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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chargers Dominate Chiefs To Win Six Straight

SAN DIEGO – One of the all-time great Chargers games, it was not. And none of the Chargers – past or present – much cared.

To a recharged team suddenly blazing the path to another division title and the postseason, this was one of those games on the schedule that you just want to get behind you, the game you’re expected to win big and don’t even dare to let get close. And so it was as the Chargers hammered the overmatched (and often discombobulated) Kansas City Chiefs, 43-14, for San Diego’s sixth straight victory.

Only a few minutes into the second half, it was already 35-7, Chargers. Done deal.

Next stop, December, a month in which the Chargers haven’t lost their last 14 games.

It was the Chargers’ last game of their 50th season against one of the original American Football League franchises. Assembled for the occasion were 44 of those named to the Chargers’ all-time team of 50, including 85-year-old Don Coryell, who made an appearance on the arms of Dan Fouts and John Jefferson.

Those two, and so many of the others wearing their old jerseys in pre-game festivities, helped perpetuate the Chargers’ lifelong identity as the most pass-minded team in pro football history and their reputation for high-scoring games.

Carrying on the tradition yesteryear were quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates, who connected on seven passes, two for touchdowns and another that drew a pass-interference call in the end zone. Rivers completed 21 of 28 passes for 317 yards, eventually giving way to backup Billy Volek for the first time this season.

LaDainian Tomlinson also scored twice, and over the course of the afternoon, he moved past Lincoln High product Marcus Allen and Edgerrin James into 10th place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.

Tomlinson had the crowd chanting his name in the fourth quarter, and with a second-and-goal at the 1-yard line, head coach Norv Turner responded by sending Tomlinson back onto the field. Tomlinson had a path to the end zone, too, but committed a rare fumble before crossing the goal line.

Otherwise, the Chiefs were the ones giving away free stuff, committing three lost fumbles and an interception. Beleaguered quarterback Matt Cassel also was hit in the end zone for a safety.

Kansas City acted sort of like the woebegone team that gets invited to play in all the opposing teams’ homecoming games. Indeed, at times, the game became more of a celebration than competition.

With the Chargers leading 35-14, Nate Kaeding was given the chance for a 55-yard field goal, and he hit it for the longest three-pointer he’s ever kicked at Qualcomm Stadium. Kaeding, who added a 23-yard field goal to make it 43-14, had a 57-yarder at Tampa Bay last year.

Kaeding’s one of 11 current Chargers on the all-time team, all of whom were introduced before the opening kickoff. So is cornerback Quentin Jammer, who brought the Chargers out of some early-game malaise with an interception, sparking the blowout.

Continuing their trend of getting trickier as the season goes on, the Chargers used the “Wildcat” for a 5-yard gain and first down by Tomlinson, then a reverse to wide receiver Vincent Jackson that went for 12 yards and another first. Tight end Gates created his own razzle-dazzle, however, with a one-handed grab of Rivers' pass over the middle for a 19-yard touchdown.

The natural thought that the Chargers were now on their way was quickly dispelled by the Chiefs’ game-tying, 91-yard drive in the early second quarter. More discouraging to the Chargers was the fact that three Cassel passes in the march were caught by Chris Chambers, who was released by San Diego last month and since has been one of the league’s most impressive receivers. On third-and-four at the San Diego 7, Chambers accepted a short pass and headed for the corner, twisting his way into the end zone while in the grasp of Antonio Cromartie.

The Chargers insist that Chambers was cut largely because of the improvement shown by Malcom Floyd, and almost as if making a statement, Floyd soon was sent deep for what became a 53-yard connection from Rivers. Floyd landed a yard short of the end zone, leaving enough space for Tomlinson to add another TD to his long ledger.

Only a few minutes later, Tomlinson would get the chance to move past Edgerrin James on the list of all-time rushers, courtesy of the Chargers defense. Jammer stripped the ball from Jamaal Charles for a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Brandon Siler.

Proving much more problematic for the Chiefs was Gates, who was remarkably open when receiving the three passes that made it 21-7, the scoring play a 15-yarder he caught just outside the goal line.

And then it was open season on Cassel. On a safety blitz, Paul Oliver was right there for the catch (between his knees) when an untouched Cassel let the ball slip out of his hand. Oliver cruised 40 yards with the fumble recovery, spotting the Chargers to a three-TD lead before halftime.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Game Preview: Chiefs vs. Chargers

Source: USA Today

The Chargers now play the season anew, being the chased instead of the chaser.

How will they handle it? How does any NFL team handle it?

The Chargers welcome an old and cherished AFL foe in the Kansas City Chiefs.

But the Chargers have to be careful after momentarily reaching the hilltop of the AFC West.

After their dramatic rise to overtake the Broncos with a five-game winning streak, might the Chargers stub their toe — like the Steelers and Bengals the week before?

Careful, men, distractions lurk. This being the team’s big 50th anniversary splash and such, don’t overlook the surging Chiefs.

“There’s a lot going on around our team right now with the honoring the greatest Chargers,” coach Norv Turner said. “A lot of our guys are involved in that. We just came off a big win, so there are a lot of things that could distract us. My focus is going to be on making sure that doesn’t happen.”

But excuse the Chargers if they exhale.

First they notched that emotional come-from-behind road win against the Giants.

Next was a sticky home win over the Eagles.

Then they had the beat down in Denver, backing up their talk by walking away with the AFC West perch.

So a letdown against a team that has won two straight — and riding a titanic win against the Steelers — is just human nature.

“A team coming off two big wins like Kansas City is, I think helps our guys,” countered Turner. “The most important thing for them is to put the film on and when we watch our first game, there are some physical matchups and there are some plays that we made because we were in the right place at the right time. There were some plays that they made. We had some very positive things happen for us in that game (a 37-7 victory).

“Again, this league is such a one- or two-play league.”

The Chargers have had their share of game-changers, as does any team that finds itself on a roll, the one the Chargers always seem to find this time of the year.

While the Chiefs improved, it doesn’t seem likely the Chargers would fall into such a trap. Even if the Chiefs had that stunner on Sunday.

“It really reiterates that this league, each week and each game stands alone,” Philip Rivers said. “Any team in this league is capable each and every week. It’s a division opponent at home. We’ve got things going. There’s no reason why we won’t be geared up and ready to go.”

The Chargers are going into a somewhat easy two-game stretch. After the Chiefs (3-7), it’s a road game at Cleveland.

Then the heavy lifting begins again, with a road game at Dallas and a home tilt against the Bengals.

That’s why the Chargers have to avoid becoming complacent the next two weeks, with Job No. 1 being not overlooking the Chiefs.

It can happen, with a superior team coming in on Thanksgiving week.

“I think when you start getting to this point in the season around Thanksgiving you do, but I do a pretty good job of not falling into that trap,” Turner said. “I know this is a hard week to prepare. I know there are teams that handle the Thanksgiving week better than others.”

The Chargers have handled a 2-3 start into a gaudy 7-3 mark. And they got there by beating the tough teams as well as the ones not among the game’s standouts — like division rivals Oakland and Kansas City.

“I’ve been coaching in this league a long time in the same division and you start believing some things that have been true,” Turner said. “Sometimes you say it and you wonder if it still is true. When you go beat a team like that, sometimes people assume, ‘You went to Kansas City and you should beat them because they’re not very good,’ or ‘you beat Oakland because they aren’t (very good).

“Then you turn around and see Kansas City beat Pittsburgh and Oakland beat Cincinnati, two pretty good football teams, and it starts to reconfirm some of the things I believe. Maybe I haven’t lost it completely in terms of understanding completely what this league is all about.”

The Chargers understand what they have done in erasing the Broncos’ lead is something special. But only if they don’t shrug with the likes of the Chiefs and Browns up next.

SERIES HISTORY: 99th regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead series 50-47-1. The Chargers have dominated of late and are going for their fifth straight win in this matchup, something they haven’t done since the late 1980s. The Chargers have also won four of the past five meetings in San Diego.

