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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Oct 6, 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 carnival that is "Monday Night Football" rolls into San Diego when the surging Chargers take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    It's a big deal in that the MNF crew hasn't touched down here since 1996. The Chargers were scheduled to face the Miami Dolphins on MNF in 2002, but a series of wild fires forced the game to be played in Tempe, Ariz.

    But while Chargers fans is revved about the Monday night game, the Chargers are trying to treat it as any other contest.

    "It's great for the fans," quarterback Drew Brees said. "And if it's half as crazy as it was (Sept. 25 against the Giant's Eli Manning), then we'll definitely have an advantage with that 12th man."

    But the 11 on the field must put the hype - and that rocking win over the Patriots last Sunday - behind them. They must tangle with a tough Pittsburgh team that is coming off a bye and a disappointing home loss to the Patriots.

    "We're trying to downplay the atmosphere and everything," Brees said. "Yeah, it's going to be hyped up. Yeah, it's going to be great. But obviously we have to stay focused on what our job is."

    Coach Marty Schottenheimer has drilled into his players' heads for years that the last game is just that. And it doesn't matter if you won the previous contest or lost it, it really has no bearing on the next game.

    That's why the Chargers have been eager to move past the triumph over the Patriots. There's no denying it was one of the most satisfying victories in franchise history - especially with it coming at Gillette Stadium. But if the team wants to be razor sharp against the Steelers, it has to forget about the back slaps and get back to slapping people around.

    Brees not only has to put the win behind him but his efficient performance, which gained him the AFC offensive player of the week award.

    That, like the win in Foxboro, means absolutely nothing.

    "Now the slate is wiped clean and it's what have you done for me lately?" Brees said. "You are only evaluated by you next game, not your last game."

    And this game features a Pittsburgh defense that is fond of blitzing and making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.

    "These guys do it a lot and you know it's coming," said Brees, who's been sacked but six times. "They say, 'hey, we're going to blitz you and here we come.' It's not like its any mystery. It's not like they are going to sneak up on anybody."

    The Chargers might have done that to rivals last year. But no more. The Steelers figure to bring their "A" game and the Chargers will need something similar to run their winning streak to three and surpass the .500 mark for the first time this season.

    SERIES HISTORY: 26th meeting. The Pittsburgh Steelers lead the series, 18-7, and have dominated that match up of late. The Steelers have won the last four and nine of the last 11. But the Chargers will never forget their last meeting in the playoffs. The Chargers were nine-point underdogs to Pittsburgh in the 1994 AFC title game, and prevailed, 17-13.

    NOTES, QUOTES

    -The Chargers are wearing their throwback powder blue jerseys and white helmets on Monday night. Since 1994, the Chargers have worn the duds for six regular season games and are 2-4.

    -The Steelers are the first of three straight opponents the Chargers are facing coming of their byes.

    -QB Drew Brees has the top viewing point for watching the NFL's best back. "I get the best seat in the house watching LaDainian run," Brees said.

    -Schottenheimer gave Steelers coach Bill Cowher his first NFL job, with Cleveland in 1985 as a special teams coach. Cowher was a linebacker for Schottenheimer 1980-82, when Schottenheimer was an assistant at Cleveland. ...

    -TE Antonio Gates said Sunday's win over the Patriots has told the Chargers what they can accomplish. "We have set the bar very high for ourselves," he said.

    -WR Eric Parker has the second-most receptions on the team with 14. but he doesn't get a lot of ink. "I would say without question there is not a player on this team that works harder," Schottenheimer said.

    -The team will work under the Qualcomm Stadium lights Saturday night in preparation for Monday night's game.

    -When RT Shane Olivea went out with cramps in Sunday's game, Leander Jordan stepped in.

    -Brees was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week after completing 19 of 24 passes for two touchdowns. His rating was 137.5.

