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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Nov 17, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chargers/home.htm" target="_blank">USA Today</a>

    The Chargers are finally winning games and finally getting respect for their game. So being a double-digit favorite for Sunday's game against the visiting Buffalo Bills is a plus, right?

    Not so, said Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

    "It is great for the fans and people around San Diego," Tomlinson said. "But for us I think it makes it a little harder. When a team sees that, it makes them play a little harder. It's tough when you are a team that is supposed to win the game."

    The Chargers, 10-point favorites on Sunday, are that team this weekend. But really, Tomlinson said the opponent and point spread means little. What means a lot is the Chargers ending the season on an up note, hopefully sweeping their final seven games to secure a playoff berth.

    Now is the time. Three of the Chargers' next four games are at Qualcomm Stadium, with the Raiders and Dolphins following the Bills.

    "That obviously is very important," Tomlinson said. "We like to win most of games at home."

    And that hasn't happened, which is among the causes for the team being but a game over .500. Last year, the Chargers rolled at home, compiling a 7-1 regular season record. This year, they are 2-2.

    But they should prevail Sunday, with the Bills winless on the road in four games and having one of the NFL's worst run defenses.

    On paper, it seems the Chargers and Tomlinson will run the ball down the Bills' throat. But Tomlinson doesn't buy the notion that the Bills' are as bad as their No. 31 run-defense ranking.

    "It's kind of misleading because they will give up a big run, then they will shut the guy down for 1 or 2 yards," said Tomlinson, who has rushed for 835 yards, the sixth-highest in the NFL. "I don't really get caught up in the stats and all that kind of stuff. People get geared up to stop our running game, that is just the way it is."

    The Chargers would like to be the way they were. The streaked to their first AFC West title since 1994 last year when peeling off nine wins in their final 10 games.

    After enjoying their bye week last Sunday, their plan is to finish strong one again.

    "We are refreshed," Tomlinson said, "and ready for this seven-game stretch."


    -ILB Randall Godfrey, who dealt with the murder of his sister the week before the bye, has returned to the team. The Chargers awarded the popular Godfrey a game ball from the Jets game he missed. "He's a good veteran guy, a good locker-room guy," ILB Donnie Edwards said. "We're glad to have him back."

    -Back in 1964, the Chargers were aiming for their second straight AFL title, they fell to the Bills in the championship game 20-7. The Bills beat the Chargers three times that year.

    WR Lance Alworth will have his No. 19 jersey retired on the team's alumni day this Sunday. "We want to make it special for him by him enjoying a good game," RB LaDainian Tomlinson said.

    Among the Chargers alumni on hand Sunday will be former Chargers LB Ray Preston - but he will be wearing a Bills hat. That's because his son, Duke, is a backup offensive lineman for Buffalo.

    -Chargers GM A.J. Smith was with the Bills in their personnel department for 14 years. Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was the Bills' head coach from 1998-2000, after serving as their defensive coordinator from 1995-97. As head coach, Phillips was 29-19, which included two playoff appearances.

    Chargers WR coach James Lofton played part of his Hall of Fame career with the Bills. He was with them from 1989-92 and was a member of three AFC championship teams.

    -The Chargers' run defense has earned the NFL's top ranking, allowing but 79.6 yards a game. It has held two teams, Philadelphia (24) and Oakland (39) under 40 yards. Among the reasons it is so tough is the player of NT Jamal Williams - although he seldom gets mentioned as one of the league's best at his position. "We've been saying that for a couple of years," Tomlinson said. Added DE Luis Castillo: "He's the kind of player that makes you want to go out and play hard for."

    -At least the Bills aren't coming off a bye. Five teams in the Chargers' first nine games were coming off their byes.

    -During the Chargers' bye week, Tomlinson had his TCU No. 5 jersey retired during halftime of the Horned Frogs game against UNLV.

    -With LB Randall Godfrey returning to the starting lineup, backup LB Stephen Cooper can return to his work on special teams. "We got to get the kickoff team right because they have the No. 1 kickoff team," Cooper said. "We have to step it up this week."

    Carl Mauck, the Chargers' OL coach, served in a similar capacity with the Bills from 1998-2000.

    -Coach Marty Schottenheimer was asked if Buffalo's Willis McGahee reminded him of any other running backs. "Well he has a very similar style to our No. 21 (Tomlinson)," Schottenheimer said. "He has size, he has speed and has terrific running instincts."

    BY THE NUMBERS: 7 - Consecutive games QB Drew Brees has thrown at least one touchdown pass. That is the longest stretch of his career.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think there is a more complete player in the NFL" - QB Drew Brees, when asked if LaDainian Tomlinson deserves the NFL's MVP award.


