The Official BLOG of

You are currently NOT on the Homepage
Please send any questions or comments to:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Game Preview: Jokeland VS. Chargers

Source: Associated Press

The San Diego Chargers barely escaped with a win against the Oakland Raiders earlier this season. They didn’t need any late-game heroics in their last contest.

Coming off perhaps their most dominant effort of the season, the Chargers look to win their 13th straight over the Raiders as the AFC West rivals meet Sunday.

San Diego (3-3) hasn’t lost to Oakland (2-5) since a 34-31 road defeat Sept. 28, 2003, averaging 28.2 points during the run. The win streak, however, was in danger of ending before Darren Sproles scored the winning touchdown on a 5-yard run with 18 seconds left in a season-opening 24-20 victory Sept. 14.

San Diego lost three of its next four during a stretch against tough opponents, but bounced back with a 37-7 win at Kansas City last Sunday. Coach Norv Turner and quarterback Philip Rivers said it was the team’s most complete game of the season.

“Individuals have to keep getting better and we have to collectively keep getting better as we zero in on what we have to do to prepare and play well against the Raiders,” Turner told the Chargers’ official Web site.

Rivers threw three touchdown passes last week, giving him seven in his last three games.

Against the Raiders, he answered a pair of go-ahead Oakland scores with a TD drive each time.

LaDainian Tomlinson rolled his ankle in that game, causing him to miss the next two. Tomlinson and San Diego’s running game have struggled this season, as he rushed for a season-high 71 yards versus the Chiefs.

Tomlinson’s 36-yard run on the Chargers’ first touchdown drive was his longest since a 45-yarder against Denver on Dec. 28. The Chargers had 135 rushing yards after averaging 57.6 in their first five contests.

Despite their struggles on the ground, San Diego has had little trouble scoring this season, averaging 26.8 points. The Chargers’ defense, however, had given up an average of 27.2 points before holding the Chiefs to 203 yards.

Oakland has been terrible offensively of late. The Raiders lost 38-0 at home to the New York Jets last Sunday and have been held to less than eight points in four of their last five games.

JaMarcus Russell fumbled to set up a Jets score and threw two interceptions before being pulled in favor of Bruce Gradkowski.

Russell finished 6 of 11 for 61 yards as Oakland was shut out for the first time since a 24-0 loss to Atlanta last Nov. 2. Coach Tom Cable, though, said Russell will remain the starter.

“Hopefully it will fire him up so then it doesn’t happen again, that he’ll work that much harder and really put in all the effort that he can to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” Oakland tight end Zach Miller said. “Any competitor should want that to never happen. I would never want to be benched. I don’t think he would either.”

One of Russell’s two TD passes this season came against San Diego, a 57-yard throw to rookie Louis Murphy to give Oakland a 20-17 lead with 2:34 left.

Russell, the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, has regressed after showing some positive signs late last season. He has completed 46.3 percent of his passes while throwing eight interceptions and losing five fumbles. His 47.2 passer rating is ahead of only Cleveland’s Derek Anderson.

“It’s just something that you have to have a little bit better control,” Cable said. “It’s not something that you like to do, in terms of pulling him and all that. I’ve been pretty strong against it. I want to push him to give him every opportunity to succeed.”

—What are the reasons the Chargers’ running game was slow to develop? Coach Norv Turner has the answers.

“Well, you can go right back to the opening game,” he said. “We started the season in Oakland, and our center, our right guard and our tailback were all injured and missed at least the next two games. And our center has not returned. We have a young right guard that has come back and played. The combination of the change and continuity there and the schedule we played, and the teams the way we played them.

“We played Baltimore and Miami and we had a lot of yards in both games, moved the ball and scored points. They’re not teams that you’re going to zero in and just run the ball every down against. The way the Pittsburgh game went, we struggled to run the ball. Over the last couple weeks, we’ve gotten back into little bit more of a balanced mode where we’re getting a little better run production.”

ILB Tim Dobbins made the most of filling in for Kevin Burnett last week, collecting 11 tackles and an interception in Kansas City.

“(That’s) his best game since I’ve been here,” Turner said. “(He) was outstanding against the run and the pass.”

With Burnett still ailing, Dobbins could get his second straight start.

QB Philip Rivers is coming off his best start of the year, one in which he compiled a 122.6 rating while throwing for three touchdowns and 268 yards with no interceptions. It helped that Rivers wasn’t sacked in Kansas City after being nailed five times the previous game against the Broncos.

WR Vincent Jackson said the team’s 12-game winning streak over the Raiders isn’t the focus in the locker room. “I didn’t know exactly how many it is,” he said. “It’s not really a big deal to us.”

The Chargers need to keep an eye on DE Richard Seymour, their old nemesis from his days with the Patriots. Seymour had two sacks and six tackles when they teams squared off in the season opener. He’s tied for the team lead with four sacks.

Steve Gregory, a former safety, is taking to his new responsibilities as the nickel back.

“Wherever they tell me to play, I’m going to play, and I’m going to do my best,” he said.

Raiders LB Kirk Morrison and WR Chaz Schilens, who has missed the season with injury, are both San Diego State grads.

Turner went 9-23 as Raiders head coach from 2004-05.

Oakland owner Al Davis was a wide receivers coach for the Chargers from 1960-62 and was instrumental in the signing of Hall of Famer Lance Alworth.

The Chargers cut DB Simeon Castille, who played special teams against Kansas City after being signed off the practice squad the day before. It re-signed CB Dante Hughes, who was signed last week before being cut for Castille.

OT Joe Toledo was added to the practice squad.

Sunday marks the end of a three-game swing through the AFC West. The Chargers lost to the Broncos before beating the Chiefs last week. The Chargers only have two divisional games remaining after Sunday, which could make it more difficult to make up that three-game deficit to the first-place Broncos.

By The Numbers: 8—Number of wins QB Philip Rivers has in eight starts against the Raiders.

Quote To Note: “They beat the Eagles, who I think most people consider one of the best teams in the league. That’s the Raiders team we’re going to prepare for.”—Coach Norv Turner in building up the Raiders, despite their 2-5 record.


This will mark week two of the Chargers’ revamped secondary and base on last week, the changes are working.

In the wake of releasing starting strong safety Clinton Hart, the Chargers moved rookie Kevin Ellison over to Hart’s spot and switched safety Steve Gregory to the nickel cornerback spot. Paul Oliver also worked some at safety and the results were impressive.

With defensive coordinator Ron Rivera calling numerous blitzes from corners and safeties, safety Eric Weddle had a sack; Oliver and Gregory had interceptions.

Antoine Cason, a second-year pro, was the odd man out in this realignment. But the Chargers don’t plan to tinker with the success they had last week.

Player Notes

P Mike Scifres was a full participant in practice which was a good sign. Scifres has been battling a groin injury, but may be past it.

WR Buster Davis, a former first-round pick, continues to be looked over on game days. He has yet to suit up, despite being healthy on most game days. His time in San Diego could be come to an end after this season.

