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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chargers Team Report 12-8-09

Source: USA Today

The Chargers are riding high with seven straight wins, but there’s always something to complain about in the NFL.

One of the NFL’s hottest teams heads to Dallas on Sunday, but it does so still smarting from the injury bug.

The Chargers were hopeful of getting Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick back for the Cowboys game. Hardwick hasn’t played since hurting his ankle in the season opener.

But coach Norv Turner said Monday that Hardwick suffered another setback in his rehab last week. Now it’s possible Hardwick could be out three more games, which would leave just the final contest and the playoffs.

If — and it’s a big if — all goes right.

Turner also didn’t rule Hardwick out for Sunday, but he did term it a long shot as Hardwick seeks additional medical opinions.

Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman was also hoping to return after missing the win in Cleveland. But his foot injury is such that Turner knows that he could be without his three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher.

Also on the fence is defensive end Luis Castillo. He was also hoping to find the field this week, but Turner wasn’t certain about his status either.

And there doesn’t appear to be any change in safety Eric Weddle’s status. He was tagged to miss two games with a sprained knee, and he’s halfway through that layoff after Sunday.

Still, most NFL teams would trade situations with the streaking Chargers — even if it does come with a limp.


—Teammates and coaches were thrilled that running back Mike Tolbert got to race 66 yards for a touchdown reception two days after missing practice because of his grandmother’s death.

“It was great to get in the end zone,” he said. “It was a tremendous feeling, and I know she was there watching me. I can’t even explain it. It was such a great moment.”

Tolbert pointed toward the sky after crossing the goal line.

—The legendary Jim Brown was among those congratulating LaDainian Tomlinson in the Chargers’ locker room. Tomlinson passed Brown on Sunday to reach the No. 8 spot on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.

“After he’s reached the level of greatness he’s reached, how dare I not give him all the compliments I have in my heart,” Brown said.

Tomlinson was moved.

“It’s special,” he said. “It really is. As a kid playing football in the yard, I looked up to the great running backs, but a lot of days it was Jim Brown.”

—Wide receiver Vincent Jackson had two killer blocks that sprung teammates for touchdowns. “That’s something we as receivers take pride in,” he said. “Making blocks downfield is just what we do.”



—LT Marcus McNeill is ailing with a sprained ankle, but the Chargers are hopeful it isn’t serious. Look for his practice time to be monitored this week.

—DT Alfonso Boone could miss some practice this week with a bruised knee.

—OL Brandyn Dombrowski continues to prove his versatility when filling in for LT Marcus McNeill, flipping over from the right side.

—T Jon Runyan got his first playing time as a Charger, working at right guard when Brandyn Dombrowski moved over to the left side. Runyan was his usual physical self.

—ILB Brandon Siler continues to play well since moving into the starting lineup. Siler’s play has pushed Stephen Cooper to the weak side, while Siler is on the strong side.

—TE Antonio Gates had a career-best 167 receiving yards in the win as he continues his high level of play. Gates is fit, and it is showing.


PASSING OFFENSE: A — Philip River is in an amazing stretch in which his accuracy is off the charts, and he continues to take great care of the football. He was 18 of 25 for 373 yards and two scores. Again, the pass protection was super. The ball was spread around again, but it’s hard overlooking Antonio Gates and the 66-yard scoring reception by Mike Tolbert.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus — There is still work to be done here, despite the legends LaDainian Tomlinson is leaving in the dust. The Chargers managed just four rushing first downs and couldn’t eclipse a 2.8-yard rushing average despite going against the Browns. A bit of a red flag continues to flap here.

PASS DEFENSE: C — Brady Quinn seemed to have his way too often. He threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns, which is usually a month’s worth of work. Of course, the Chargers were up by a considerable margin, which forced the soft coverages. The best part here was the rush from Shaun Phillips and Marques Harris — Phillips forced another fumble and collected another sack.

RUSH DEFENSE: C — Another week, another offense goes for more than 100 yards. Again, considering the quality of the opponent, more was expected from the run defense. This is another area that must be shored up moving forward.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B — Joshua Cribbs was held to 148 yards on six kick returns as the Chargers generally tried to keep the ball away from him. Not much went on with the Chargers return game. Nate Kaeding remained hot, as he clicked on three more field goals, including one from 42 yards out.

COACHING: A — Norv Turner continues to break out new pages from his playbook, as the Chargers are good for a new gadget play a week. He was also keen to build the lead and play it safe, saving the high-risk stuff for when he really needed it. This was a trap game, and while the Chargers stuck their toe in the trapper, they didn’t get caught. That’s big, especially on the road.