-Black-out officially lifted for this Sundays' game against Chiefs. Chargers currently are tied for the longest streak of sold out games, in NFL history! Now that's what I call a Nation!

—The Chargers signed veteran free agent T Jon Runyan, who replaces starting right tackle Jeromey Clary after Clary was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury.

Runyan, who turns 36 three days before Sunday’s game, has been one of the NFL’s premier offensive tackles over the previous 13 seasons The past 12 seasons (1997-08), he never missed a regular season or postseason start, totaling 213 straight games (192 consecutive regular season starts and 21 postseason starts). He hasn’t played this season.

“We are very fortunate that a player of Jon’s experience and ability was available at this time,” Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said. “He is an outstanding competitor, and I have always admired the physical, nasty approach he brings to the field every game. He will be added to the mix and we will move forward.”

Runyan said he is fit.

“I’m probably in the best shape I have been in 10 years,” he said. “I’ve been training that much.”

Runyan says he’ll retire at the end of the season and campaign for Congress in New Jersey’s 3rd District.

—CB Antonio Cromartie is still the focus of an incident that occurred in the hours after Sunday’s win in Denver. Cromartie, it’s believed, threw a champagne bottle that hit another bar patron in the head. The case remains under investigation to see if Cromartie can be charged with assault.

—The Steelers embarrassed the Chargers earlier this season so for them to fall to the Chiefs didn’t go unnoticed in the Chargers’ locker room.

“For Pittsburgh to go in there and lose to Kansas City, that’s a real eye opener to everybody in the NFL,” LT Marcus McNeill said. “It doesn’t matter who you play. You’ve got to come to play. We’re on a little streak right now and we want to keep it going.”

—The front line has been great in keeping Philip Rivers upright during the five-game winning streak. Rivers wasn’t sacked in the Chargers’ win over Denver after they got to him five times in the earlier matchup. The blocking has gotten better and the play-calling has called for shorter routes.

“Whether you block them or not, you usually get them off,” Rivers said. “If they’re bringing one too many and you’re throwing it quick, it’s frustrating for a defense to keep blitzing because (they) can’t get there.”

—The Chargers have righted their red-zone defense and it showed on Sunday when the Broncos had two forced fumbles in the red zone.

“With our red-zone defense, we got a good scheme,” Turner said. “We’ve got good players doing it. We are continuing to grow and grow in terms of how physical we are so it’s harder to run the ball down there.”

—During the Chargers’ five-game winning streak, the team is plus-five in the turnover ratio. In their first five games, the Chargers were even.

—OLB Shawne Merriman beat Runyan, his new teammate, for the first sack of his career in 2005.

—The Chargers may be among the hottest NFL teams but a ticket for Sunday’s game isn’t one. The game will likely be blacked out on local TV, breaking a streak of 44 straight sellouts for the Chargers.

BY THE NUMBERS: 250 — Number of career regular-season games for long snapper David Binn on Sunday, a Chargers team record.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Their record probably isn’t where they want it, but they’re still battling like crazy. You see what they’ve done the past few weeks. It’ll be what you expect in a division game.” – QB Philip Rivers, on the pesky Chiefs.


Newcomer T Jon Runyan isn’t expected to start this week, with the team sticking with Brandyn Dombrowski to take Jeromey Clary’s place in the lineup at right tackle. But at some point Runyan should play with the first team as he gets back into football shape and learns the Chargers’ system.

Dombrowski, who filled in well when Clary went down Sunday, will make his third career NFL start after starting two games at right guard earlier this year.


—K Nate Kaeding, with four field goals Sunday, has now hit 54 straight inside of 40 yards. A blocked extra-point attempt, however, ended his team-record streak 248 consecutive PATs.

—P Mike Scifres saw a streak come to an end when one of his efforts landed in the end zone. It marked the first touchback of the season, coming on his 37th punt.

—WR Legedu Naanee is making his catches count. He has four catches in the past two games and two have gone for touchdowns. Look for Naanee when the team goes into its wildcat formation.

—RT Jeromey Clary, who is out for the season, was given a game ball from Sunday’s win.

—WR Vincent Jackson could be primed for a breakout game. He’s been relatively quiet in the past two wins, catching five balls for 66 yards and no scores. In the first K.C. game, Jackson went for 142 yards and a score.

GAME PLAN: The Chargers will stick with pounding the ball, which plays into something the Chiefs don’t do very well: stopping the run. But if they can keep it low to the ground, it saves Philip Rivers for another day in which he is needed more. Plus, the offensive line has a confidence about running the ball, something not seen since opening day. Stay with it and keep Matt Cassel and Chris Chambers off the field. Vincent Jackson is nursing some sore ribs, so the less he has to expose those, the better.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Chargers secondary vs. Chiefs WR Chris Chambers. The backend of the defense has played better of late, since it was revamped with the release of S Clinton Hart. But Chiefs QB Matt Cassel has a new toy in Chambers, the former Charger who was released last month. Antonio Cromartie will see plenty of Chambers, but he will need some help over the top from Eric Weddle and Kevin Ellison. Chambers, though, has been a hit in his brief stint in Kansas City with 10 catches in three games for 248 yards and three scores. With Dwayne Bowe not being 100 percent of late Chambers has become the go-to guy for the Chiefs.

Chargers run defense vs. Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles. It figures the Chiefs will try to keep the ball away from Philip Rivers by relying on its running game to chew clock. With Larry Johnson gone, that role has fallen to Charles, who rushed for 103 yards against the Raiders two weeks ago. He is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. The Chargers’ run defense, which has improved greatly over the five-game winning streak, got hit for 115 yards last week but has shown a new spark since Kevin Burnett and Brandon Siler have been contributing more at inside linebacker.

Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Chiefs run defense. The Chargers are feeling good these days with a two-pronged attack — no longer is it Philip Rivers heaving long passes. The Chargers are coming off a season-high 203 rushing yards in the win over Denver. Many of those yards came in the second half when the Chargers were killing the clock with a big lead, but the confidence gained from that stays with an offensive line, and this one was feeling good about itself after that performance. The Chiefs are giving up an average of 139 yards per game as the front line has been average. Tomlinson has rushed for 169 yards in his last two games.

Chargers coverage units vs. Chiefs return game featuring Charles. The Chargers stood up to the test last week when they kept Eddie Royal under wraps; earlier this year he returned a kick and a punt against them for scores. But that coverage unit will be challenged again by Charles. He took the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score last week and is average a nifty 25.7 yards per kickoff return.

INJURY IMPACT: C Nick Hardwick (ankle) was a limited participant on Wednesday; he probably still is a couple of week away from playing.

OLB Shawne Merriman (foot) and OLB Shaun Phillips (ankle) didn’t practice but both will play Sunday. DE Luis Castillo (calf) could be a game-time decision; he didn’t practice on Wednesday. DL Travis Johnson (groin) didn’t work but he should be part of the Sunday rotation. WR Vincent Jackson (ribs) didn’t practice but should be able to go Sunday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chargers place Clary on IR and sign Runyan


Newly-signed Chargers offensive tackle Jon Runyan had to be patient, but Tuesday he found a great fit.

After opportunities to find a new home came and went prior to the start of the 2009 season, veteran offensive tackle Jon Runyan was content to be patient and wait for the perfect situation.

That came Tuesday in the form of a first-place team suddenly in need of help at tackle due to injuries. Runyan, a 13-year veteran who had started 192-consecutive games before the Eagles released him this spring, signed a one-year contract with the Chargers.

“It’s unfortunate that a lot of times it takes an injury to get in a position like this, but once the beginning of the season passed, this is the kind of situation I was looking for,” Runyan said. “I was fortunate enough that it worked out here. It’s the right time and right situation and I felt comfortable doing it.”

Runyan (6-7, 330) will fill the roster spot of Jeromey Clary, who will be placed on “Reserve-Injured” Tuesday. Runyan underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in February but believes he’s physically ready to get back at it. He’ll practice with the Chargers Wednesday as they begin preparations for Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.