OLB Shawne Merriman is showing more speed than earlier in the year. He still is looking for his first sack of the season. He was limited in Wednesday’s practice with a foot injury but it is not considered serious.

RG Jeromey Clary hopes to build off his performance in Kansas City in which he had his best game of the year.

WR Chris Chambers needs a decent game Sunday or he will continue to lose snaps to Malcom Floyd. Chambers had two drops Sunday, including one that would have gone for a touchdown.

Game Plan: Considering the troubles the Raiders have in stopping the run, giving up 169 yards per game, the Chargers are expected to give them a steady dose of the running game. That’s not to say the Chargers won’t do what they do best—heave it down field with regularity. But LaDainian Tomlinson showed last week with a season-best carry of 36 yards on a season-high 71 yards that he can still gobble up yards when given the chance. And the Chargers had some trouble with pass protection that last time these teams played. Running it will give Tomlinson confidence going forward, as well as keep the heat off of Rivers in the pocket.

Matchups To Watch: Chargers pass defense vs. Raiders TE Zach Miller. The Chargers are notorious for having trouble covering tight ends and this week should be no different. Although the team hopes its new look on the back end will deliver a different result with new starting SS Kevin Ellison likely tracking Miller, who had 96 receiving yards on six catches against the Chargers in the opener. Last year against the Chargers, Miller had a 95-yard game. With Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell having accuracy problems down field, look for him to try to involve Miller heavily in the passing game. It’s going to be up to Ellison and the linebackers to keep Miller’s production down.

Chargers pass rush vs. Raiders front line. With the Chiefs falling behind early, the Chargers were able to work on their pass rush and blitzes and it was a welcome showing, resulting in four sacks. The secondary got into the act with numerous blitzes and OLB Shaun Phillips got his first two sacks of the season. The Raiders’ front hasn’t blocked with any consistency and Russell looks like a quarterback with happy feet. The Chargers will go after Russell in various ways out of their 3-4 alignment to get Russell jittery and not allow him to go through his reads. OLB Shawne Merriman doesn’t have a sack this season but he always seems to play well against the Raiders.

Chargers run defense vs. Raiders RBs Michael Bush and Justin Fargas. The Chargers were exposed up the middle in the wake of losing Pro Bowl DT Jamal Williams. But lately the rotation of Ian Scott, Travis Johnson and Ogemdi Nwagbuo has fortified that area and no longer are gaping holes being seen up the middle. With Russell struggling, it figures that the Raiders will offer their two-headed monster. Both Bush and Fargas have 56 carries for 204 yards, with Bush adding two touchdowns—one of which came against the Chargers in the opener.

Injury Impact: DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo (ankle) was limited in his practice and could be compromised on Sunday. The Chargers can ill-afford any more injuries to the defensive line. DL Travis Johnson (groin) will be limited in practice this week but should play Sunday. He won’t be at 100 percent. C Nick Hardwick (ankle) is starting to do some work on the side but still isn’t expected to return until mid-November. ILB Kevin Burnett (ankle) didn’t practice and will likely be down this week.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Game Preview: Chargers vs. Chiefs

Kassim Osgood

Back - Probable
Shaun Phillips

Calf - Probable
Antwan Applewhite

Hamstring - IR
Nick Hardwick

Ankle - Out
Kevin Burnett

Ankle - Doubtful
Antonio Cromartie

Knee - Questionable
Louis Vasquez

Knee - Probable
Jyles Tucker

Illness - Probable
LaDainian Tomlinson

Illness - Probable
Mike Scifres

Groin - Probable
Shawne Merriman

Foot - Probable
Vaughn Martin

Hamstring - Probable
Stephen Cooper

Knee - Probable
Travis Johnson

Groin - Questionable
Jacob Hester

Illness - Questionable
Buster Davis

Illness - Questionable

Source: Yahoo Sports!

Another 8-8 record probably won’t be enough to get the San Diego Chargers another AFC West title. The Kansas City Chiefs, meanwhile, would likely be thrilled with a .500 record at the end of the season.

After two straight humbling defeats left the Chargers way behind in the division, they look to avoid hitting a new low Sunday against a Chiefs team coming off its first victory.

San Diego (2-3) hoped a bye week would help it fix the problems that led to a 38-28 loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 4, but its defense had another terrible game in a 34-23 loss to Denver on Monday night.

A late-season meltdown by the Broncos allowed the Chargers to win the division title last season despite going 8-8, but San Diego will need to end its problems in a hurry if it hopes to win a fourth straight AFC West championship. Denver is 6-0, and San Diego is closer to last-place Kansas City (1-5) than it is to the division leader.

“I know it doesn’t look good right now but we can still bounce back,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers(notes) said.

San Diego could only muster one-point wins in its two matchups last season with Kansas City, which went 2-14.

The Chiefs (1-5) ended a nine-game losing streak last Sunday with a 14-6 win over Washington, giving coach Todd Haley his first victory.

“It’s a big weight off your shoulders,” Chiefs defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey(notes) said. “You don’t want to be one of those teams without a win. We want to build on it and, hopefully, we can come out next week and get another one.”

With Haley trying to instill confidence in the Chiefs and quarterback Matt Cassel(notes) playing well, this could be a dangerous game for the Chargers.

Opposing quarterbacks have completed 74.6 percent of their passes for 568 yards and five touchdowns without throwing an interception in their last two games versus San Diego. Cassel hasn’t been picked off in his last four games while throwing for six TDs.

Rivers continues to be steady for the Chargers despite getting pressured much more often than coach Norv Turner would like. He’s been sacked 15 times this season, including a career-high five against the Broncos.

“Philip does a good job in the pocket in finding the soft areas,” Turner said. “We’ve got to do some things where we can get the ball out quicker to help him, based on what people are doing to us.”

Rivers has still managed to throw for 1,519 yards and seven TDs while getting picked off three times. He isn’t getting nearly as much help from San Diego’s running game as he has in past seasons.

Though LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) returned after missing two games due to a sprained ankle, the Chargers were held to 73 yards on the ground against Denver. Tomlinson had 70 of those yards.

San Diego is tied for last in the NFL in rushing with 57.6 yards per game.

Kansas City is ranked 25th in that category, gaining an average of 98.0 yards, but it had 110 against Washington.

Larry Johnson(notes) helped complement a strong defensive performance with a gritty effort running the ball, gaining a season-high 83 yards on 23 carries. But the outcome remained in doubt until linebacker Tamba Hali(notes) tackled Todd Collins(notes) for a safety in the final minute.

Counting an 0-4 exhibition record, Kansas City had been 0-9 under Haley and general manager Scott Pioli.

“It’s real nice to know that we’re heading in the right direction and all the work that we’re doing is paying off,” Dorsey said. “It’s nice to know the things we’re doing, the practices, the meetings, are paying off.”

The Chiefs’ next challenge is to create some momentum by avoiding a third consecutive home loss to the Chargers—something that hasn’t happened since 1979-81.

