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Inside Slant

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Sep 15, 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>

    Just one week into the season and coach Marty Schottenheimer has trotted out a familiar cliche.

    "It's a marathon," Schottenheimer said of the fresh season.

    The Chargers' 26.3-mile race picks up steam Sunday in Denver, where they face the Broncos. Both teams sit at 0-1, which makes the stakes for this one all the much greater.

    We know, we know. You can't win - or repeat, as is the Chargers' case - an AFC West title in September. Still, one team will exit Invesco Field at Mile High with a 0-2 mark, and one of those losses will add a black mark to the team's divisional record.

    That's why Sunday's game is so critical - especially to the Chargers.

    Look, if the Chargers go to 0-2 - which is a possibility considering they've won twice in their last 18 visits to Denver - they might be setting themselves up for quite a fall.

    The Chargers have a daunting schedule, and to be frank, the early part of it was where they were supposed to load up on some victories.

    To open against a rebuilding Dallas at home - Chargers thought they would win that one. Denver on the road - Bolts at least split with the Broncos last year. Giants at home - revved to stick it to Eli Manning for another win.

    Then the schedule gets dicey, with five road trips three time zones away. Included in that slate is both Super Bowl participants, and the Jets and the Colts.


    But quarterback Drew Brees - who is just five picks from matching his 2004 total four quarters into the season - said the Chargers will follow another Schottenheimer cliche: "one play at a time, one game at a time."

    "It's easy to look down the schedule, look at those road trips and all the other stuff," Brees said. 'But if you take care of your business from week-to-week, at the end of the year you're going to look at your won-loss record and you're going to have a lot of wins and be headed to the playoffs."

    Sounds simple enough. But the Chargers will likely have to play better than they did in the opening loss to Dallas if avoiding another pratfall.

    And working against the Chargers might be what the Broncos did last Sunday.

    They were embarrassed, 34-10, by a Dolphins team still introducing itself to one another with new head coach Nick Saban. Many times an NFL squad will rebound with gusto after absorbing a red face.

    Plus, it's the home opener for the Broncos.

    Plus, it was the Chargers who won the showdown last December between these teams with the AFC West lead on the line. Jake Plummer tossed four interceptions in that game, something the Chargers shouldn't count on in this one - although with Plummer, it is always a possibility.

    Yep, it's a marathon all right. But as any marathon runner knows, there's no telling when they'll hit the wall. The Chargers are hopeful they don't encounter one Sunday in Denver.

    SERIES HISTORY: 91st meeting. The Denver Broncos lead the series, 50-39-1, and have won three of the last four encounters. The Chargers lone win in that span was a big one, when they prevailed last December, 20-17, with a share of the AFC West lead at stake.


    -Marty Schottenheimer has gone head-to-head with Denver's Mike Shanahan 17 times, with each splitting the 16 regular-season contests, with Shanahan's squad upending Schottenheimer's Chiefs outfit in the 1997 playoffs.

    -Yep, Schottenheimer is familiar with the Denver landscape. In fact, before he got into coaching he sold real estate in the Denver area. ...

    -Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was the head coach of the Broncos in 1993-94, after serving as is defensive coordinator from 1989-92.

    -Schottenheimer, on the Chargers losing their opener: "I've been 0-1 before," he said, with a shrug.

    - Broncos TE Stephen Alexander is a former Charger. He was one of the first free agents the late John Butler signed in San Diego. Alexander was a bust in San Diego, with various injuries derailing his contributions on a consistent basis. ...

    -Hit the road, Jack: The Chargers head off for the first regular-season road trip. The team will travel 29,546 miles (assuming Delta keeps its plans flying) this year, the fourth-most in the NFL.

    -A rushing touchdown Sunday would give LaDainian Tomlinson the NFL mark of scores in 14 consecutive games.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 0 - Number of passes LaDainian Tomlinson caught last week, which snapped his streak of 63 consecutive games with at least one reception.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Right now is not the time to hang out heads. We got a lot of ball left." - OLB Steve Foley on the Chargers maintaining a positive attitude.


    Welcome back, Antonio Gates.

    The All-Pro tight end will play his first game of the year - exhibition or regular season - when the Chargers tee it up against the Broncos. Gates served the final game of a three-game suspension last week, the by-product of the team's signing deadline, which Gates missed by one game.