“I’m probably in the best shape I’ve been in in 10 years,” Runyan said. “I’ve been training that much. It’s my personality; when I do it outside of the football facility, I tend to overdo it. It’s a little more relaxed when you’re in the building all the time. I’ve been going four or five days a week for the past nine months so I’m there (physically).”

General Manager A.J. Smith lauded Runyan’s physical presence and said that the veteran “will be added to the mix” at offensive tackle.

“We are very fortunate that a player of Jon’s experience and ability was available at this time,” Smith said. “He is an outstanding competitor and I have always admired the physical, nasty approach he brings to the field every game.”

In 13 NFL seasons, Runyan has appeared in 223 games, including 21 playoff contests, five conference championship games and two Super Bowls. He began his career with the Houston Oilers and holds the distinction of being the only active NFL player who spent time with the franchise before its move to Tennessee. After four seasons in Houston/Nashville, Runyan signed with Philadelphia where he was a fixture at right tackle for nine seasons. He’ll spent Tuesday night immersing himself in the Chargers’ playbook as he tries to quickly pick up the offense.

“It’s a foreign language,” Runyan said. “But the basis of football is all the same. It’s just a matter of making that transition in your mind. I’m ready to get to work on it.”

Chargers Team Report – 11/24/09

Source: USA Today
The Chargers got their fifth consecutive victory and a spot atop the AFC West standings, but it came with a cost.

Right tackle Jeromey Clary suffered an ankle injury which will likely shelve him for the rest of the regular season.

The Chargers, though, are reluctant to put Clary on injured reserve, hoping if they make a late playoff run he might be able to go.

So look for Clary to stick, but likely not do much until late in the season.

That was the sense coach Norv Turner gave a day after the Chargers thumped the Broncos 32-3.

There was also troubling news off the field.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who had an interception in Sunday’s win, is under investigation for assault with a deadly weapon. He is accused of throwing of a champagne bottle in a San Diego bar altercation.

He was out early Monday morning after the team’s big win.

Cromartie wrote via Twitter: "I want 2 apologize to charger nation and my fans. There's sum stuff out abt me that's not true. It will come out. God Bless"


—Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman couldn’t hide the significance of Sunday’s win.

“I’d love to say it’s just another game, but we were playing for first in the division. This game meant a lot to a lot of us,” Merriman said.

—Running back LaDainian Tomlinson was scratching his head when Denver’s Chris Simms trotted out with first team instead of Kyle Orton. Orton was battling an ankle injury.

“I was surprised Orton didn’t start the game,” he said. “I saw him in pregame, and he looked good throwing the ball.”

—The win was the Chargers’ fifth straight.

“We never panicked,” inside linebacker Stephen Cooper said of the team’s reaction after a slow start to the season. “Look up and down our roster, and you will see All-Pro caliber players.”



—DE Luis Castillo (calf) could sit out Wednesday’s practice.

—ILB Kevin Burnett continues to shine after missing three games recently with a knee injury. He had his best day as a Charger on Sunday with seven tackles and two sacks.

—LB James Holt is making his mark on special teams. He had two more tackles Sunday.

—WR Legedu Naanee continues to get more playing time. Naanee had a scoring catch for the second straight week.

—DB Paul Oliver is playing more thanks to his productivity. He had four tackles, one for a loss and a pass defensed.

—FB Mike Tolbert continues to prove he can do more than block and play special teams. The Chargers are eager to slip him some carries, and he has responded. He had 58 yards and a score Sunday — including a 32-yard run.

—OLB Shawne Merriman (foot) held up OK in the game.


PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus — Philip Rivers was accurate again, missing on only one of his 14 first-half passes and hitting 17 of 22 overall. Rivers didn’t have to be great, just manage the game while leaning on the running game. San Diego’s pass-blocking was keen; the Broncos had five sacks in the earlier meeting and none in this one.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A — This unit had its best game of the season with 203 rushing yards. With a comfortable lead, the Chargers were able to sock the game away on the ground while giving this piece of the offense a chunk of confidence.

PASS DEFENSE: A — Chris Simms and Kyle Orton didn’t look comfortable, with the secondary playing well and a pass-rush that pestered them both. The Chargers allowed just 181 yards, and that was against an offense that was throwing often to get back into the game. Antonio Cromartie got a pick, and Eric Weddle was active with six tackles.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — There were a few leaks here on the Broncos’ decent-looking drives, but some adjustments were made, and Denver had to start heaving the ball. But the Broncos did gain for 115 rushing yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A — The Chargers were much better in this area after allowing two returns for scores in the previous matchup. The coverage units were fine. Nate Kaeding boomed five touchbacks thanks to the thin air, and he went 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts.

COACHING: A — Having noted the Broncos’ pass rush in the teams’ first meeting, Norv Turner had the offense turn to short and medium routes to get the ball out fast. With the safeties on their heels, the short stuff worked, and the running game re-established itself. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera went after the Broncos quarterbacks, and the pass rush was effective without Shawne Merriman having a big day.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Chargers "OWN" Broncos

San Diego Tribune— The smiles on their faces, their yells of defiance and the bounce in their step as they left the field revealed the importance of this beatdown.

The Chargers led from their first drive yesterday and routed the Denver Broncos 32-3 to take over what they believe is their rightful spot atop the AFC West.

"You'd love to say this is just another game, but it wasn't," linebacker Shawne Merriman said. "We were playing for first place in the division."

The Chargers, winners of five straight since Denver beat them Oct. 19 in San Diego, were at least a mile high as they considered their current roll and the significance of pummeling the plummeting Broncos.

"We had to re-establish ourselves this game as the first-place team in the AFC West," tight end Antonio Gates said. "That's why it was huge.

"The mental part was to prove to them we're still the AFC West champs. I think that was bigger than anything."

The Broncos (6-4) began the game running seven times. On their eighth play, quarterback Chris Simms dropped to pass, Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips hit his hand from behind and knocked the ball to the ground, where safety Steve Gregory picked it up.

Starting at their 31-yard line, the Chargers (7-3) drove to a touchdown and a lead that was never in jeopardy even as they struggled to put the game away until the third quarter.

The Chargers are now 11-5 over the past four Novembers, with one more game to play before reaching the month in which they haven't lost since 2005.

"We fought back earlier this year, and we're playing our best ball," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "Hopefully, we can keep going that way through December as we have in the past."

Already, they believe they've re-acquired division ownership.

Said running back LaDainian Tomlinson: "I think we established that we're the best team in the AFC West this year."

Jay Cutler is gone. So maybe Josh McDaniels is the Bronco that San Diego will love to hate now.

The Chargers' locker room was abuzz yesterday, as players were both offended and amused by the Denver Broncos head coach telling the Chargers linebackers before yesterday's game, "We own you."

That, at least, was the version offered by the linebackers, to a man.

McDaniels, who slowed down to talk on his way to his car more than an hour after the game, said the Chargers started the trash talking. He would not elaborate on what he may have said, but neither did he deny he talked back.

"They talked to me first," McDaniels said. "I'm not making a story about this. If I did, I'd be able to tell you some things that aren't (fit) for papers."

The linebackers did not deny one or more among them may have started the dishing, but they thought McDaniels' behavior was beneath a man in his position.

"You gotta like his fire," Stephen Cooper said. "As a head coach I don't think you want to start jawing with players if you're not putting the pads on."

With a laugh, considering the Chargers' 32-3 victory, Cooper added, "Looks like he owned us, but it got repossessed."

A smiling Shawne Merriman said of McDaniels popping off: "It was cute."

Other Chargers said McDaniels directed his barb at Shaun Phillips. A source said it was Phillips who actually began the give and take.

"I'm not surprised," Phillips said of McDaniels talking. "He's a little cocky. ... It's all good, all fun and games. We didn't look too much into it. As a coach, I hope he has that mindset. But to say he owns us? I mean, you beat us one time. What has he really done in this league? He had a team 6-0, and now he's looking up at us from second place."
Clary gone?

The Chargers may have lost right tackle Jeromey Clary for the season after he was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with an injury to his left ankle.

Head coach Norv Turner said he believes the "injury is going to be more serious than I'd like it to be."