“I think it’s a big test for us,” Haley said. “It’s the next step in the development of this team. It’s a problem for some teams and not for others. I just think it’s very important that we understand the task at hand and having another very good week of practice and building on this performance.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jon Gruden: Please Come To San Diego

By: J.D. Harrison

I was willing to give Norv Turner a chance, and I did.

He failed.

Going for it on fourth and forever with six minutes to play? Really Norv?

Before Norv we were 14-2! Hellloo???

We have the talent. That talent needs direction. Norv Turner can't and isn't providing that. Period!

Now I turn my attention to Jon Gruden. The perfect fit for the Chargers.

Gruden would be crazy not pursue the Chargers and the Chargers would be even crazier not you pursue Gruden.

He has proven himself as a head coach and has the ring to prove it. Look what happend to both Oakland and Tampa after he left. He left Oakland, went to Tampa and spanked his former team in the Super Bowl. Then he leaves Tampa and now they have yet to win a game.

We need a fresh face for our franchise. Much like when Coryell took over in the late 70's. We are now again in that situation.

Imagine Gruden with a young QB like Rivers and great players like Gates, Jackson and LT. Rivers has a long great career ahead of him and we need a coach that's gonna be there for the long haul.

If all goes well, Gruden is young and has the potential to stay with the franchise for a long time. He would have the opportunity to take over the NFL's most talented team in gorgeous San Diego and get the chance to whoop his old team's ass twice a year!

It's all up to A.J. He needs to realize real quickly that the golden opportunity is here and now is the time to take action. As Gruden confessed his love for the Chargers last night, Norv was producing mediocre results with a great talented football team. Put two and two together A.J. please!!

We need some one to get mad, get angry and coach these players into a disciplined championship team. Norv isn't that guy. So I say..

Jon Gruden, PLEASE come to San Diego!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Game Preview: Broncos VS. Chargers

Source: Yahoo Sports

Injury Report for MNF:

C Nick Hardwick (Ankle) Out
ILB Stephen Cooper (Knee) Questionable
WR Kassim Osgood (Back) Probable
OLB Antwan Applewhite (Hamstring) Out
DE Travis Johnson (Groin) Probable
OLB Shawne Merriman (Groin) Probable
OLB Shaun Phillips (Calf) Probable
P Mike Scifres (Bilateral Groin) Probable

LaMont Jordan (Not Injury Related) Did Not Participate
Spencer Larsen (Shoulder) Did Not Participate
Correll Buckhalter (Ankle) Full Participation

Everything can all change starting Monday night, when the Chargers entertain the Denver Broncos. Yep, the 5-0 Broncos, who are leaving their AFC West brethren—including the Chargers—in the dust.

It was a painful bye week for the Chargers, as fact and fiction were in a constant battle after they were demolished by the Steelers leading into the off week.

Yes, the Chargers are a good team—but when will they start playing like one?

Yes, the Chargers have won three straight AFC West titles—but when will they start acting like a champion?

Yes, the Chargers’ window of opportunity with this group of core players could be ending after this season—but when will the team start playing with a sense of urgency?

Monday night would be a good start after licking their wounds for a week.

“We had a chance to regroup a little bit, reevaluate what’s going on and now we’ll try and get on a roll in these division games,” tight end Antonio Gates said.

The table is set for just that. The Chargers haven’t dipped into the AFC West division since beating the Raiders in the season opener. Now come the Broncos, a trip to Kansas City and the visiting Raiders over the next three games.

It’s easy to go the doom-and-gloom route with the Chargers despite their 2-2 record. In addition to the Broncos’ threat to run away with the division, the Chargers have been decimated by injuries, can’t run the ball, stop the run or put pressure on quarterbacks.

That’s why some are saying this possible Super Bowl year could quickly turn into one where the team is fighting to stay above .500—which was right where it ended last season at 8-8.

General manager A.J. Smith was leery of Josh McDaniels taking the Broncos’ coaching job as quickly as it happened. With the Patriots having the Chargers’ number in the playoffs, Smith was well aware of McDaniels’ credentials of being the Pats’ offensive coordinator.

“I’m very concerned,” Smith said, on how fast the Broncos got up to speed. “I saw the changes going on and I saw it as a direct threat to the San Diego Chargers.

“I hoped that it would slow down and take a few years to get their program going, but I knew they would be going. I’m not surprised. There’s a new beginning in Denver, and they’ve come out on fire.”

Which means now is the time for the Chargers to find their spark. To rediscover the confidence and swagger they broke camp with, something which has seldom been seen in the season’s first month.

“I want the players to be consistent,” said Smith, adding he has no issues with coach Norv Turner and his staff. “Don’t play hard for a quarter and then drift a little bit. That’s what I want and I think that’s what they’d like to see … if we continue to stay focused and believe in one another and we play four quarters of hard, consistent football, things will improve.”

But time is running out. And that makes Monday night the best time to start proving to the doubters that the Chargers are more than a .500 squad.

Series History: 99th regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series 53-44-1, but the Chargers are looking for their fourth straight win over Denver at home. The last time they played in San Diego the stakes were high as the winner advanced to the playoffs as AFC West champions. The Chargers completed their amazing comeback—and the Broncos continued their historic free-fall – with a 52-21 San Diego win. The Chargers are also 2-0 against the Broncos on Monday Night Football. Neither of these teams has swept the season series since the Broncos did it in 1991. Monday night will be one of the NFL’s legacy games, which pays tribute to the original members of the AFL; both teams will be wearing uniforms from the inaugural season of 1960—back when the Chargers called Los Angeles home.


—What jumps out at the Chargers when they review the Broncos? Their stingy defense, which is ranked No. 2 in the league.

“They’re playing outstanding defense,” coach Norv Turner said. “Defensively, I think they’re coached real well. There are eight new starters and I think talent is more important than how long they’ve been together.”

Among those new Bronco faces is veteran S Brian Dawkins. The eight-time Pro Bowler could have provided a great deal to the Chargers as well, as they have had trouble getting production from the safety position. Instead, Dawkins has solidified the Chargers’ Monday night rival.

“He’s an outstanding player and has been a difference maker for a lot of years in Philadelphia,” Turner said. “He’s all over the field.”

GM A.J. Smith isn’t pulling punches on what lies ahead if the Chargers don’t improve.

“If this trend continues, we’ll be 8-8—or worse—and certainly out of the division (race),” he said. “We won’t have the credentials. It’s not going well for the San Diego Chargers and we’d better get our act together quickly.”

Much has been made of the drop-off of the Chargers’ defensive line. It should be noted Wayne Nunnely, the Chargers’ former longtime DL coach, has landed with the Broncos.

OLB Antwan Applewhite is back at practice and figures to be part of the rotation on Monday. He has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury.

To toast their 50th anniversary, Monday’s pre-game coin toss will include Chargers greats Ron Mix, Lance Alworth and Keith Lincoln. All three were key players on the team’s only title squad, the 1963 AFL champions.

