 3,750 yards. If he reaches that, he will become the second player in franchise history to eclipse 3,500. Hall of Famer Dan Fouts did it five times.

    -The Chargers and Dolphins flipped No. 3 quarterbacks earlier in the season, with the Chargers acquiring A. J. Feely and the Dolphins taking on Cleo Lemon.

    -The team signed LB Roger Cooper to the practice squad. He went to the Dallas Cowboys' training camp last summer.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 131.99 - QB Drew Brees' rating against three AFC East teams this season.

    QUOTE TO NOTE "It's nice to get a day off every once in a while." - Chargers' workhorse RB LaDainian Tomlinson on missing practice on Wednesday.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    SS Terrence Kiel could be fit this week after missing two of the past four games with a sprained ankle. But there's no guarantee Kiel will start and play every snap. Clinton Hart, who filled in for Kiel, had a sensational day last Sunday. He returned an interception 70 yards for his second touchdown of the year and forced a fumble that was recovered by ILB Randall Godfrey.

    PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

    -TE Antonio Gates leads all NFL tight ends in receptions (63), yards (874) and touchdowns (eight). In his last six games, he has caught 38 passes for 516 yards and six touchdowns.

    -K Nate Kaeding will continue kicking off, though the team isn't pleased about the length of his kicks; none reached the 15-yard-line last week. Kaeding will try to continue to kick to a location rather than going for distance.

    -CB Quentin Jammer, the fifth overall draft pick in 2002, has one interception in his last 32 games. Sunday, almost to the day, is the anniversary of his last interception.

    -OLB Shawne Merriman has slowed a bit, with no sacks in his past two games. But he still leads the team and all league rookies with seven sacks.

    -WR Vincent Jackson, who has been a disappointment this year because of various nagging injuries, will see the field more now that Kassim Osgood is out for the season. Osgood played on kick and punt return and coverage units and Jackson will be asked to take up the slack.

    -WR Malcom Floyd was elevated from the practice squad to take Kassim Osgood's spot on the roster.

    GAME PLAN: It looks like the Dolphins will go with Gus Frerotte, despite him being chased from the game last week with a concussion. And his backup, Sage Rosenfelds engineered an amazing fourth-quarter comeback for the win over the Bills.

    But the Dolphins' offensive line has been shaky, and now it must face a Chargers' pass rush which has 38 sacks, which is third in the league.

    The Chargers will go all out - more playing time for Shaun Phillips; keeping Shawne Merriman on the field on passing downs - to pester Frerotte. He will soon learn that this isn't the same pass rush he faced in 2000 while in Denver, when he set career highs against the Chargers in attempts (58), completions (36) and passing yards (462). He did have four interceptions that day.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH

    Chargers pass protection, which shut out Oakland's Derrick Burgess, the NFL's sack leader last week, against a Dolphins pass rush that features Jason Taylor. The Chargers' front got a big boost of confidence last week in the manner it manhandled Burgess. But Taylor is even quicker than Burgess, and he is lining up on both sides of the field in Saban's defensive scheme. If LT Roman Oben returns to the starting lineup after missing four games, Taylor will test him and see if his sore foot can handle his speed rush. Also, Shane Olivea figures to get a dose of Taylor; it was Olivea, for the most part, who did such a fine job on Burgess last week. But Taylor isn't the only one to be cognizant of. On the opposite side of Taylor is Kevin Carter (five sacks). And David Bowens (three) and Vonnie Holliday (three) can also cause problems.

    Chargers running game, led by LaDainian Tomlinson, vs. the Dolphins' run defense, with Zach Thomas coming back to play with a sprained ankle. It will be interesting to watch Tomlinson, who missed some playing time Sunday with a bruised chest. So while he came back to play after getting hurt last week, his chest may prove to be a tempting target for the Dolphins' run-stuffers. But if Thomas isn't 100 percent, it appears to be a run defense that is primed to be plucked. It did hold the Bills to 92 rushing yards last week, but some of that could be traced to the ease in which the Bills had passing the ball early on. The Dolphins are better against the run than just nine other teams, so the Chargers figure to run Tomlinson until Miami proves it can stop it.

    Chargers passing game, led by a hot Brees, vs. a Dolphins pass defense, which is ranked No. 16 and features a rookie cornerback in Travis Daniels. Brees has been stellar at home this season, throwing 14 touchdowns against four interceptions. Over the past three games, all Chargers wins, Brees has completed .668 percent of his passes, with nine touchdowns and one interception. The Dolphins, before getting right against the Bills last week, allowed three touchdown passes to Lee Evans - two of which were for 46 and 56 yards. Plus, Gates doesn't think much of Saban from their days at Michigan State, and he would love to have a big day at his defense's expense.

    INJURY IMPACT: RB LaDainian Tomlinson (bruised chest) didn't practice on Wednesday but is a go for Sunday.

    S Terrence Kiel (ankle) practiced and should start on Sunday.

    T Roman Oben (foot) didn't work and is questionable. If he can't go, he would be replaced again by Leander Jordan, who has played well in Oben's absence.
     

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