Brandyn Dombrowski replaced Clary and will be the likely fill-in, going forward, though the Chargers did sign signed tackle Corey Clark from the practice squad last week.

Dombrowski started two games in September at right guard and has been working at left tackle.

Clary left last week's game and did not practice last week with a sprained right ankle.
Blackout looms

Approximately 7,000 tickets remain for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, and it appears the Chargers' club record-tying streak of 44 games without a local television blackout is in danger of ending.

Said Jim Steeg, the Chargers' chief operating officer: "It will be very difficult to sell 7,000 tickets in three days with a holiday weekend starting on Wednesday."

The game must be declared a sellout by 1:05 p.m. Thursday to avert the blackout, although an extension is possible due to because of the Thanksgiving. holiday.
Playing it smart

LaDainian Tomlinson carried 20 times for 73 yards and a touchdown but was off the field in stretches, in part by design and in part due to because of the hip injury that continues to bother him.

"It's still bruised," said Tomlinson, who injured the hip Nov. 8 against New York. "Whenever I get hit or land it, I monitor it. But I don't think about it. ... I also want to stay fresh throughout the game like I used to do with Michael Turner, and (Darren Sproles) is doing a heck of a job. That's why I come out, so I can be fresh in the fourth quarter if we need to put the game away."
Big air

Nate Kaeding is not one of the league's big legs on kickoffs. In fact, there are 16 kickers in the NFL with more touchbacks than Kaeding since he came into the league in 2004.

But maybe if Kaeding kicked in the altitude in Denver every week ...

Kaeding had five touchbacks yesterday, bringing his career total in six games in Denver to 19, exactly half his career total.

To make it even easier on Kaeding, 15-yard penalties against the Broncos had him twice kicking off from the 45.

"I've made a living off getting touchbacks here," Kaeding said. "To give it to me on the 45 it was a gift for sure."
Nuts 'n' Bolts

* Defensive end Luis Castillo left the game in the second quarter with a calf injury and did not return.
* Cornerback Quentin Jammer left the game for a play after colliding with Phillips while defending a pass. Last week he was felled for a series by friendly fire, when he and Eric Weddle collided. Said Jammer: "The only time I get hurt, it's always one of my teammates hitting me."
* For the first time in 50 years of playing the Broncos, the Chargers have won in Denver for the third time in four years ... only an Ed Hochuli call from having won four straight.
* After 36 punts, Mike Scifres finally had one make it into reach the end zone for a touchback. That leaves Detroit's Nick Harris as the only punter in the league to have punted more than 30 times without a touchback.
* In starting 6-0, the Broncos outscored opponents 76-10 in the second half, including 17-3 at San Diego. But during their four-game losing streak they've been outscored 77-17 after halftime, including 17-3 yesterday.
* The Chargers scored a touchdown on their first possession for just the second time in 10 games and third time in the past 31 games.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chargers Thundering Into Denver

SAN DIEGO — What a difference a month makes.

When the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos were last on the field together a month agoat Qualcomm Stadium, it appeared the AFC West race was all but settled.

The Broncos defeated the Chargers 34-23 on Monday Night Football to take a 3½-game lead in the division race. Denver left that game undefeated at 6-0, and the Chargers had fallen to 2-3.

But never say never with San Diego, which now owns the same 6-3 mark as Denver atop the AFC West.

"It's like déjà vu, isn't it?" Chargers tight end Antonio Gates says, referring to the showdown in Denver on Sunday. "It's like every time we play Denver, it means more than one game. We'll be fired up."

The reversal of fortunes for these teams smacks of the turn of events late last season, when the Broncos collapsed down the stretch and became the first team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to blow a three-game division lead with three games to play, allowing San Diego to claim the division crown.

That meltdown seemed so unlikely to be repeated. Denver, with a rebuilt defense and new coach Josh McDaniels, started 6-0.

Yet here we are again. A Broncos collapse has coincided with a Chargers rally. "It's resiliency," Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie says.

The Chargers seemingly thrive on beating such long odds. They entered December last season left for dead at 4-8. In 2007, during Norv Turner's first season as coach, they started 1-3 before winning the division and advancing to the AFC title game.

Now this.

"We've been in this situation before, so it's not anything new to us," linebacker Shawne Merriman says. "You hate to start off the season the way we start off sometimes, but when your back's against the wall, we've shown we can go out and perform."

Turner praises the character and talent he's working with, but maintains that the early season struggles in each of his campaigns were unique in each case.

Two years ago, he actually projected a slow start as the team was adjusting to a new staff and system. Last season, they started 0-2, losing on the final play against the Carolina Panthers in the opener and the following week falling victim to referee Ed Hochuli's erroneous ruling that an apparent fumble by Denver quarterback Jay Cutler in the final minute was an incompletion.

This time, Turner points to injuries as the key factor. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, nose tackle Jamal Williams and center Nick Hardwick were among five players injured in the season-opening victory at the Oakland Raiders. Williams, anchor of the 3-4 front, was lost for the season with a torn triceps. Hardwick hasn't returned from an ankle injury.

Tomlinson missed two games with a sprained ankle, and Turner saw his performance in Sunday's 31-23 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles (24 rushes for 96 yards and two TDs) as a sign that he's healthy again.

"We were beat up and banged up," Turner says. "We played that first month with guys on the offensive and defensive lines who were just feeling their way and learning how to play in this league."

Merriman's gradual return to form, after missing virtually all of last season with torn knee ligaments, also has been a boost for the defense.

Says Turner: "Merriman is a lot healthier than he was in September. He and (linebacker) Shaun Phillips, the month they've had, they've been on a tear."

San Diego's defense was on the field for 71 snaps and allowed 462 yards against the Eagles, but three times forced them to settle for short field goals when backed up in the red zone. A week earlier, the unit kept the New York Giants from scoring a game-clinching touchdown late in the fourth quarter, forcing a field goal. That allowed quarterback Philip Rivers to lead a game-winning 80-yard drive in the final minutes that was capped with an 18-yard scoring pass to Vincent Jackson.

"Right now, we're on the cusp of being a good defense," inside linebacker Kevin Burnett says. "We can talk about being great later. If we can be consistent and then put together a string of victories — six, seven, eight in a row — then you can say we're a good defense."

The Chargers know all about winning streaks.

They won five in a row last season before an AFC divisional playoff loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers. Two seasons ago, they took an eight-game streak into the AFC title game. In 2006, they closed the regular season with a 10-game winning streak before a playoff-opening loss that cost Marty Schottenheimer his job as Turner's predecessor.

"We know how to rally," cornerback Quentin Jammer says. "When we put our minds to it, we know how to get it done as a team."

They'll soon get another chance to prove that to the Broncos.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chargers Win! Denver Doesn't!

SIGN ON SAN DIEGO.COM – Little more than 3½ weeks ago, they were 3½ games out of first place. They had all sorts of defensive shortcomings, no running game to speak of and no reason to think LaDainian Tomlinson would be able to bring it back to life.

Catch the Denver Broncos? Again?


Four games and four wins later, almost unfathomably, the Chargers already have climbed back alongside Denver atop the AFC West Division. Withstanding a full-scale passing assault by Donovan McNabb, the Chargers on Sunday pulled out a 31-23 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, drawing even with the Broncos at 6-3. As these things happen, of course, the Chargers play at Denver next Sunday.

The game was witnessed by 68,879, the third-largest crowd to ever see the Chargers play at home, and a considerable number of those in attendance came across country to see McNabb shred the Chargers’ defense. And he did. To a point.

Thwarted time and again by San Diego when getting in close through the first three quarters – by which time the Chargers led 28-9 on the strength of two Tomlinson touchdowns – McNabb passed the Eagles to two scores to make things interesting. He finished with 450 yards passing.

Philip Rivers showed some mastery of his own, though, killing enough time off the clock en route to a Nate Kaeding field goal with 30 seconds to play. The game ended with Antonio Cromartie intercepting McNabb's desperation pass in the end zone.

