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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Nov 3, 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>

    Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer is hoping number nine is divine.

    Schottenheimer recently boiled the Chargers' uneven year down to a nine-game season. Game 2 comes in the Meadowlands Sunday when the Chargers visit the New York Jets.

    The Chargers won the first game of Schottenheimer's nine-game run to the playoffs, outlasting the Kansas City Chiefs last week.

    So for all intents and purposes, the Chargers are undefeated. That's pretty good considering they are past the season's halfway point.

    "It feels pretty good," said quarterback Drew Brees, about no blemishes this late in the year.

    But the Chargers' season has seen its share of pimples.

    This team which was to be among the AFC's elite has scuffed around to a 4-4 mark. Their season has been marked more by what they haven't done - win the close games; their four losses are by a combined 12 points - than what they've done.

    Being at the .500 mark heading into November was once cause for celebration in San Diego. But a team which last year put behind it a string of eight non-winning seasons was shooting for more this year.

    Much more.

    That's why Schottenheimer did what good coaches do: have the players focus on the future and what might be in store instead of dwelling on missed opportunities.

    "It all lies in front of us," Schottenheimer said. "If we take care of business in front of us we're going to be OK."

    So it has become a nine-game season. A stretch in which the Chargers almost welcome, even if it includes road visits to the Jets on Sunday, Washington, D.C., Indianapolis and Kansas City.

    The Chargers enter Giants Stadium weary after a five-game stretch of facing both Super Bowl participants on the road and five straight teams enjoying extra time to prepare and get well - four teams coming off a bye and Kansas City getting three extra days thanks to Hurricane Wilma.

    The Jets KO'd them from the playoffs last year and also beat them in the regular-season - both at Qualcomm Stadium. And the Chargers need to keep pace in the wild card race - so the significance of an AFC victory is critical with the first-place Broncos continuing to win.

    And, they can keep their season perfect - in Schottenheimer's eyes anyway.

    SERIES HISTORY - 41st meeting. The San Diego Chargers lead the series, 17-12-1, but the Jets are going for their third straight win between the teams. The visiting Jets were the only team to defeat the Chargers twice last year, and the second victory still bothers the Chargers. The Jets eliminated the Chargers from the playoffs in overtime, shortly after Chargers K Nate Kaeding missed a 40-yard attempt. The Chargers haven't visited the Meadowlands to face the Jets since 1994, when the Chargers prevailed, 21-6.

    NOTES, QUOTES

    - When TE Antonio Gates shines, ditto the Chargers. When Gates scores at least two touchdowns, the Chargers are 5-0.

    - Marty Schottenheimer is familiar with Jets coach Herm Edwards. Schottenheimer hired him in Kansas City, where Edwards was a secondary coach and scout.

    - Sunday marks the Chargers' third of five trips to the Eastern Time Zone; they beat New England and lost to Philadelphia. After Sunday, they will return for games against the Redskins and Colts. WR Keenan McCardell (10,207) needs 59 receiving yards to pass former Charger Lance Alworth for 21st-most in NFL history. The Chargers are honoring Alworth, their Hall of Fame receiver, at their next home game against the Bills. Alworth will have his No. 19 officially retired.

    - Edwards' son, Marcus, is a senior wide receiver at San Diego State - the school where his father was a standout defensive back.

    - Rookie OLB Shawne Merriman's big hits on Sunday might have clouded his thinking. Here is what he says about the woeful Jets offense, which is averaging but 13.1 points a game. "They're a tough team and like our team, they have a lot of weapons of offense," Merriman said, with a straight face. Merriman is tied with the rookie sack lead with four.

    - What makes TE Antonio Gates so good other than his sure hands? "You can't really tackle him with one guy, unless he's not looking or you're coming down hill on him," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "You see him break tackles all the time."

    - If the Chargers can win Sunday, it will improve their mark to .500 on the road against the Jets. Currently, they are 5-6-1.

    - Drew Brees, the NFL's sixth-highest rated quarterback, continues to open eyes with his consistent play. "I feel like I am seeing things even more clearly than last year," he said. Brees has compiled a career-best consecutive-game passing total of 623 yards (299, 324).

    - Road Warrior? Since the start of last season, Brees has 15 touchdown passes vs. 5 interceptions on the road with a 98.5 passer rating in those 12 games.

    - Jets RB Curtis Martin (4-0) has never lost to the Chargers.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 3. Number of touchdown passes by RB LaDainian Tomlinson and the combined total from the Jets' quarterbacks.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I definitely feel like I'm a better player." - QB Drew Brees, when asked to compare this season to his Pro Bowl season of last year.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    The Chargers know how susceptible the Jets are to a stout pass rush, so look for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to blitz often on Sunday.