OLB Shawne Merriman won’t have his Mohawk for the national TV cameras Monday night. He shaved off the blue Mohawk he debuted during training camp. Other Chargers were giving him the business that he looks like a kid. “I cut five years off my look I guess,” Merriman said.

Turner said the emergence of his younger defensive backs—although they have struggled as well—played into the decision of cutting veteran SS Clinton Hart on Wednesday.

“We feel the young guys have come along and are ready to play,” Turner said. “I don’t know that it was as much Clinton as the young guys have come on. Kevin (Ellison) played a lot in the Miami game and I was impressed with him. Steven Gregory is playing well at that position. It gives us some other options.”

DT Ian Scott played four games last year with the Chargers and spent all of the offseason and camp with them before getting cut in September. He will be thrown right into game action.

“It feels like I wasn’t gone,” Scott said. “Guys have welcomed me back and hopefully I get a chance to contribute and help these guys continue to win.”

By The Numbers: 10—Number of Philip Rivers’ touchdown passes in his last five games against the Broncos, with only one interception.

Quote To Note: “This is a big stretch of our season.”—TE Antonio Gates on the Chargers’ next three games against AFC West foes.


The Chargers have finally shaken up their sorry secondary by releasing SS Clinton Hart.

Some thought CB Antonio Cromartie would be shown the bench for his shoddy play of late. And that Hart might give way to rookie Kevin Ellison.

But the Chargers decided they had seen enough of Hart and released him in a bit of a surprising move.

What that move does is speak to their dismay of the way Hart, a starter since 2007, has been playing. That and the need for some fresh bodies along the defensive front.

Hart’s roster spot will be taken by defensive tackle Ian Scott, who was cut in September. So Hart is out, with his snaps going to Steven Gregory and rookie Kevin Ellison.

And with Scott back, he will quickly be thrown into game action, especially with Travis Johnson nursing a groin injury.

Player Notes

RB LaDainian Tomlinson would love to get the same chances he did the last time the Chargers faced the Broncos to end the 2008 regular season. Tomlinson ran for three touchdowns, which gave him 18 career rushing scores against Denver, his second-highest total against any foe.

WR Vincent Jackson, who went to school at Northern Colorado, has had 100-yard receiving games in two of the last three games.

CB Antoine Cason could be pushing for more playing time. He leads the teams with two interceptions, which matches his total during last year’s rookie season.

LB Larry English, a rookie, has something Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips and Jyles Tucker don’t—a sack. English, the 16th overall pick, has the only sack coming from the outside spot; the team has but six total sacks.

TE Antonio Gates has begun what promises to be a productive season. Since 2003, Gates leads all tight ends with 53 touchdown receptions. His two scoring catches this year ties him with Vincent Jackson for the club lead.

Game Plan: While the Chargers love the deep ball, they are going to at least have to try to throw their defense a bone by constructing some decent drives that also eat some clock. That means, for the first time this season, the Chargers need to give the running game more than lip service. It figures the Chargers’ defense is going to be on the field for a long time, combating Kyle Orton’s short passes and the Broncos’ reliable running attack. If the Chargers only way to move the ball is to heave long passes, that might work against them. The defense will be on the field a long time Monday so it needs to catch its breath when the Chargers have the ball.

Matchups To Watch: Chargers pass protection vs. Broncos pass rush. Elvis Dumervil, who has an NFL-high eight sacks, leads the charge against a makeshift San Diego line. The Chargers have fallen in love with an offense around the deep ball, which means Rivers has to wait for the downfield moves. Those receivers figure to have a tougher time getting open with veteran DBs Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins playing so well. So if it comes to that, the Chargers’ pass blockers are going to have to hold their blocks longer or Rivers is going to get clocked. Dumervil will mostly come from the right side, where he will tangle with LT Marcus McNeill and LG Kris Dielman. The youngsters are going to have to play well on their end, because the other side is going to have its hands full.

Chargers running game vs. Broncos run defense. The Chargers are hoping LaDainian Tomlinson’s ankle appreciated the bye week to mend and the run-blocking can show some improvement. Tomlinson traditionally runs well against the Broncos, but the Chargers’ play-callers have to do their part. The Broncos, allowing only 81 rushing yards per game, have shifted to a 3-4 and are seeing plenty of production from their active linebackers.

Chargers secondary vs. Broncos WR Brandon Marshall. The Chargers haven’t got the pass rush they had hoped for and it is showing on the back end. Strong safety Clinton Hart was shown the door on Wednesday—a big drop for a starter. So Steven Gregory will get the majority of Hart’s snaps but will that be the answer? The pass defense has to be more physical and play more man coverage or Orton will eat the Chargers up with those short passes. And just when you think he is content to dink and dunk, he will look for Marshall down field. Marshall always kills the Chargers and with his new attitude, he will be primed to show his play of late is not fluke on national TV. The Chargers somehow, someway, have to generate some kind of heat on Orton or it will be a long night for the guys on the back end.

Injury Impact: DE Travis Johnson (groin) probably won’t play Monday, and if he does, he won’t be 100 percent. The Chargers might have tipped their hand on Johnson’s availability by bringing back Ian Scott. OLB Shawne Merriman (groin) is likely to try to play, just like he has done the past two weeks. But he has only been able to play a handful of plays as he continues to be slowed by the groin. He claims his rebuilt knee is fine; not so with his groin. OLB Shaun Phillips (arm) will practice this week and play on Monday. ILB Stephen Cooper (knee) will be careful during this week’s workouts and won’t push his knee until later in the week. The Chargers are hoping to avoid this becoming a chronic issue, and so far, that hasn’t been the case.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

San Diego Chargers: First Domino Falls As Hart Is Cut

By: Mike Kranzler

Source: The Bleacher Report

The San Diego Chargers have cut starting safety Clinton Hart, as first reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

A second-year starter, Hart received a large contract extension midway through 2008, making his release all the more surprising. However, his limitations in coverage and tackling struggles may have contributed to his release.

Hart has also struggled with injuries, as a neck stinger kept him out of the lineup for several games last season, during which time the Chargers' defense did not seem to skip a beat in his absence.

It is not known yet if rookie Kevin Ellison or veteran Steve Gregory will get the starting nod on Monday Night Football versus the 5-0 Broncos, but the smart money is probably on Ellison. A.J. Smith seems to believe that he has someone on the roster capable of filling Hart's vacated position, and if Gregory was that man, he would have been in the starting lineup long ago.

Ellison's physical presence, along with his increasing comfort level in Ron Rivera's defensive scheme as his rookie season progresses, seems to make the most sense as the team's first choice.

The bye week most likely gave them a chance to further evaluate the development of the sixth-round pick tabbed with eventually taking over in the starting lineup, and Norv Turner and the Chargers' coaching staff must have liked what they saw.

The Chargers re-signed defensive tackle Ian Scott to fill Hart's spot on the roster and bolster their depth along the injury-plagued defensive line.

This is likely only the first of several moves Smith and the Chargers will make before Tuesday's trade deadline, as there are still several glaring weaknesses on this team that must be addressed.