Even before kickoff, the Chargers knew they had first place within their grasp, no small thing to a team that began the season 2-3 and already 3½ games behind the then-unbeaten Denver Broncos. In an earlier game Sunday, the Broncos were upset at Washington, dropping the Broncos to 6-3 with their third straight loss.

The Eagles gave the Chargers a nice little gift in the game’s early going, too, Sav Rocca squibbing his first punt for just 30 yards to set up San Diego at the Eagles’ 40. The Chargers covered half the distance, including a 10-yard gain by receiver Legedu Naanee on a direct snap from “wildcat” formation, before Rivers hit fullback Mike Tolbert with a quick pass over the middle and the 20-yard touchdown.

As they did last week in a road defeat of the New York Giants, the Chargers were particularly effective in first-down defense, forcing the Eagles to the air. Not all of the passing was done by McNabb, either. Michael Vick made his first appearance of the game late in the first quarter, throwing a second-and-eight pass well downfield to DeSean Jackson, who dropped the ball and turned an ankle in the process.

San Diego maintained the 7-0 lead into the second quarter and immediately went to work building on it, running all sorts of different stuff at Philadelphia’s flyaround defense. Tomlinson took the wildcat for five yards, and with a six–yard gain two plays later, he passed Thurman Thomas (12,074 yards) into 13th place on the all-time rushing list.

Before the drive was over, Tomlinson had tied local product Marcus Allen in third place on the all-time touchdown list with his 145th, a five-yard bolt up the middle.

A 14-0 lead’s nothing against a multiskilled offense like Philadelphia’s, though, and McNabb quickly passed the Eagles downfield. A pass interference call on Quentin Jammer in the end zone gave the Eagles a first-and-goal at the one-yard line. They would get no closer.

Inside linebackers Kevin Burnett and Brandon Siler combined to stuff a first-down dive. McNabb resorted to a bootleg play, but tight end Brent Celek was too well covered in the back corner of the end zone and McNabb effectively threw it away.

On third down, running back Edra Buckley was stopped cold by defensive linemen Ian Scott and Alfonso Boone, whereupon inside linebacker Stephen Cooper took a few steps toward the Philadelphia bench and challenged the Eagles to try it again on fourth. Not biting, head coach Andy Reid sent on the field-goal unit, and it was 14-3.

Likewise, McNabb guided the Eagles on another promising drive on its next possession, only to come away with another David Akers field goal of 25 yards eight seconds before intermission.

While momentum seemed to be flipping over to the Eagles, they continued to hurt themselves with penalties in the third quarter. A 34-yard reception by Jeremy Maclin was negated by his own pass-interference infraction, and a 10-yard gain by Tomlinson was extended by an unnecessary–roughness call.

Not that Tomlinson needed the help. He was running like the L.T. of old – 24 carries for 96 yards – and continuing to pass some old legends in the process.

Breaking through the right side and capitalizing on the blocks of guard Kris Dielman and Brandon Manumaleuna, Tomlinson went 20 yards for the TD that pushed him ahead of Marcus Allen on the TD list, leaving him behind only Jerry Rice (208) and Tomlinson idol Emmitt Smith (175). At the same time, he surpassed Franco Harris (12,130) in rushing yards.

Qualcomm Stadium was seemingly half-full of fans wearing Eagles colors. To be sure, they were booing like true Philadelphians, especially when Reid chose yet again to take an Akers field goal instead of a chance on fourth-and-one at the San Diego seven-yard line.

Three-pointers indeed weren’t going to cut it after the Chargers made it 28-9 with their next drive, triggered by Darren Sproles’ kickoff return to the 41-yard line. Rivers connected on four straight passes, the last one a 20-yarder to Naanee, wide open and waiting just inside the backline of the end zone.

The rest of the game, virtually the entire fourth quarter, was basically spent watching the clock and McNabb completing pass after pass. Two of them were caught in the end zone.

McNabb found Maclin uncovered for a five-yard score. When he hit Celek for an 11-yard TD with 7:12 remaining, pulling the Eagles to within a touchdown of winning, McNabb had completed 33 of 50 attempts for 418 yards.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Game Preview: Eagles vs. Chargers

Source: Yahoo Sports

Do they have it again? Do the San Diego Chargers have that strut that oozes from successful teams and players confident in their abilities and ability to win?

LaDainian Tomlinson thinks so.

“We’ve finally come together,” Tomlinson said. “It usually takes a while to build that ‘it’ factor. When we get our swagger going, we’re pretty tough to stop.”

The Chargers don’t look to stop their three-game winning streak Sunday, despite the always-tough Philadelphia Eagles coming to San Diego.

Like they have in all three years of coach Norv Turner’s tenure, the Chargers start slow from the gate they build momentum.

This season is no different as a team which was 2-3 and three games behind the AFC West-leading Broncos is now 5-3 and a game behind Denver.

The Chargers, it seems, never do it the easy way. And Sunday’s opponent is certainly no soft touch, especially with the Eagles being in a sour mood after losing to the Dallas Cowboys last week.

But the Chargers are lassoing another winning run, which is becoming a San Diego tradition.

It seems the Chargers don’t get serious until the scoreboard or standings don’t give them any other choice.

“Maybe we’re just are a mature team that knows how to overcome adversity,” outside linebacker Shaun Phillips said. “There is going to be adversity throughout the season.”

The Chargers got an early dose when they lost both anchors of their lines in the opening game. Also, Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman was slow rounding into shape after knee surgery and the running game didn’t—and still hasn’t—appeared.

But the Chargers just shrug and head into another battle against an NFC East rival, one game after beating another one, the Giants, 21-20, in the Meadowlands.

“Every team has highs and lows and maybe our lows come at the beginning of the year,” Phillips said.

Other people’s lows come at the end of the year. Look at the Giants—they started 5-0 and they have lost four in a row.

“It’s hard to be perfect for a whole season, so where there is adversity it’s how your respond to the adversity,” Phillips said. “We have done a good job the past few years of responding to adversity.”

The Chargers aren’t out of the woods, not by a long shot.

The Eagles will be a tough foe, then it’s a showdown at Denver. There’s a possible lull with the Chiefs and Browns next on the schedule, but the Chargers jump right back into the fire against the Cowboys and Bengals.

But the Chargers, once again, have climbed off the mat. Just when everyone was writing them off and calling for Turner’s scalp, they’ve reeled off three straight wins. If you want to discount this winning streak because two of the triumphs came against the Chiefs and Raiders, go ahead.

Still, it would be foolish counting the Chargers out—although they have a tall task in beating the Eagles Sunday.

But they returned from New York with more than a foam figurine of the Statue of Liberty. That thrilling win last Sunday could pay off this Sunday and through the season’s second half.

“When you’re able to win in that atmosphere and have that type of excitement in your locker room after a comeback win, it can go a long way,” quarterback Philip Rivers said.

How far? The Chargers are convinced that road will lead to their fourth straight playoff appearance.

“We’ve always had a close team,” Rivers said. “But an experience like Sunday really can bring a team together.”

The Chargers get to prove just that on Sunday against the Eagles.

Series History: 10th regular-season meeting. Chargers lead series 5-4, though Philadelphia has won the last two meetings, most recently taking a 20-17 victory at Lincoln Financial Field in 2005 as the Chargers lost on a blocked field goal. The Eagles have a distinction they can’t be too proud of: They were the victim when QB Ryan Leaf got one of his four career wins as a Charger when he beat Philadelphia in 1998—the last time the Eagles played in San Diego.


—If coach Norv Turner needed an instructional video on how to run a “7” route with the game on the line, he would just point to Vincent Jackson’s course on Sunday.

“The last route is how you would team a guy to run that route against that coverage,” Turner said. “It is as good as you can run a route. He gave him a great move off the ball to get a release. He ran up the field as fast as you can, full speed, and when he came out of the break the ball was in the air and Philip made a perfect throw.”

It was a throw that won the game for the Chargers.

CB Quentin Jammer said it was outsiders, not the Chargers, doubting the team could turn it around after a slow start.