    It also means more playing time for Shaun Phillips, a pass-rushing specialist who is coming off one of his best games. The Chargers are banking on Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde not having much evasiveness, and they figure if they can flush him from the pocket or make him hurry his throws it will help the secondary which has been playing better of late.

    Shawne Merriman will start again at outside linebacker and that gives the Chargers another 'backer with a burst. Look for them to line up Phillips and Merriman on opposite side of the edges, and make the Jets prove they can handle the heat those two bring.

    Defensive end DeQuincy Scott, who also does well getting to the quarterback, could see extended playing time as well.

    The Chargers respect Testaverde enough to know if he has time, he can find receivers. But they are banking on his accuracy taking a hit if he has to do the same.

    PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

    - ILB Randall Godfrey's availability for Sunday is in question after he went to be with his family after his sister was killed on Tuesday night. If he can't go, Stephen Cooper would replace him.

    - OLB Shawne Merriman is coming off his best game in his short career, with two sacks. The last time a Chargers rookie had more sacks than that in a game was when Ben Leber collected three in his first NFL game in 2002.

    - WR Reche Caldwell will get one more chance from coach Marty Schottenheimer. Caldwell has fumbled away both of his last two receptions.

    - WR Vincent Jackson could get some playing time at Caldwell's expense. The second-round pick was active last week for the first time this season.

    - If LT Roman Oben can't go, Leander Jordan would take his place, making his sixth NFL start. What's unsettling is the previous starts came at right guard.

    - IF RB LaDainian Tomlinson fails to score a touchdown, it would mark the first time that's happened in three straight games since late in his rookie season.

    GAME PLAN: The Chargers, and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, love to keep defenses guessing. So after having so much success with the pass last week in the win over the Chiefs, when Brees threw for a season-high 324 yards, will the Chargers take to the skies again against the Jets? We don't think so. It's time the Chargers got back to some Marty Ball, and the Jets' shaky run defense gives them a perfect opportunity to do just that.

    Tomlinson, even though his front line isn't at full strength, will get some 20-25 carries; Tomlinson hasn't received his normal number of touches in running the ball the last two games, restricted to a combined 34 carries and 76 rushing yards. That will change on Sunday.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

    Chargers run defense, which starts with NT Jamal Williams, against the Jets running-blocking, which includes C Pete Kendall. In the Jets' playoff victory last season, Williams had his hands full with Pro Bowl C Kevin Mawae. It's not often someone gets the best of Williams, but Mawae did on that night. But with Kendall sliding over from guard to replace the injured Mawae, it will be interesting to note how much more effective Williams is. Plus, Williams is getting more help with the improved play of rookie DE Luis Castillo; RG Brandon Moore and RT Jason Fabini will need to help Kendall in slowing down Castillo and Williams. With the Jets figuring to run with their uncertainties at quarterback, how well Williams can clog the middle will determine how successful the Jets are.

    Chargers running game, led by LaDainian Tomlinson, vs. the Jets' run defense, spearheaded by MLB Jonathan Vilma. Tomlinson is due for a break-out game, after collecting but 86 yards and no touchdowns in his previous two games. But Tomlinson will have to do it behind a banged-up offensive line, which could feature backup C Bob Hallen and LT Leander Jordan. The Jets are allowing a whopping 140 rushing yards a game, and now are without LB Eric Barton, their leading tackler last year who was put on IR this week. Vilma, the defensive rookie of the year last year and the NFL's third-leading tackler, will be asked to do even more in Barton's absence. Vilma, though, will have to guard against over-pursuing as Tomlinson can make any defense look back with his cutbacks.

    INJURY IMPACT:

    - C Nick Hardwick (ankle) didn't practice and is questionable. Bob Hallen would start for the third straight week if Hardwick can't go.

    - OLB Steve Foley (abdominal) didn't practice and is questionable. Shaun Phillips would start in his place again.

    - LB Randall Godfrey (neck) didn't practice and is questionable. He would be replaced by Stephen Cooper.

    - TE Ryan Krause (foot) didn't practice; he won't play Sunday.

    - K Nate Kaeding (back) didn't practice and is questionable. He will go Sunday, but P Mike Scifres will probably handle the kickoffs.

    - CB Drayton Florence (ankle) practiced and is questionable; has a good shot of going Sunday.

    - LT Roman Oben (foot) didn't practice and is probably on the low end of questionable. He would be replaced by Leander Jordan.

    - WR Eric Parker (ankle/back) didn't make it through practice. The team said it wasn't serious and he's yet to be added to the injury report.

    - FB Andrew Pinnock (shoulder/calf) didn't practice and is doubtful.

    - G Mike Goff (ankle) didn't practice and is questionable. He will likely go on Sunday.

    - SS Terrence Kiel (ankle) didn't practice and is questionable. He might be on the low side of questionable and if he can't go, Clinton Hart would get is first start of the season.
     

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