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Lots at stake for Broncos, Chargers on Sunday

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Nov 16, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/6174508?CMP=OTC-K9B140813162&ATT=5">Fox Sports</a>

    <img width="310" height="224" alt="LaDainian Tomlinson runs against the Broncos in 2005" title="LaDainian Tomlinson runs against the Broncos in 2005" src="http://photos.signonsandiego.com/gallery1.5/albums/050918broncos/KCchargers238497x472.jpg" />

    By Mike Tanier
    <div class="firstP"><strong>Napoleon had Waterloo. Custer had Little Big Horn. The Empire had that corny planet full of Ewoks. Marty Schottenheimer has Mile High Stadium.</strong></div>
    Schottenheimer is 3-14 lifetime on the road against the Broncos. You are probably familiar with The Fumble, Earnest Byner's red zone gaffe that gave the Broncos a victory in the 1987 AFC title game. But that game is only a short chapter in a long history of futility. In 1988, a 30-7 loss at Denver nearly kept Schottenheimer's Browns from the playoffs. In 1990, a 24-23 loss to a bad Broncos team kept his Chiefs from competing for a division title. In 1996, a 31-7 loss at Mile High kept the Chiefs out of the playoffs. Last year, a 20-17 early season loss in Denver forced the Chargers to battle from behind in the AFC West race for the rest of the season.

    Schottenheimer's legacy is defined by his early career losses to the Broncos in the playoffs (<em>The Drive</em> occurred in Cleveland), and the Broncos have spent two decades thumbing their nose at one of the NFL's winningest coaches. In 1997, Schottenheimer allegedly told his Chiefs that he would pay any of their "unnecessary roughness" fines before a playoff matchup with the Broncos, such was his hatred for that team. Schottenheimer denied the rumor, but his Chiefs lost at home 14-10.

    Schottenheimer arrives in Denver on Sunday with the best team in the AFC. All that's at stake, besides the AFC West, is the coach's reputation, his place in history and possibly his job. Another 11-5 season and an early playoff exit won't cut it this year, not with a Chargers team this good. Schottenheimer needs this win to silence his doubters and take control of the division. Think the Colts battle demons when they face the Patriots? Compared to them, Schottenheimer is Constantine.

    Constantine the comic book/movie character -- Keanu Reeves played him. Remember? Not the fourth century emperor who converted Rome to Christianity. Because, you know, that reference wouldn't make much sense.
    <h4>Games you will watch</h4>
    <strong>Chargers at Broncos:</strong> <em>Marty Ball</em> is dead. Long live <em>Marty Ball</em>.

    Last Sunday's <em>Tecmo Super Bowl</em> battle against the Bengals taught the television talking heads what careful observers have always known: the Chargers' ultra-conservative offense is a thing of the past. In fact, the "run at all costs" Schottenheimer strategy was really a fiction all along. Joe Montana and Bernie Kosar were certainly allowed to air it out on Marty's watch. Heck, Drew Brees threw for 3,500 yards last year. But Schottenheimer does tend to play turtle ball when protecting a passer like Elvis Grbac or Tony Banks from himself, and when he ran the ball 40 times against the Ravens and lost early in the season, even jokers like us took shots at his close-to-the-vest tactics. But Schottenheimer has put his faith in Philip Rivers in recent weeks, and the Chargers now lead the league in points scored.

    But if <em>Marty Ball</em> means a focus on player development and football fundamentals, then it's alive and well. Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, and Shawne Merriman get all of the attention, but players like Malcom Floyd, Shaun Phillips, Brandon Manumaleuna and Igor Olshansky stepped up last week when the Chargers needed to erase a 21-point deficit. Few coaches get more out of their role players and bench warmers than Schottenheimer does. The anonymity of many of the team's key contributors partially explains why the Chargers are the AFC's stealth team: everyone is talking about the Colts, the Patriots, and even the Broncos, and few have noticed the team that can whip them all.

    Let's make this as clear as possible: their records may be the same, but the Chargers are a much better team than the Broncos. Their balanced offense will be able to run and pass against a very good Broncos defense. Their defense is vulnerable to spread-the-field passing attacks like Cincinnati's, but they have no fear of Denver's running and play-action interception-throwing attack. If there were no "whammy" factor, every analyst in the business would call for an easy Chargers win.

    At Rundown and at Football Outsiders, we don't believe in the whammy factor. What happened in 1987 has no bearing on this game (though it makes a nice lead for an article). The Broncos have their usual home-field advantage this week, not some special "Marty has the yips" advantage. And while Denver is a tough place for any visitor, mountain air and crowd noise won't be enough this week. Take the Chargers, take the points. Yep: you even get points!
     

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