“We have always had character,” he said. “But it was the media that put it out there and said that we were done. We have always known that we have a lot of character. We have seen it previous years where we come back, so I can’t say enough about the character of this football team.”

Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera spent five seasons as the Eagles linebackers coach from 1998-2003.

Michael Vick is more than a show piece for the Eagles. “It does present problems in terms of us in our preparation – we have to prepare for it,” Turner said. “And they try to create problems for your defense by spreading you out. It helps get their play-makers in space. The people that say he doesn’t look as fast aren’t the guys getting ready to play him that week.”

Eagles secondary coach Brian Stewart was part of the Chargers’ staff when it went 14-2 in 2006, his final year with the club after a three-year run.

Eagles coach Andy Reid has a 3-2 record against Turner-coached teams.

QB Donovan McNabb always seems to get away from the rush. How does he do it? “He’s a quick guy and instinctive,” Shaun Phillips said. “That makes us more cautious about our rush lanes. That’s how we stop Donovan – us being diligent in what we do.”

How big is it that OLB Shawne Merriman is finally fit? “He has made a complete difference to our entire defense,” Turner said. “It makes it easier on everybody.”

The Chargers’ coverage teams will be challenged in tracking Philly’s DeSean Jackson. He averages 15.2 yards per punt return, the third-best mark in the league.

By The Numbers: 5—Number of consecutive games WR Vincent Jackson has a touchdown reception if he can get one against the Eagles.

Quote To Note: “Winning can be contagious, just like losing can be. We’ve been able to put three in a row together against teams with different styles, playing at different levels. Our focus has been there and we really have improved.”—QB Philip Rivers, on the team’s three-game winning streak.


The Chargers will get a boost at inside linebacker this week with Kevin Burnett returning after being out three weeks with a knee injury.

But in Burnett’s—and Tim Dobbins’—absence, third-string ILB Brandon Siler has done a good job. Look for defensive coordinator Ron Rivera to rotate Burnett and Siler to try and keep both of them fresh.

Dobbins, Burnett’s backup, is likely down one more week from a knee injury.

Player Notes

WR Legedu Naanee is a versatile player who bears watching. He had three receptions for 20 yards and could be used more if the Chargers go to the Wildcat offense.

S Kevin Ellison’s move into the starting lineup is paying off. Ellison, a sixth-round pick, had 10 tackles, a quarterback hit and two passes defensed in his best game of the season.

RB Jacob Hester gets an occasional carry and is used as a blocker, a role he splits with Mike Tolbert. But where he is really making his mark is on special teams and he had a game-saving tackle late Sunday after Philip Rivers threw an interception.

CB Antoine Cason got a dose of confidence Sunday when subbing late in the game for Quentin Jammer. Cason had an assist on a tackle and helped break up a pass in his brief appearance.

WR Buster Davis continues to be a healthy game-day inactive. The team isn’t getting much bang from a former first-round pick.

Game Plan: That adage of needing to run the ball to establish a passing game needs to take the week off—at least as far as the Chargers are concerned. Don’t look for them to get stubborn this week and try to get the running game going—they are ranked dead last with 69.6 yards per game. The Eagles allow less than 100 yards per game on the ground, so why would the Chargers try to force the issue this game? They won’t, meaning it’s going to be up the Eagles to match points with the Chargers in what figures to be a shootout. At some point, the Chargers do need to get their running game untracked—to a degree, anyway. But this isn’t the week.

Matchups To Watch: Chargers secondary, which has improved of late, vs. the big-play capability of the Eagles behind QB Donovan McNabb. The backend of the defense has played better, some of that because of the improved pass rush and because the backend was shaken up. But there is a rookie at safety in Kevin Ellison and the Chargers have to be careful he keeps an eye on things so the Eagles don’t go up top. They must keep an eye on DeSean Jackson, who has scored six touchdowns of at least 50 yards this season, including one rushing score and one punt return. He has also has non-scoring receptions of 51 and 43 yards. Through eight games, Jackson has 26 receptions for 530 yards. His 20.4 yards per reception ranks second in the NFL. So CBs Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie must be on their game, but they will also need to some help from the safeties. Among the reasons the Cowboys beat the Eagles last week was because Jackson was restricted to two catches for 29 yards.

Chargers pass rush, which is led by LBs Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips, vs. Eagles front line and mobile QB Donavan McNabb. The Chargers have won three straight, in part, because the defenders are meeting at the quarterback. In each of the three latest wins, the Chargers have five sacks in each game. If Merriman, who has four in two games, and Phillips, who has five in three games, can pester McNabb, it could take care of the some of the deeper routes downfield developing and contain the number of big plays the Eagles can produce. The Eagles have allowed 21 sacks. And with RB Brian Westbrook possibly not playing the Eagles might not have a running game – either through rushing or short passes – to lean on. The key here is McNabb being able to buy time and move around – that wasn’t the case so much against Eli Manning and the Giants.

Chargers pass protection, which was keen on Sunday’s big drive, vs. Eagles pass rush that comes from every direction and from nearly every player. The Chargers have allowed 18 sacks, which is about middle of the road. But when the Chargers absolutely had to pass protect – and the Giants knew they were passing – the blocking was sensational in last week’s late drive. Jeromey Clary has been getting some help at right tackle, with a tight end often at his hip in key moments. But the Chargers’ blockers will need to have their head on a swivel as the Eagles have 14 different players with at least a sack. The biggest sacker is Trent Cole and his 7.5 sacks. LT Marcus McNeill will have his hands full with Cole. Rivers will also be hard-pressed to get much past Philly CBs Asante Samuel (five interceptions) and Sheldon Brown (four).

Injury Impact: TE Antonio Gates (foot) skipped practice Wednesday but said he is fine for Sunday.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson (hip) didn’t work but said it wasn’t serious; he likely will practice Thursday.

ILB Kevin Burnett (ankle) went through Wednesday’s practice and is a go for Sunday.

ILB Tim Dobbins (ankle) was limited and appears to be out at least one more week.

C Nick Hardwick (ankle) was limited and will likely sit out one more game before returning.

DL Travis Johnson (groin) didn’t practice but will play on Sunday.

DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo (ankle) didn’t practice but will play Sunday.

DL Travis Johnson (groin) didn’t practice but will play Sunday.

OLB Shaun Phillips (ankle) didn’t practice but will play Sunday.

OLB Jyles Tucker (ankle) didn’t practice and is still in a walking boot. He appears out for Sunday.

Possible Stadium In Downtown San Diego

And the new front-runner for a new home for the San Diego Chargers is ... San Diego? The city, which had mostly left new stadium talks to various suburban towns the last few years, this week jumped back in with both feet, proposing a $1 billion NFL stadium near the Padres' Petco Park that would be paid for, well, they'll get back to us on that. Redevelopment of the Chargers' current stadium site could pay for part of it — insert the usual caveats about the value of development rights in 2009 California here — and while the San Diego Union Tribune reports that the potential site is within the city's downtown redevelopment area, which could allow for tax increment financing, where property tax dollars are kicked back to pay for construction costs.

The Union Trib wasted no time in declaring itself thrilled by the prospect of a new stadium, which would apparently be "gleaming." It also left no doubt about the reason behind San Diego's sudden revival of interest in wooing the Chargers:

[R]epresentatives of [Ed] Roski's real estate company have made it clear that if a stadium is built [in Industry], the Chargers will be among the NFL franchises they will woo.
The Chargers are an asset to this region on many levels, and not just for football fans. It would be a painful loss if the team ultimately accepted the promise of greater revenue from a 21st-century stadium in L.A. or elsewhere.

Right on cue. If this keeps up, Roski should demand a cut of all the new stadium subsidies he generates for the NFL in other cities.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Rivers shows Eli how it's done! (We don't want you either, Eli!)

Source: Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Five years after being traded away in a draft-day swap for Eli Manning, Philip Rivers came back and stuck it to the New York Giants.

Rivers capped an 80-yard drive with an 18-yard pass to Vincent Jackson with 21 seconds to play and the San Diego Chargers stunned the Giants 21-20 on Sunday, posting their third straight win while handing New York its fourth straight loss.

