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On-a-roll Chargers seek another Steelers surprise

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Jan 10, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ap-chargers-steelers&amp;prov=ap&amp;type=lgns" target="_blank">Associated Press </a>

    By Alan Robinson

    <a href="http://a.espncdn.com/media/apphoto/b175e1b2-a3f4-4818-8fbb-ba001d3ae0e6.jpg"><img class="alignright" title="San Diego Chargers Darren Sproles, right, runs off the field while teammate Luis Castillo, left, celebrates after winning their NFL AFC wild-card playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts 23-17 Saturday Jan. 3, 2009 in San Diego. (AP Photo/Chris Park)" src="http://a.espncdn.com/media/apphoto/b175e1b2-a3f4-4818-8fbb-ba001d3ae0e6.jpg" alt="" width="144" height="198" /></a>PITTSBURGH (AP)-The San Diego Chargers' travels to Pittsburgh are filled with curiosities, a remarkable run of odd games, unexpected results and strange scores, comebacks that succeeded and game plans that failed.

    There was the AFC championship game where the Chargers drew motivation from a dance video. The first and only NFL tournament. And the latest oddity, the only 11-10 score in NFL history earlier this season.

    In a city where they've never won during the regular season or lost during the postseason, the Chargers are hoping the surprise element kicks in again during their AFC divisional playoff game Sunday.

    They're not favored-they rarely are in Pittsburgh, where they're 2-13- but that hardly discourages a team that couldn't have anticipated a return trip after being 4-8 not long after that one-of-a-kind, one-point loss Nov. 16.

    Going back to the chilly East Coast, going against the NFL's top-ranked defense, probably doesn't seem as daunting now that the Chargers, against long odds, are averaging 34.4 points during a five-game winning streak. The latest surprise was their 23-17 overtime decision last weekend over Indianapolis, which had won nine in a row.

    As the Steelers' Hines Ward said, "They've been in the playoffs for five weeks now."

    "When I think back to the 14-2 season (in 2006) when we had the home playoff game and got beat, you wonder if it was a little too big for us," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "I think the fact that we've been in these types of games now - going to Pittsburgh will be right up there, a similar type deal. I think from a hype standpoint, playoff-game standpoint, we'll be just fine."

    How fine? A Steelers defense led by Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison that statistically ranks among the NFL's best in a quarter-century may determine that. Rivers was held to 159 yards passing, was sacked for a safety and the running game produced only 66 yards in Pittsburgh's regular-season win.

    Still, the Steelers were set back by 13 penalties and needed Jeff Reed's 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining to win a game remembered for its final play, Troy Polamalu's fumble return touchdown that was incorrectly overturned by referee Scott Green and his crew.

    Talk about unusual.

    Despite having a 300-yard passer (Ben Roethlisberger), a 100-yard rusher (Willie Parker) and a 100-yard receiver (Ward), and outgunning San Diego 410-213, the Steelers never got into the end zone, at least on a play that counted. Obviously, the score wasn't all that was strange.

    "We just didn't finish," wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. "It was all field goals. But in the playoffs, you've got to score touchdowns."

    Maybe the Steelers got their weird game against San Diego out of their system before the playoffs this time.

    In the most disappointing loss of the Bill Cowher era, the Steelers lost 17-13 to San Diego after leading by 10 in the 1995 AFC championship game. So much for the Super Bowl dance video they rehearsed a few days before.

    In January 1983, San Diego came from 11 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Terry Bradshaw's Steelers 31-28 in the NFL's one-and-only tournament-format playoffs, after a players strike shut down the regular season for two months.

    Those remain the Chargers' only two victories in Pittsburgh in 15 attempts.

    "All the records don't mean anything right now," Steelers right tackle Willie Colon said. "You've just go to be able to match their intensity. They've got a swagger about them, you can see it on the tape, they're bouncing around and yelling, so it's going to be an intense game."

    Not letting Darren Sproles play as he did against Indianapolis, with 105 yards rushing and 328 total yards, is a necessity for Pittsburgh. Making sure wide receiver Vincent Jackson's head is into the game, following his arrest on a drunken driving-related charge, is one for San Diego.

    Sproles had only one carry against Pittsburgh on Nov. 16 but-despite being only 5-foot-6-is taking on an increasingly bigger role in the offense with 1,100-yard rusher LaDainian Tomlinson limping on a sore groin.

    "It's really hard to hit him and hard to see where he's at," Parker said. "He makes moves, does everything a running back's supposed to do, and he's small."

    The Steelers not only need to find Sproles, but their own game as well. This is their first meaningful contest since a 31-14 loss at Tennessee on Dec. 21 cost them home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. They finished 12-4, compared to San Diego's 8-8.

    "All the records don't mean anything right now," Steelers right tackle Willie Colon said. "You've just go to be able to match their intensity. They've got a swagger about them, you can see it on the tape, they're bouncing around and yelling, so it's going to be an intense game."

    Not letting Darren Sproles play as he did against Indianapolis, with 105 yards rushing and 328 total yards, is a necessity for Pittsburgh. Making sure wide receiver Vincent Jackson's head is into the game, following his arrest on a drunken driving-related charge, is one for San Diego.

    Sproles had only one carry against Pittsburgh on Nov. 16 but-despite being only 5-foot-6-is taking on an increasingly bigger role in the offense with 1,100-yard rusher LaDainian Tomlinson limping on a sore groin.

    "It's really hard to hit him and hard to see where he's at," Parker said. "He makes moves, does everything a running back's supposed to do, and he's small."

    The Steelers not only need to find Sproles, but their own game as well. This is their first meaningful contest since a 31-14 loss at Tennessee on Dec. 21 cost them home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. They finished 12-4, compared to San Diego's 8-8.
     

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