Look for the Chargers to be in the market for help along the offensive and defensive lines, especially now that they have additional financial flexibility with the release of the underperforming Hart.

It is also possible that the team will explore a trade of Shawne Merriman, as rookie Larry English is improving every week and Merriman has yet to make any sort of significant impact this season.

If another team steps up and offers Smith a second-round pick, it might be "Lights Out" for Merriman's time in San Diego.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Charger Update 10/13/09

If the Broncos didn’t have the Chargers’ attention before, they do now.

Something about a first-place team being 5-0 will do that to a squad.

The wobbly Chargers try to get back into the AFC West mix by welcoming the Broncos to San Diego on Monday night. Sitting at 2-2, the Chargers realize they can ill-afford to let the Broncos get victory No. 6, which would put San Diego three games behind.

“I don’t know how you could have more urgency on this game,” coach Norv Turner said. “I think our team has done a good job for preparing for each of our games. Obviously in some situations we haven’t played the way we like to.”

That would include the team’s most recent effort, when it got blown out in Pittsburgh. The Chargers didn’t look ready as they fell behind 28-0 before making the final score (38-28) make the game look closer than it really was.

But that’s in the past. If the Chargers are to make a statement by being the first opponent to give Broncos coach Josh McDaniels a loss, they will have to play better than they have in the past four games.

“When you play in games and you are giving up seven points, three points, three points and 17 points, you are going to be in every game,” Turner said of the Broncos.

The Broncos’ early success—especially their season-opening win—might have been written off as a fluke. But no more, not after consecutive wins over the Cowboys and Patriots.

And no more can the Chargers just figure they’ll get right when they want. The AFC West title bus is leaving the station, and the Chargers know they have to gain ground quickly.

“We have to approach it as a must-win, every week,” LaDainian Tomlinson said.

That starts Monday, in a game that didn’t seem early on would be played with the same gusto as some of the other battles between the two old rivals.

But then the Broncos went 5-0.

And the Chargers hit the snooze alarm and stumbled to 2-2.

“That has never been an indicator on the outcome of the game,” Shaun Phillips said. “Whether you are 0-5 or 5-0, they are a really good team, probably the best we have faced this year, and you know they are going to come ready to play.”

The Chargers have yet to play like three-time defending AFC West champions. Some thought it would be a cakewalk to No. 4 with all the division teams—save the Chargers—rebuilding this year.

Not so.


—Many are surprised by the success of quarterback Kyle Orton in leading the Broncos to a 5-0 record. But Norv Turner isn’t one of them. “I’m very familiar with Kyle,” Turner said. “I coached him at the Senior Bowl and my brother (Ron Turner) was his coach the last three years he was in Chicago. I don’t think people understand him very well. He’s an accurate guy, an athlete.”

The Chargers have proven they can climb off the mat—they were 4-8 last year before rallying for their third consecutive AFC West title by running the table. Can that experience help them as they try to get back into the AFC West race?

“We’re not really worried about what happened last year,” inside linebacker Stephen Cooper said. “We are looking forward to the Denver Broncos game. A lot of people are pushing the panic button, but over here we all know it’s a football season and you are going to win some, lose some. We know it is an important game.”

Outside linebacker Shaun Phillips said few teams can match what the Broncos will bring on Monday. “They really play good defense; that’s a good team,” Phillips said. “It’s probably one of the most complete teams we have played so far, and I know they are going to give us their ‘A’ game.”

The Chargers will take Tuesday off and resume practice Wednesday for their home game in which they hope to flip a disturbing trend. In regular-season home games during 2006 and ’07, the Chargers were 15-1. Since, they are 6-4.


Player Notes

OLB Shawne Merriman (groin) didn’t practice Monday but will try to later in the week.

OLB Shaun Phillips (arm) was held out of practice but is expected to play Monday.

ILB Stephen Cooper (knee) is ailing, but he should practice Wednesday.

DE Jacques Cesaire (calf) wasn’t working Monday, but he should be able to play against Denver. The Chargers can ill afford to have Cesaire go down after all the injuries they’ve had to the defensive front.

DE Travis Johnson (groin) was out again Monday. Johnson hasn’t contributed much since coming over from the Texans early in the season.

Report Card After 4 Games

Passing Offense: A-minus—Philip Rivers has been sensational, and that is saying something considering the Chargers have had no running game. Rivers has proved to be the master of the long ball, as he continually stretches the field with WRs Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd. TE Antonio Gates is playing at a level not seen in a couple of years. But with all of the passing—and zilch of a running attack—Rivers has been getting whacked pretty often. He has been sacked 10 times and rocked on numerous other occasions. But this team is all about Rivers (six TDs, three INTs) and so far, he has played fine; the rest of the squad, not so much.

Rushing Offense: D-minus—Is LaDainian Tomlinson done? Hard to say because he missed two games with an ankle injury and then once he did return, the Chargers only gave the running game lip service. But there are two things bad about this area: The Chargers aren’t keen on running the ball, and when they do, the run-blocking has been terrible. C Nick Hardwick is out until at least December, and there has been upheaval at the right guard spot. The Chargers have told basically everyone that they are going to beat teams by the pass—but without a decent running game, that is going to be a tall task.

Pass Defense: D—The secondary has been exploited time and again—especially CB Antonio Cromartie. The one-time Pro Bowler has seen his game drop off considerably; he has been complaining the Chargers play too much zone and that he can’t shine in that system. Whatever. But it’s clear the secondary isn’t getting the help it thought it would from a pass rush that is tepid at best. Only six sacks so far, and only one from an outside linebacker—that’s not good in a 3-4 alignment. Shawne Merriman has been a huge disappointment, as he is coming back from knee surgery and has battled a strained groin the past two games. Larry Burnett has been a decent addition as an inside linebacker dropping back into coverage, but the lack of a stout run defense and the dearth of a consistent pass rush has left the Chargers’ pass defense with a No. 27 ranking.

Rush Defense: F—The loss of massive NT Jamal Williams has had a huge impact. Without the Pro Bowler commanding double teams, the middle has been wide open, and it has been gashed with alarming consistency. By allowing 151 yards per game on the ground, the defense has been on its heels most of the season—and it got there because it’s been manhandled along the line. Until this improves—and with a lack of depth at tackle, it’s going to be a tall challenge—the Chargers’ chances of doing anything of significance this season are a real long shot.

Special Teams: B—P Mike Scifres is having another solid year; he’s ranked No. 7 with a 42.9-yard average. K Nate Kaeding has hit all but one of nine field-goal attempts, and the miss was from 41 yards. The return game is in good hands with Darren Sproles—especially on kickoffs, on which he is averaging 28.5 yards per return. The coverage unit has been decent, although there have been some leaks on punts, where the team is ranked No. 23.