San Diego (5-3) is now well positioned for the second half of the season. The Giants (5-4) can only shake their heads in disbelief after blowing their first 5-0 start since 1990.

“It’s a big emotional win,” said Rivers, who threw for 209 yards and three touchdowns. “I don’t need a real reason why, but it ranks right up there with the win at Indy in the playoffs [2009]. The link between me and Eli is always going to be there. So yeah, it’s a little special. Any time you play against a team that won the Super Bowl, it’s fun. It [the trade] didn’t weigh into my mind and my thinking, but I bet it was there.”

Rivers had the Giants to thank for giving him the chance to pull the game out.

Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas returned an interception 33 yards to the Chargers 4 with 3:14 to play. If Manning and company had punched the ball in, the game would have been over.

But a first-down holding penalty on Chris Snee pushed New York back 10 yards and it settled for Lawrence Tynes’ second field goal, a 22-yarder with 2:07 to play for a 6-point lead.

“We had a chance and you can’t leave that team in the game,” said Manning, who was 25 of 33 for 215 yards and two touchdowns. “You can’t leave that team an opening. They are good and talented and if you have a chance to end it, you have to end it.”

Rivers did. He hit 6 of 8 passes in the game-winning march, hitting Malcolm Floyd for 12 yards, two to Antonio Gates and a 21-yarder to Darren Sproles that put the ball at the 18. On the next play, Rivers found Jackson in the right corner of the end zone for the game-winner.

“Vincent just came open and separated himself from the defender,” Rivers said. “On that play, he was probably the last option to get the ball by the way it set up. But we had all that field and I just wanted to give him a chance to get to it.”

Jackson also caught a 10-yard TD pass in the second quarter.

“He’s calm and confident and that just rubs off on everyone else,” Jackson said of Rivers. “It didn’t matter what the score was or how much time was left. We were going to get the job done.”

Appropriately, the game ended with Shawne Merriman sacking Manning. San Diego drafted the linebacker in 2005 with one of the picks the Chargers got from the Giants in the Manning deal.

“We showed a lot of team character to bounce back,” Merriman said. “We never want to start off slow, but we’ve learned when we need to hit our stride.”

Rivers also hit Kris Wilson on a 2-yard TD in the third to give San Diego a 14-7 lead in a game in which the Giants defense rebounded from a miserable efforts the previous three weeks.

Manning drove the Giants 60 yards in 10 plays on the next possession and Tynes got New York within 14-10 with his 38-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

The Giants defense, which gave up 112 points in the first three games of the losing streak, then helped them take the lead, recording three straight tackles for losses and forcing the Chargers to punt from their 4.

Domenik Hixon returned the ball to the San Diego 39 and Manning needed only six plays to put New York on top, hitting Kevin Boss with an 8-yard TD on a play when the Chargers were offside.

A bizarre play at the end of the Giants’ opening drive cost them 3 points. New York lined up for a 39-yard field goal attempt, but Tynes never got the kick off. Feagles took the snap and Tynes said Feagles had both hands on the ball so he could not kick it.

“We are all very, very upset, very disappointed obviously in the loss,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “We played hard, did a lot of good things but obviously we didn’t do enough.”

Rivers gave the Chargers a 7-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter with his first TD pass to Jackson. It capped a 45-yard drive after a short punt by Feagles.

The Giants tied the game on the ensuing series on Manning’s 6-yard TD pass to Steve Smith. The pair had kept the nearly 11-minute drive alive with a 19-yard completion on third-and-18 from the Chargers 44.

Game notes
Giants weakside LB Michael Boley and DT Chris Canty returned to the lineup. Boley missed a month after knee surgery. Canty was out since the opening week with a calf injury. … Chargers starting ILB Kevin Burnett was inactive with an ankle injury. … The Giants decided to honor the Yankees for their recent 27th world championship and introduced manager Joe Girardi during a break in the game. He was identified on the scoreboard as the team’s general manager. Does Brian Cashman know?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rivers gets first shot at Eli

SAN DIEGO (AP)—Philip Rivers calls it one of “those little sidebars.”

Really, though, it’ll be the featured event when Rivers and his San Diego Chargers face Eli Manning and the struggling New York Giants on Sunday at the Meadowlands.

Manning was drafted by the Chargers in 2004, then traded to the Giants within an hour for Rivers and a handful of picks that San Diego ended up spending on kicker Nate Kaeding and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman.

Manning went on to lead the Giants to a Super Bowl upset of the Patriots two seasons ago. Rivers is still trying to get to his first Super Bowl.

The Chargers (4-3) are rejuvenated after wins over AFC doormats Kansas City and Oakland. The Giants (5-3) have lost three straight, including Sunday’s 40-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

“It’s fun,” Rivers said Monday. “The one thing I know and I know Eli knows, all the quarterbacks know, we’re not playing one another out there. We’ve got plenty of other things to worry about on the defensive side of the ball we have to go against.

“But it is fun competing against another team led by a quarterback that you are linked to in many ways, especially being the same draft class.”

This will be Rivers’ first start against the Giants. Drew Brees was still the Chargers’ starter when Manning and the Giants came to San Diego in September 2005.

The Chargers won 45-23 that night and their fans booed and heckled Manning, still angry he had spurned San Diego 17 months earlier. Days before the 2004 draft, Manning’s family asked the Chargers not to draft Eli. The Chargers did anyway, then pulled off a blockbuster trade that helped both teams.

Rivers said he sent congratulations two seasons ago after Manning led the Giants to a thrilling Super Bowl win over the previously undefeated Patriots.

“I don’t know him real well, but certainly enjoy watching him play. It’ll be fun competing against those guys this weekend,” Rivers said.

The Chargers have popped above .500 thanks to Sunday’s 24-16 home win over Oakland and a 37-7 win at Kansas City a week earlier.

“Every week is a treat to play in the NFL, to play in an NFL game,” Rivers said. “But these are the kind of games, the reason why you play. You get to go right in the thick of all the action in the East Coast, being in New York, and play, obviously, a team that won the championship two years ago and is a very capable one and thought of highly this year. It’s a tough place to go on the road, in a game I think that will say a lot about us.”

San Diego’s win, coupled with Denver’s loss at Baltimore, pulled the Chargers within two games of the Broncos in the AFC West race. San Diego is trying to win its fourth straight division title.

“I think we’ve put two together that many expected us to win, as did we, but you’ve still got to go do it, and now this one here will be the toughest challenge we’ve had in three weeks,” Rivers said.

On Monday, the Chargers released wide receiver Chris Chambers a day after he had a key catch against the Raiders. Coach Norv Turner said they waived Chambers because of the emergence of Malcom Floyd and the need to sign a linebacker due to a knee injury to Tim Dobbins on Sunday. Dobbins could be out for two weeks.

Chambers was demoted Sunday in favor of Floyd, yet still had a big catch in the win. Chambers was obtained at the trading deadline in 2007 from Miami for a second-round draft pick, and helped the Chargers reach the AFC championship game that season.

His production dropped off dramatically this season, with just nine catches for 122 yards and one touchdown.

Charger Update 11/4/09

Among the feel-good stories coming out of Sunday’s 13th straight win over the Raiders was the critical contribution of wide receiver Chris Chambers.

Chambers had struggled this year, fighting for playing time with an emerging Malcom Floyd. But on a crucial fourth-quarter, third-down on what would be the drive which would give the Chargers’ their margin of victory, Chambers made a difficult 20-yard catch, looking into the sun, with Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on his hip.

While Chambers was upbeat after the game that feeling didn’t last long.

Chambers was cut on Monday.

“There are a number of things that went into the decision,” coach Norv Turner said. “The reason we’re able to do this is the play of Malcom and the way Legedu Naanee is performing.

“Certainly there are a number of other things in terms of our football team that we need to address. Defensively and in the kicking game … we need to get some help.”

Still the releasing of Chambers came as a surprise. Especially with the Chargers still carrying Buster Davis, a first-round bust who doesn’t even suit up for games.

There’s no discounting the improved play of Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee. But neither supply the veteran presence that Chambers did and what if they get hurt down the stretch?

