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Must win arrives early

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Oct 29, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: The Press-Enterprise


    SAN DIEGO - "This is the time of season," Drew Brees said a couple of weeks ago, "when you can go one of two directions."

    Which is what makes the Chargers' home game today against the Kansas City Chiefs maybe their most pivotal of the season.

    San Diego has already matched its entire 2004 loss total. The Chargers approach the season's halfway point 3-4, with those four losses by a total of 12 points and all decided in late-game situations.

    They can talk all they want about how, with a break or a big play here or there, they could be 6-1 or 7-0. But the cold, hard reality of the standings brings with it a finality that makes such argument futile. In the NFL, they don't pay off on "almost" or "could have" or "should have."

    Especially when you play it conservatively during crunch time to set up a game-clinching field goal, only to have that field goal attempt blocked and run back for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:25 left, as was the case in last week's 20-17 loss at Philadelphia.

    (This made it worse: When Quintin Mikell blocked Nate Kaeding's kick and Matt Ware scooped it up and ran 65 yards to give the Eagles the lead, Philadelphia had only 10 men on the field.)

    Losing a batch of close games, and losing them in weird ways, could send a team to the brink of lunacy -- or mutiny. To their credit, the Chargers have stayed together and stayed sane, and their confidence hasn't taken much of a hit.

    "It's the NFL," tight end Antonio Gates said. "It's the life. You go through adversity, and the ones who overcome it are the ones who believe they can overcome it. I believe we take that mindset into each game."

    In some ways, it just comes down to making plays. Even on an afternoon when the Chargers' offensive line was manhandled and LaDainian Tomlinson had his worst game as a pro (7 yards in 17 carries), San Diego was in position to win the game.

    "We know we're a good team," linebacker Donnie Edwards said. "You and everyone else know we're a good team ... We're the same team we were last year at 12-4. Once we start making the plays that are required to win the game, we're going to be a damn good team."

    Tomlinson's performance in Philadelphia was an aberration, considering that he remains the fourth-leading rusher in the league.

    Generally, Tomlinson has responded to a subpar game with a big performance the following week. He had 52 yards at Denver in Week 2, followed by a league-best 192 the following week against the New York Giants. After being held to 62 yards by Pittsburgh, he gained 140 yards, scored two touchdowns and threw for a third the next week at Oakland.

    Tomlinson's struggles in Philadelphia "had nothing to do with him," Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil said during a conference call interview last week. "It had to do with the Philadelphia defense and everybody else on the offensive team. If you give him any room to run, a crack or sometimes no room to run, he's going to beat you.

    "That was not a negative reflection of LaDainian, believe me. Philadelphia is a great football team ... they were humiliated in Dallas in their last football game and they had a bye week to think about it. They were physically and emotionally and technically prepared to get after whoever it would have been. LaDainian just happened to be the victim."

    Rest assured, however, that upcoming Chargers opponents noted what the Eagles did defensively.

    "This is a copycat league," Gates said. "Anything one team sees that works, they'll probably come out and use it, depending on their personnel.

    "We're going to get pressured a lot more. Teams want to see if we can handle it. We're up for the challenge."

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