Coaching: F—Norv Turner has his offense zipping along—the passing part of it anyway—in a pretty good fashion. But there is more to a football team than one component. The Chargers defense is horrible. Worse, it has been physically beaten in all four games. Worse yet is how flat the Chargers have come out for every game. There seems to be no focus or motivation early on, and that has left the Chargers in big holes. Ron Rivera was supposed to revive what was once a stout defense, but so far this edition doesn’t look any different. To be fair, the defense has been nailed by injuries, but that’s life in the NFL.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Charger Update 10/10/09

Source: Yahoo Sports

—The Chargers’ faults on defense are many, according to coach Norv Turner. Often the problem is players trying to do things they can’t.

“Sometimes it comes out of frustration,” Turner said of his 24th-ranked unit. “You’ve got guys that are very competitive and you’ve got guys that are saying, ‘I’m going to make something happen here.’ Instead of hitting the gap on the outside shoulder of the ‘backer, they see the (running) back starting inside and they go in there and vacate a zone area. It’s a matter of the number one thing we say all the time, ‘Do your job. Everyone trust each other and do your job.’ In this situation we had some guys try to do more.”

The Chargers’ run defense is ranked dead last.

QB Philip River is trying to win his fourth straight AFC West title. He takes confidence in knowing how the team rallied from 4-8 last year to claim title No. 3. “We’re a 2-2 team that’s got a lot of fight and a lot of want-to and the right kind of guys to get it back going,” he said. “I think we have to be realistic and honest with ourselves. We know we have areas where we’ve got to improve, but it’s early in the year and we’ve got the right guys to get it going.”

TE Antonio Gates is off to a great start; he knows his team isn’t. But with five of their next seven games against AFC West rivals, Gates knows it’s go-time after the bye. “This is a big stretch of our season,” he said. “We haven’t played as well as we wanted to in some areas, but we’ve got a chance to regroup a little bit, reevaluate what’s going on and try to get on a little roll in these division games.”

The team was pleased RB LaDainian Tomlinson returned Sunday after missing two games with a sprained ankle. Tomlinson rushed for only 15 yards on seven carries and admits he is still finding his feet from the layoff. “Things I was seeing were there but there were certain times where I felt a little rusty, I wasn’t quite right on reads from just not being in there,” he said. “The bye is coming at a good time.”

There’s no doubt the Chargers were not only defeated in Pittsburgh but embarrassed. But Turner isn’t looking back. “It is one football game,” Turner said. “I’m looking forward to doing the things we need to do this week to give us a chance to get back to where we can have great practices next week. We’ve got Denver on Monday night (Oct. 19) at home and I’m looking forward to that.”

— The Chargers are throwing a 50th Anniversary Block Party in downtown San Diego on Nov. 27. The franchise will introduce its 50th anniversary team at the event, which cost $35 per ticket.

Representatives of the proposed NFL stadium to be built in the Los Angeles area said they will contact the Chargers about their interest in the facility next year. The Chargers continue to maintain that their No. 1 focus is finding a replacement for Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego County. Escondido, which is about 25 miles north of San Diego, is currently talking with the Chargers.

By The Numbers: 3—Number of upcoming AFC West foes in three games after the bye.

Quote To Note: “I think we all know we’re capable of doing better.”—Coach Norv Turner on the Chargers’ .500 start.


The Chargers hope this bye week brings with it a chance to rest and get well, especially along the defensive line.

After losing tackle Jamal Williams and end Ryon Bingham to injured reserve, the team then saw ends Travis Johnson and Jacques Cesaire, the starter, struggle with ailments.

Johnson likely will sit out this week to mend his groin and return to active status. Cesaire has been hobbled by a calf injury, although he is playing through it. But a week of rest will also aid Cesaire.

The Chargers could tinker with the secondary during the bye week, maybe getting Antoine Cason on the field more instead of Antonio Cromartie.

But Turner has said there will be no changes on his coaching staff and any other drastic switches during this time off aren’t anticipated.

Player Notes

RB Darren Sproles is almost getting two weeks of rest. The Chargers didn’t use him much in the loss at Pittsburgh (no carries, one reception for 16 yards). He did add 42 return yards but it was a quiet night leading into the bye for Sproles.

FS Kevin Ellison(notes), a rookie, could be getting some more playing time. The Chargers haven’t been thrilled with the play of Clinton Hart and or Steve Gregory.

WR Buster Davis can’t get on the field on what is a make-or-break year for him. The former first-round pick has zero receptions.

QB Billy Volek was coming off one of his best training camps, according to the coaches. He needs to be at the ready in case Philip Rivers takes more hits resulting from two possibilities: the running game not developing and the team consistently playing from behind.

RB Michael Bennett’s roster spot is a bit confusing. He was kept as insurance in case LaDainian Tomlinson got hurt; that happened, and Bennett wasn’t used much. He didn’t have a single carry against the Steelers and has 12 carries for 37 yards.

Injury Impact:

ILB Stephen Cooper (knee) should return to practice after skipping the bye-week workouts.

OLB Antwan Applewhite (hamstring) is expected to play when the Chargers return to action after their bye week.

C Scott Mruczkowski (knee) didn’t practice during the bye week. The Chargers can ill afford to lose Mruczkowski with starter Nick Hardwick (ankle) not expected back until December.

DE Jacques Cesaire (calf) didn’t practice in the bye week due to an ailment that has bothered him since training camp.

DE Travis Johnson (groin) is expected to return when the Chargers resume action following their bye week. He’s part of the regular rotation along the line.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chargers looking forward to break

Following Thursday’s practice, Chargers players were dismissed for a three-day weekend and were looking forward to the break.

Shortly after the Chargers concluded practice Thursday, players raced out of the locker room, many of them headed to the airport for the first short break they’ve had in the last 10 weeks.

“It’s a chance to kind of get away from football and put everything that happened in this first quarter of the season behind us,” tight end Antonio Gates said. “It’ll be good for us.”

Players headed in various directions for their three-day weekend. Nate Kaeding was off to Iowa where he’ll introduce his two-month-old son to friends and relatives. Larry English and Antonio Gates scheduled quick trips home to Chicago and Detroit, respectively, to be with family.

“Family is very important to me and whenever I get a chance to go see them, I try to take advantage of it,” Gates said. “You get away quick and then when we get back Monday, it’s time to go.”

Fullback Jacob Hester rushed out to catch a flight to Baton Rouge, Louisiana where his fourth-ranked LSU Tigers host top-ranked Florida Saturday and he’ll will be on the sideline. Defensive end Vaughn Martin boarded a plane for Toronto Thursday night. For running back LaDainian Tomlinson, it’ll be a low-key weekend. He and his wife took off to Texas to spend a couple days at their rural lake house.

Plenty of other Chargers were staying put for the bye. Quarterback Philip Rivers said family time will “be at the top of the list.” Others like running back Darren Sproles and cornerback Quentin Jammer were looking forward to spending time in San Diego with their kids.

“I’m just going to relax at home,” Sproles said. “I’ll be here with my family. I want to relax a little, focus on what’s coming up.”