Chambers came over from the Dolphins in 2007 and the price was steep: a second-round pick. But it seemed to be a pick well spent as Chambers enhanced the Chargers’ developing passing game.

But this year he fell out of favor in Turner’s scheme and had a hard time getting on the field. He also wasn’t shy about expressing his frustration, and that might have led to the Chargers cutting ties as well.

After Sunday’s game he was quoted as saying: “I thought I’d play a lot more. Coach said I would rotate and all of a sudden he didn’t let me rotate, so I was a little disrespected in that way…Coach might have lost some confidence in me, but I haven’t lost any confidence in myself.”

Chambers, a nine-year pro, entered the game with just eight catches and he dropped a couple of passes the previous week in Kansas City, one of which would have been a touchdown.

But it was just last year that he had a touchdown catch in five straight games, the first time he had done that in a Pro Bowl career.


—olb S hawne Merriman showed some of his old burst in recording his first sack since the end of the 2007 season. Merriman, a three-time Pro Bowler who missed all but one game last year with a knee injury, had two sacks against the Raiders. “That is what they brought us both here for,” said OLB Shaun Phillips, who also had two sacks. In years past, me and Shawne have been able to feed off each other.”

RB LaDainian Tomlinson sounded like a Chargers fan when asked what is the difference about playing the Raiders. “I think our mind-set is different when we play these guys,” said Tomlinson, who rushed for two touchdowns, one coming out of the wildcat formation. “In our mind, it’s the Battle of California, with so much stuff between the two teams.”

The defense, which had struggled early on, got a boost when it made a fourth-quarter stand to basically end the game with the Raiders down by a score. It was a big boost for the defense, which is often over-shadowed by the offense. “The offense started off real well and we tried to pay catch-up,” said Stephen Cooper, after a game-high 10 tackles. “I think now we found our knack and (defensive coordinator Ron Rivera) did a great job of play-calling and pressuring the quarterback. If we do that, we will be the defense of the old.”


Player Notes

The San Diego Chargers have signed rookie linebacker James Holt from the practice squad to fill the roster spot created when wide receiver Chris Chambers was released. The Chargers also signed linebacker Jeremy Leman to the practice squad.

ILB Tim Dobbins will be out two weeks with a knee injury. Dobbins was filling in for Kevin Burnett (ankle); Burnett has missed the past two games and could be down again Sunday.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson had multiple touchdowns Sunday for the first time since scoring three times in last year’s regular-season finale. Counting receiving, rushing and passing, he has produced 28 touchdowns in his career against the Raiders.

WR Vincent Jackson could be in the chatter for a Pro Bowl roster spot. For the second time in six games, he has turned in consecutive 100-yard receiving games.

DT Travis Johnson as given the interior line a boost since returning from a groin injury two weeks ago. He’s part of the regular three-player rotation making due in the absence of injured Pro Bowler Jamal Williams.

ILB Brandon Siler’s stock is going up after coming in and playing well when Tim Dobbins went down with a knee injury. Siler, a third-year pro, could get his first start Sunday.

FB Mike Tolbert has contributed mostly on special teams this season. But his stellar play of late and in practice has him in the mix with starter Jacob Hester at fullback as well. The Chargers like the hard-nosed Tolbert’s attitude; he was an undrafted free agent last year and surprisingly made the club out of camp

Report Card Vs . RAIDERS

Passing Offense: C—Not Philip Rivers grandest game but it was a winning performance. He threw for a score and 249 yards. He did throw an interception, but it came off a deflection. Malcom Floyd set the tone early in corralling a 53-yard catch on the Chargers’ first play. The pass-protection was keen against what can be a physical Oakland front.

Rushing Offense: C—LaDainian Tomlinson had two rushing scores—one off a direct snap in the wildcat—but there is still work to be done on the running game. The Chargers did get to 100 rushing yards and seem to be more motivated to establish a running attack. The run-blocking was pretty good—a step up if nothing else.

Pass Defense: B—Hard to get a bad grade here when JaMarcus Russell is dropping back. Russell is horrible and the Chargers took advantage of his play with an interception by Antonio Cromartie and five sacks. Russell threw for a scant 109 yards. Good work by the secondary and the pass rush to get his feet moving on his throws.

Rush Defense: B—The middle of the line is so much better than a month ago, in the wake of Jamal Williams being lost for the season. The Chargers are rotating three players in at tackle. The linebackers had one of their better games with Stephen Cooper collecting 10 tackles and Brandon Siler doing a good job when filling in for the hobbling Tim Dobbins. The defense kept the Raiders under 100 yards—just barely, though, at 99.

Special Teams: D—Darren Sproles had a costly fumble on a punt return which the Raiders cashed into points. There was also a letdown on coverages when allowing a 60-yard return. P Mike Scifres wasn’t the best punter on the field, but he still had a long of 56 and two of his three efforts were downed inside the Oakland 20.

Coaching: A—The offense was good enough to win, although it seemed like the Raiders hung around longer than they should have. But it was the defense which had a late stand and is starting to play with more confidence. Since coordinator Ron Rivera shook up the secondary, he has been blitzing like crazy with safeties and corners and it is working. If the defense can continue to improve—and do so against better teams—Rivera deserves to take a bow.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lucky Number 13! Ahhh Yeaahhh!!

SAN DIEGO — Some things never change in San Diego, such as the great weather and LaDainian Tomlinson and the San Diego Chargers beating the hapless Oakland Raiders.

Tomlinson scored twice, the first in the wildcat, and the Chargers won 24-16 on Sunday, their 13th straight victory against the Raiders. It’s the longest active NFL winning streak by one team over another.

The Chargers (4-3) have swept the series for the sixth straight season. Many Chargers, including quarterback Philip Rivers, have never lost to the Raiders (2-6). It was San Diego’s seventh straight home win against the Raiders.

Oh, and Shawne Merriman got his first two sacks since 2007, dropping JaMarcus Russell late in the second quarter and again late in the fourth, then doing his spasmodic “Lights Out” dance. The outside linebacker has been slow coming back from knee surgery that cost him the final 15 regular-season games and both playoff games last year.

San Diego sacked Russell five times, with the other outside linebacker, Shaun Phillips, also collecting two.

With the Denver Broncos losing 30-7 at Baltimore, the Chargers pulled within two games of the AFC West lead. San Diego is trying to win its fourth straight division title.

The Chargers didn’t have to rally to win as they did in the season opener at Oakland, when they were physically beaten up by the Raiders despite taking a 24-20 victory.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie intercepted Russell when tight end Zach Miller fell down. It was the first pickoff in 20 games for Cromartie, who had 10 in 2007 but dropped off to two last year.

The Chargers’ first play from scrimmage was a 53-yard pass from Rivers to Malcom Floyd, who replaced struggling Chris Chambers in the starting lineup. It gave San Diego first-and-goal on the 6. Tomlinson took the direct snap and ran around right end for a 7-0 lead.

Oakland tied it early in the second quarter after Rivers’ pass to Vincent Jackson glanced off the receiver’s hands and was intercepted by Chris Johnson, who returned it 20 yards to the San Diego 27. Justin Fargas scored on a 3-yard run to cap the short drive.

San Diego scored on its next two drives to go up 21-7. Rivers hit a wide-open Jackson on an 8-yard scoring pass and Tomlinson scored on a 10-yard run.

Rivers was 16 of 25 for 249 yards. Tomlinson had 56 yards on 18 carries. Fargas also carried 18 times for 59 yards.

Tomlinson had only one touchdown this season coming into the game. He sprained his right ankle in the season opener at Oakland and missed the next two games.

Tomlinson has accounted for 28 touchdowns against Oakland in his nine-year career: 22 rushing, three receiving and three passing.

All the Raiders got the rest of the way were three field goals by Sebastian Janikowski, of 48, 41 and 28 yards.

The Raiders were coming off their worst home loss ever, 38-0 to the New York Jets. Russell was pulled in that game after committing three turnovers.

Russell was 14 of 22 for only 109 yards.