    Drayton Florence could return to his starting role at cornerback, pushing out Sammy Davis once again. Florence has missed the past three games with an ankle injury and practice on Wednesday.

    But Davis should stay at the ready because Florence isn't moving with the same fluid motion he was earlier in the year.

    The Bills don't figure to pass much, with its run-oriented offense and the likelihood that second-year pro JP Losman will be at the helm.

    But considering how tough the Chargers are to run against, the Bills might test the Chargers' suspect secondary. And it's obvious they will test Florence, to see if he really is close to 100 percent.


    -CB Jamar Fletcher would lose his spot as the nickel back if Florence is fit. Davis would take over that role from Fletcher. As strange as it sounds, Fletcher is the only Chargers cornerback with an interception this season.

    -FB Lorenzo Neal continues to play at a high level. With Tomlinson nearing another 1,000-yard rushing season, that would make nine straight years Neal has opened holes for a 1,000-yard rusher.

    -RB Darren Sproles figures to return kicks and punts on Sunday. Eric Parker has been spelling him occasionally on punts, but the Chargers are trying to keep the undersized Parker fit to be active in the passing game.

    -OLB Shawne Merriman, who leads the team with five sacks, is playing with pins inserted into his fractured left wrist. So far, it doesn't seem to bother him.

    -K Nate Kaeding is still being bothered by a sore back, which limits his distance on kickoffs. He probably will be used in that role Sunday, but if his distance is lacking the team will turn to P Mike Scifres. It's critical the kicks have some distance and hang time with Buffalo's Terrence McGee fielding them.

    GAME PLAN: Why wouldn't the Chargers run the ball with gusto? Give it to Tomlinson and step out if his way. Not only is Tomlinson rested after the bye, but the Bills can't stop the run. They are allowing an eye-opening 150 yards per game, which is ranked ahead of only the Texans.


    Chargers kickoff return team, which has struggled of late, vs. Bills return game, led by Terrence McGee. Schottenheimer prides himself on winning the special-teams battles, as he puts high importance on field position. But his kickoff return squad has been getting punched for 23.3 yards per effort and is ranked No. 22. Schottenheimer has been working in new personnel groups, which could give the unit a spark. It will need it against McGee, as he leads the NFL with 31.1 yards per return. McGee did tweak a hamstring last week, but is expected to go on Sunday.

    Chargers run blocking, led by FB Lorenzo Neal, vs. Bills run defense, with London Fletcher at middle linebacker. The Chargers figure to use their best weapon against a run defense that stinks. That means a possible big day for LaDainian Tomlinson, which means a big day for Neal. Neal will be the lead blocker into the hole, one which likely be manned by Fletcher. While his defensive teammates are struggling, Fletcher is having another solid year and is coming off a game in which he had a team-high 20 tackles, and added a sack and force fumble. WLB Angelo Crowell will be making only his seventh NFL start and SLB Jeff Posey is an eight-year pro but has but 39 tackles. It is going to be up to Fletcher to help stuff the Chargers' impressive running game.

    Chargers passing game, led by QB Drew Brees, vs. Bills pass defense, which has 12 interceptions. Brees has already eclipsed last year's interception total (eight) by one and now he faces a ball-hawking pass defense that is among the best in picking off passes. The key will be the Chargers' pass-blocking. If it supplies Brees with enough time, he can look off some receivers or go through his read an additional time to make sure he is throwing to an open target. McGee and Troy Vincent have three interceptions each. The Chargers, by comparison, have but six interceptions and just one by a cornerback (Jamar Fletcher).

    INJURY IMPACT: C Nick Hardwick (ankle) was able to work in practice, but he'll be far from 100 percent if he goes on Sunday. Bob Hallen would replace him if Hardwick doesn't hold up.

    LT Roman Oben (foot) didn't work and it looks like a long shot that he would be able to go on Sunday. If not, Leander Jordan would make his second NFL start at left tackle.

    LB Randall Godfrey (neck) is back working and should go on Sunday.

    TE Ryan Krause (foot) didn't work and won't play Sunday.

    FB Andrew Pinnock (shoulder/calf) didn't work and likely won't be active on Sunday.

    OLB Steve Foley (abdominal strain) didn't practice and is likely between doubtful and questionable for Sunday. Shaun Phillips would replace him.

    G Mike Goff (ankle) practiced and will play Sunday.

    S Terrence Kiel (ankle) practiced and will play Sunday.

    LB Shawne Merriman (wrist) practiced and will play Sunday.

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