Some players will try to get away from football for a couple days while others said the game will be a big part of the weekend. Several Chargers said they’d be glued to the TV Sunday afternoon as the AFC West-leading Broncos host the Patriots.

“I’ll absolutely be watching,” tackle Jeromey Clary said. “You play this game and you fall in love with it. Any chance I get to sit on the couch and be a fan, I take advantage of it.”

Head Coach Norv Turner and his staff will enjoy a short break this weekend, but will also spend time in the office as they look ahead to the next couple weeks of the team’s schedule.

“Our coaches need to get away from it a little bit,” Turner said. “We can spend some time each day and continue to prepare. We play on Monday night and we have a short week to get ready for Kansas City. This week gives you a chance to look at Kansas City a little bit and do some advance stuff. There are things we’ll do to keep preparing.”

Turner will be tuned in to games on Sunday. Watching games on TV is a different experience than watching coaches tape, Turner said.

“Sometimes the announcers will say something that they’ve picked up from a player or coaches meeting,” Turner said. “You might get something from that. You get a general feel for a team. I don’t know that you get the specifics that you get from the coaching staff and preparing for them.”

Before he dismissed them, Turner praised his team for their efforts during the bye week. Under Turner, the Chargers are 2-0 coming off the bye and he likes the way his team used their time this week.

“I think our guys have been very focused,” Turner said. “The first month gave our guys some experiences about where we’re at and where we need to go. That’s what we’re using this week for: to move forward and get better and get ready for the next month of our season. It’s been a good week of everyone being realistic and looking at what we need to do to be better.”

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chargers on developer's short list for new Los Angeles stadium

The group spearheading the possibility of building a new stadium in the Los Angeles area have made their intentions explicit about which teams they will be going after—and the San Diego Chargers are one of them.

According to the Union-Tribune, Majestic Reality Company Vice President John Semcken told a group of developers in Orange County that the Chargers—among six other NFL franchises—will be contacted once the group gets the green light to build the stadium.

Along with the Chargers, other possible tenants could be the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Viking and the San Francisco 49ers—if talks between the 49ers and Santa Clara fall through.

The Rams and Raiders have both spent time in the Los Angeles area.

The talks, according to Semcken, would occur after this season’s Super Bowl. Consequently, the window for the Chargers to tell the city of San Diego that they are leaving Qualcomm Stadium begins in February and runs through April every year.

However, the team is still walking the line and saying that it is looking at options in San Diego.

“We anticipate that the (window) next year will open and close, and we won't do anything,” Chargers stadium point-person Mark Fabiani told the UT.

Semcken said that he expects the stadium to receive the green light next week, either by the California State Senate agreeing to the Assembly bill that lifts environmental laws delaying the stadium's construction or by negotiations that Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg arranged last month.

For more info: Visit the San Diego Stadium Coalition website

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Charger Update 10-06-09

Maybe the bye week is coming at the right time for a Chargers team with bruises and a bruised psyche.

The Chargers are struggling against physical teams, and that was proved once again in Sunday night’s 38-28 loss to the Steelers.

The game wasn’t nearly that close, as the Chargers stumbled from the start and found themselves behind 28-0 midway through the third quarter.

“I give Pittsburgh a lot of credit for their execution,” coach Norv Turner said.

But this was more than the Steelers hitting on all cylinders. It had just as much to do with the Chargers playing their worst game of the young season.

“We were in position to make plays or make tackles and we did not,” Turner said. “And then when you get into a game like that that has four or five plays that ended up being big plays where we had guys trying to do something different than their jobs—getting themselves out of position or not covering a guy they should be covering or coming in on a blitz on the wrong gap—that compounded the problems we had.”

The Chargers’ list of what’s wrong is lengthy.

They can’t run the ball, which speaks to the No. 32 ranking.

They can’t stop the run, which speaks to their No. 28 ranking.

But for one week, the Chargers can concentrate on getting better instead of preparing for another opponent. That will come soon enough, though, when they return to play against the AFC West-leading Broncos on Oct. 19.

“We are in Week 4, and we had a pretty good stretch against good football teams,” Turner said of a slate that included Oakland, Baltimore, Miami and Pittsburgh. “I expected us to play better than we have.

“The bye comes at a good week, and it will give us an opportunity to regroup, look at the things we didn’t do as well as we need to do and fix them.”


—The Steelers offense toyed with the Chargers in Sunday’s game. “The stats speak for themselves,” inside linebacker Kevin Burnett said. “It felt like they ran for 400 yards on offense. We couldn’t stop them. They couldn’t be stopped. I think that says enough.” The Chargers were abused for 32 first downs and 497 total yards.

If nothing else, quarterback Philip Rivers took solace in knowing the Chargers gave their rally a valiant effort. “When you find yourself down 21-0 on the road, the odds are against you,” he said. “We’ve won games after being down, so there was no quit. We fought back as hard as we could and at least made it uncomfortable for them. We didn’t finish the job, so obviously we’re not happy about this.”

Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman continues to be hobbled by a groin strain. He played in only a handful of plays for the second consecutive week. “Those things don’t heal overnight,” he said. “I made the decision to play in this game, and I’ll use the bye week to heal up and get ready for the next game.”

RB LaDainian Tomlinson, playing in his first game after missing two with an ankle injury, came out of Sunday’s contest in good health.

RG Louis Vasquez reported no fallout from playing in his first game in three weeks. He had been out with a knee injury.

CB Antonio Cromartie, in a tweet after the game, blamed the Chargers employing a zone defense for the reason his game was off in the loss at Pittsburgh.


Player Notes

DE Luis Castillo (arm) will be limited in practice this week.

DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo (ankle) will not practice this week.

DE Jacques Cesaire (calf) will be limited in practice this week.

WR Malcom Floyd (shoulder) will be limited in practice this week.

OLB Shawne Merriman (groin) will be limited in practice this week.

OLB Shaun Phillips (calf) will be limited in practice this week.

TE Kris Wilson (wrist) will be limited in practice this week.

ILB Stephen Cooper (knee) is out for the week.

C Scott Mruczkowski (knee) will not work this week.

DE Travis Johnson (groin) will not practice this week.

Report Card Vs . STEELERS

Passing Offense: B-minus—Philip Rivers threw for three touchdowns and 254 yards, with no picks. But there were some drops or his numbers would have been higher. Antonio Gates was stellar in catching nine passes for 124 yards and two scores. The pass blocking was OK; Rivers was sacked three times and harassed many more times.

Rushing Offense: F—This should really be an incomplete, as it’s tough to tell about the Chargers’ running game after the team fell behind 28-0 early in the game. LaDainian Tomlinson returned after missing two games but got only 15 yards on seven carries. Hard to believe but the Chargers rushed for only 16 yards on eight attempts—part of that was the score, part of that was the line being manhandled.

Pass Defense: D—Antonio Cromartie is getting picked on—not occasionally, but every game. He has gone from a Pro Bowler to a liability in a remarkable short span. Ben Roethlisberger threw with ease in picking the secondary apart for 33 yards and two scores. The Chargers had three sacks, including the first of the season by an outside linebacker. But there are some real issues here.