    -WR Keenan McCardell was ordered to return $1.5 million of his signing bonus to Tampa Bay, after holding out last season before being traded to the Chargers. "It is what it is," he said.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 86 - Points scored by the Chargers in the past two weeks.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's the one that is able to put the ball in our hands in different ways." RB LaDainian Tomlinson, on how much credit offensive coordinator Cam Cameron deserves in the offensive resurgence.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    Rookie Darren Sproles has become a weapon on special teams with his returning skills. His 28.7-yard average is third highest in the NFL, where he has a long of 58 yards.

    But Sproles is nursing a sprained ankle that kept him from Wednesday's practice and has him listed as questionable on Sunday. If he can't go, he'll be replaced by Eric Parker.

    Against a tough Pittsburgh defense, the absence of Sproles - or his skills being compromised - could have a big say in the Chargers' quest to win the field-position battle.

    PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

    -OLB Steve Foley is nursing an abdominal sprain, which could linger until the bye week of Nov. 13

    -WR Kassim Osgood continues to draw praise for his downfield blocking.

    -With LG Kris Dielman playing so well, the Chargers are just shrugging off the absence of Toniu Fonoti (hand).

    -WR Keenan McCardell needs 14 more catches to pass Isaac Bruce (786) for 13th place on the NFL's all-time reception list.

    -K Nate Kaeding has seemingly put that killer playoff miss behind him. He has converted all five of his field-goal attempts this year, with three kicks over 41 yards.

    GAME PLAN: Get after Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers' quarterback has been able to produce his amazing accuracy results be feeling comfortable in the pocket and going through his reads to one of his targets are to his liking. So the Chargers need to get after Roethlisberger early and often, with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips unleashing difficult packages with different personnel coming from different angles. The run defense has proved to be tough; the pass defense will follow suit if the Chargers can pester Roethlisberger.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH

    The interior of the Chargers' offensive line, which has played well of late, vs. the Steelers' front which includes NT Casey Hampton and DE Aaron Smith, both Pro Bowlers; Smith had nine sacks last year. C Nick Hardwick did a good job in New England, getting into NT Vince Wilfork. That allowed Tomlinson to get many of his yards cutting back against the flow. RG Mike Goff will have to tangle with the 6-5, 298-pound Smith. Goff has been solid all year - even when the line struggled the first two games. The Chargers' running game is ranked second in the league; the Steelers' run defense is rated No. 11.

    Chargers third-down offense vs. Steelers third-down defense. Among the reasons the Chargers are rolling with their high-octane offense is their success on third downs. They are the NFL's top-ranked team, converting 23-of-46 attempts. And that is where the Steelers' defense has struggled a tad. The Steelers are allowing opponents to convert at a 48.7 percent, which is ahead of only two other teams. That's troubling in that is if the Steelers can't get off the field in a timely factor, they are going to wear down. A defense with its tongue hanging out in the fourth quarter is looked upon as fresh meat for the hard-running Tomlinson.

    Chargers TE Antonio Gates vs. Pittsburgh SS Troy Polamalu. Gates is the main reason why the Chargers are so good on third downs. But in Polamalu, he faces another playmaker and Pro Bowler whose size and speed could make for a good match for Gates. Polamalu is tied for the team lead with three sacks and has an interception and two passes defensed.

    INJURY IMPACT: OLB Steve Foley (abdominal strain) didn't practice. He will go Monday unless he has a setback. LG Toniu Fonoti (broken hand) is out for three weeks. Kris Dielman makes his third NFL start on Monday. RB/KR/PR Darren Sproles (ankle) didn't practice and is listed as questionable. He should be OK for Monday. S Hanik Milligan (ankle) didn't practice and is questionable. SS Bhawoh Jue (shoulder) didn't practice and is questionable. If he can't go, former starter Jerry Wilson would step in. DE Jacques Cesaire (shoulder) didn't practice and is questionable. All signs point to him playing. TE Ryan Krause (foot) didn't practice and will probably not be active Monday.
     

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