    It's difficult to overstate how important Gates is to this offense. Without him last week, the Cowboys dared the Chargers to beat them through the air. They completely sold out against the run, and blitzed repeatedly on passing downs, knowing Brees didn't have his safety value in Gates to check down to.

    Gates will be revved to show the layoff won't hamper his contributions. But it remains to be seen if Gates can be in the mix in what is his first game since last January.

    But by him just lining up in formation, the Broncos will have to pay attention to him. And that should open up some running roam for Tomlinson, who carried the ball just 19 times last week.


    -OLB Shawne Merriman (knee) needs to bone up on his special teams contribution if he wants to see the field on Sunday, according to Schottenheimer.

    -FS Bhawoh Jue played well enough Sunday (six tackles) to retain his starting job over Jerry Wilson.

    -WR Kassim Osgood is having trouble breaking into the passing game, but he continues to shine on special teams.

    -P Mike Scifres needs to rebound in the thin air of Denver after his 18-yard punt on Sunday gave the Cowboys prime field position for their game-winning drive.

    -KR/PR Darren Sproles still needs to fine-tune his pass blocking if he wants to see the field in the third-down package.

    GAME PLAN: On defense, the Chargers will blitz Jake Plummer and see if they can fluster him like the last time the two teams played when he tossed four interceptions.

    It's risky, especially with the Chargers' defensive backs showing difficulty in covering one-on-one. But if Plummer has time - and he will unless the Chargers blitz - he can carve up this secondary with ease.

    On offense, the addition of Gates will give the Chargers a fresh look. It's asking a lot to hang so much on him in his first game in nearly nine months. Still, he's such an athlete that the Chargers will go to him early to send a message, then hope the fear of Gates loosens up the Broncos run defense. Simply, Tomlinson is miffed his mitts touched the ball but 19 times in the season-opening loss. And with Gates' appearance punching holes in the Broncos' run defense, Tomlinson could be primed for a big day. Don't forget his longest rush of his career (76 yards) and one of his four, 200-yard rushing games, gave against the Broncos.


    Chargers pass defense, which was ranked No. 31 last year and allowed three touchdown passes by Drew Bledsoe last week, vs. the Broncos receiving corps, which features savvy veteran Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie and Darius Watts. Jammer got twisted around by Lelie last year in Denver, allowing the go-ahead touchdown pass. Jammer is coming off a game in which he had two critical penalties. Smith, if he can find the still green Drayton Florence and Sammy Davis could break out some of his cagey moves and be productive. Davis got beat in single coverage on a fade route by Keyshawn Johnson; Davis confidence is a little shaky going into this one.

    Chargers kickoff return team, with Darren Sproles, whose 36.5-yard average is second in the league vs. Broncos' kickoff coverage team. Sproles proved in the opener he is a force, with returns of 49 and 46 yards. The Broncos allowed an average return of 25.5 yards in the opener, which is just OK. It's imperative Jason Elam gets distance on his kickoffs, or the Chargers could be setting up shop in good field position.

    Chargers running game, which couldn't get untracked in the opener, vs. the Broncos' run defense, which features MLB Al Wilson. The Chargers are hell-bent in giving the ball to Tomlinson more than 19 times. Waiting for Tomlinson and friends is a run defense which gave up 151 yards in the opener - and the Chargers' running game is advertised as many times better than the Dolphins'. The key will be getting a hat on Wilson; he was among the most frequently mentioned players in a poll among Chargers for the most underrated defensive player. The interior of the Chargers line - center Nick Hardwick, guards Mike Goff and Toniu Fonoti - must help fullback Lorenzo Neal in taking out Wilson. Also, they must keep in mind where safety John Lynch is at all times.

    INJURY IMPACT: WR Vincent Jackson (Achilles' tendon, calf) is questionable and not working. He didn't practice Wednesday and it would be surprising if he goes Sunday.

    DE Igor Olshansky (thigh) didn't work and is doubtful; the run-stuffer has been a quick healing in other bouts with injuries. If he can't go, rookie Luis Castillo could get his first NFL start.

    OLB Shawn Merriman (knee) practiced and looks as if he'll play Sunday.

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