Rush Defense: F—What an embarrassment. A second-string runner went for a career-high 165 yards and two scores on 29 rushes. The San Diego line was punished up front, leaving it to the linebackers to try to tackle runners after they had picked up a head of steam. It’s hard to overstate just how bad the Chargers were in stopping the run.

Special Teams: A—Jacob Hester gave the wobbly team a brief breath of fresh air when he stripped the ball and returned it 41 yards on a Pittsburgh punt return. Darren Sproles had a 42-yards kick return, and for the most part, the coverage units were keen, too.

Coaching: F—The Chargers, once again, were not prepared to start a game and fell behind—too far this time. The players aren’t buying into the defensive assignments, and it shows. The offense is still searching for a running attack. Norv Turner has his hands full in righting this ship—a ship that is listing more than the 2-2 record might reveal.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Game Preview: Chargers VS Steelers

Source: Bolts from the Blue

Time for the weekly enlightenment breakdown. In reality, this is one of those games where San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers fans alike should throw the stats out the window. These teams played two evenly-matched games last year that Pittsburgh won because they had that extra oomph. Their offensive line and running game gave them the advantage, and Roethlisberger made enough of those "Nobody can sack this guy!" plays to kill any Chargers comebacks.

With that in mind.....I like stats. The most important one to start with is weather. Sunday night's forecast is looking like it'll be around 45-50 degrees with clear skies. Exactly what the Bolts and their fans were hoping for. Now, lets take a look at the teams and see who will have the advantages for this game.


When the Steelers Have the Ball

If you were to ask me to rate the Chargers' defense thus far on a scale from Poor to Great, I'd probably say it was average. I'd be right. Out of 32 NFL teams, the boys in blue rank 14th in yards allowed and 19th in points allowed per game. In a rare twist from years past, it's actually the pass defense (8th) and now the run defense (26th) that is keeping the team competitive without the football. While this seems to play right into the Steelers' philosophy, Willie Parker will be slowed by a turf toe injury that could certainly benefit the Bolts this week.

Last season, with a healthy Jamal Williams at DT, Willie Parker ran for 261 on 52 carries (5.0 YPC) in two games against the Chargers. This season, without JW in the center of the line it could've been worse. However, after watching LT in 2008 we're all very familiar with the effects of turf toe on a running back. I'm not saying it'll be a piece of cake, but the chances of the Chargers forcing Pittsburgh to throw the ball to win the game are greatly increased by that injured toe.

Through the first three weeks of the season, Pittsburgh has the league's 12th best offense. Their rushing game, with Willie Parker, ranks 27th (it was ranked 23rd in 2008) and their passing game has had to try to carry the load (8th). Although Ben Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl victories under his belt, this is not a team that wants to get into an shootout through the air with anybody. Especially not against the Chargers. However, with teams stopping the run and being able to score on their defense late, the Steelers have fallen to 1-2. Their only victory came against the 0-3 Tennessee Titans, who are so anemic offensively that they only scored 10 points even after Roethlisberger threw 2 interceptions.

The game plan is simple. Stop the run, force Ben to pass. Whether he's throwing into a zone or throwing against man-defense with a decent pass-rush doesn't matter at this point. What matters is step one. Start at step one: Stop the Run. With an rushing offense ranked 27th and missing their best RB, that should seem easy. However, Pittsburgh's running game wasn't much better last year when Willie Parker turned into Walter Payton against the Bolts. It's important that they keep their focus, and it's important for Ogemdi Nwagbuo to not get pushed backwards.

Advantage: Chargers. I came close to saying tie, but I just can't see Parker being effective on Sunday night. Although Pittsburgh ranks 8th in terms of offensive yardage, they rank 25th in terms of offensive points scored per game. Nobody on the team not named Ben Roethlisberger has a rushing TD yet. Santonio Holmes has disappeared since his big game against the Tennessee Titans on opening night. This is a sputtering offense that seems to be heading backwards while the Chargers defense looks to me to be improving. Most importantly, the Chargers' weakness (rush defense) is also the Steelers' weakness (they can't run). Roethlisberger will be forced to throw against Quentin Jammer, Antonio Cromartie, Antoine Cason and Eric Weddle, which presents lots of opportunities for turnovers and puts the Chargers biggest strength in charge of determining the game's outcome. I can live with that.

When the Chargers Have the Ball

Pittsburgh's 2009 team is not too different from their 2008 team. The roster and coaching staff is generally left in tact. The difference is that the defense, without Troy Polamalu or much of a pass rush (14th in sacks), has not been able to carry them to victory. Currently they rank 8th in total defensive yards given up (25th in points allowed per game), 15th against the pass and 6th at stopping the run. Weakness (inability to stop the pass), meet strength (Philip Rivers).

The Chargers' offense is ranked 8th overall after the first 3 weeks of the season, ranked 2nd in throwing the ball and 31st in running it. Yes, Bolts fans, the Chargers running game is only slightly better than the 32nd ranked Arizona Cardinals. However, those Cardinals are the NFC Champions and did come one amazing Santonio Holmes TD catch away from winning the Super Bowl in 2008. So that's promising I suppose.

Advantage: Chargers. First, the bad news. This is still drawing parallels to the 2008 Steelers team that went 2-0 against the Chargers in Pittsburgh. Those Steelers ranked 17th against the pass and 20th in points allowed per game. The good news is that they will be missing the big playmaker that always seemed to end the comeback drive (Polamalu). Since Troy has gone down, the Steelers have lost to Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer. You know Philip Rivers wants to be on that list of QBs to have recently knocked off the Super Bowl Champions.

I don't think William Gay and Deshea Townsend (both 5'10") are going to be able to cover Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee. I don't think the Steelers have one guy who can cover Antonio Gates and another guy to cover LaDainian Tomlinson and/or Darren Sproles. If the offensive line can keep the Pittsburgh pass-rush in check, this should be another great day for Rivers.

Final Analysis

Here's where things are going to get gloomy again. The Pittsburgh Steelers went 8-2 at home in 2008. Their stadium sells out years in advance and their fanbase is one of the most dedicated in football. They have a supreme home field advantage. Although their 2009 record is 1-2, they're still undefeated (1-0) at home. Even more shocking is that the Chargers have played against the Steelers in Pittsburgh 13 times in the last 40 years or so, and have never won a game there. The Bolts are 0-13 when playing in the Steel City. Not only will the Chargers have to overcome the Steelers' team (which looks entirely possible), they have to overome the crowd (not as easy).

For me, this game rests on the shoulders of Marcus McNeill. Although I criticized him last week, I was told his flu was quite severe and that he lost a lot of weight during the week leading up to the game. If he's healthy again, and can handle James Harrison, I feel like the Chargers cannot lose. If Harrison is causing all sorts of problems for Rivers, it's going to be hard to move the ball downfield and Norv will have to rely on the big passing plays again (always a risky gameplan).