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Monday, October 4, 2010

Chargers dominate Cardinals 41-10

Source: SD Tribune

The Chargers on Sunday beat an inferior team, which as they know twice over, is not always a given.

A 41-10 rout of the Arizona Cardinals, while the Chargers’ biggest margin of victory since the 2008 regular-season finale, was more settling than statement.

“We did what we were supposed to,” safety Eric Weddle.

Coming off a stunning loss at Seattle , their second such defeat in three games, the Chargers evened their record at 2-2 with dominating days from their defense, offensive line and tight end Antonio Gates. And perhaps, most importantly, they turned the ball over just once and had one of their best days in five years covering kickoffs.

Arizona had just 124 net yards, fewest allowed by the Chargers since 2002 and the seventh-fewest yards allowed in franchise history. That was thanks in large part to nine sacks, four of them by Shaun Phillips, who also had an interception and return for a touchdown.

Mike Tolbert had 16 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown, and Ryan Mathews ran nine times for 55 yards and a touchdown. The Chargers’ 180 yards rushing were their most in 10 games and their most since 2007 against an opponent other than the Denver Broncos.

Gates caught seven passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

Moreover, a week after giving the ball away five times and allowing two kickoff returns for touchdowns, the Chargers fumbled once and limited Arizona’s LaRod Stephens-Howling to an average of 17 yards on his seven returns.

“Our defense has been playing solid all year,” guard Kris Dielman said. “Eliminate the turnovers, cover kicks, this is what happens. We can win games and win by big (margins).”

Saturday, September 25, 2010

McNeil signs tender!!!!!!!!!

Source: ESPN

Marcus McNeill has reported to the San Diego Chargers, signing his one-year, $630,000 tender, according to sources.

The veteran left tackle will miss the next three games, then will be eligible to play against the St. Louis Rams in Week 6.

The two sides have the next few weeks to try to work out a long-term deal.

McNeill had been holding out in search of a long-term deal with the team.

Although the Chargers had been in talks to trade fellow holdout Vincent Jackson, it had not entertained offers for McNeill, and San Diego had moved forward without him.

In McNeill's place, second-year player Brandyn Dombrowski has protected quarterback Philip Rivers' blindside as the Chargers have opened the season 1-1.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chargers win 38-13

SAN DIEGO (AP)—As good as Philip Rivers was, the San Diego Chargers’ defense was even better.

Rivers threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns and the Chargers forced six turnovers in beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 38-13 in their home opener Sunday.

Chargers rookie running back Ryan Mathews hurt his right ankle in the second quarter and didn’t return. He also fumbled for the second straight game, one of San Diego’s three turnovers.

David Garrard was intercepted four times. The six turnovers tied Jacksonville’s team record and led to 17 points for the Chargers.

The Chargers (1-1) bounced back from an embarrassing 21-14 loss at Kansas City on Monday night. The Jaguars (1-1) regressed following an opening win against Denver.

Rivers threw touchdown passes of 9 and 4 yards to tight end Antonio Gates in the first half, then hit Malcom Floyd(notes) on a 54-yarder in the fourth quarter. Mike Tolbert scored on runs of 2 and 1 yards.

Rivers completed 22 of 29 passes, with two interceptions. It was his 16th career 300-yard day.

Antoine Cason had two interceptions for San Diego while Brandon Siler and Kevin Burnett each had one. Cason also forced a fumble by Mike Sims-Walker that Burnett recovered. Antwan Applewhite forced a fumble by Maurice Jones-Drew that Paul Oliver recovered.

Jacksonville got its only touchdown with 37 seconds to play, a 3-yard pass from Garrard to Sims-Walker. Josh Scobee(notes) kicked field goals of 44 and 48 yards. The first was set up by a fumble by Mathews and the second was set up when Mike Scifres’ punt was blocked by Rashad Jennings.

The Chargers had their miscues, too, but at least managed to find the end zone. Rivers moved San Diego 74 yards in six plays on the game’s first drive, with Tolbert scoring on a 2-yard run.

The second quarter included a dizzying exchange of turnovers, plus the blocked punt. Cason’s second pickoff, of a tipped pass, set up Rivers’ 9-yard TD pass to a wide-open Gates for a 14-3 lead.

After Scobee kicked his second field goal, the Chargers moved 87 yards in eight plays, capped by Gates’ 4-yard TD catch.

Oliver’s fumble recovery set up Nate Kaeding’s 41-yard field goal in the third quarter, and Burnett’s interception set up Tolbert’s 1-yard run early in the fourth. Burnett picked off a wobbly pass that was the result of Siler hitting Garrard.

Garrard made way for backup Luke McCown early in the fourth quarter. He came back, though, after McCown was shaken up.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chargers fall to the Chiefs??

— At least it isn’t all that surprising anymore when the Chargers find new, shocking ways to flounder in the early part of a season.

They were going to start fast, set the tone early by being physical on defense, running the ball on offense.

For almost the entirety of the first quarter, they seemed on the way to doing all those things, and their defense perhaps ultimately did signal it is on the path to being what it hopes to be.

They spoke afterward of the sloppy field, the positives of fighting at the end and the fact there are 15 games remaining, a reality of which they are adept at taking advantage.

"I don't see this as a slow start," Philip Rivers said. "It's one game out of 16. We can still get off to a fast start. We can still get this thing rolling early."

True, this wasn't so much a slow start as a broken one.

As rain began to fall and lightning flashed all around Arrowhead Stadium, things got muddied.

Whether it was the horrible conditions, a surprising Chiefs team or what has come to be the Chargers’ typical September sloppiness, the end wrought a 21-14 opening-game loss.

"We had our opportunities to win the game," linebacker Stephen Cooper said. "All three phases can't play the way we did today."


It was a complete loss – a long touchdown run allowed by the defense, a fumble setting up another touchdown, and a record punt return for yet another.

With big plays, the Chiefs literally sprinted to a two-touchdown lead at halftime despite the fact they had not converted a third down in six tries.

The score that put the Chiefs up 21-7 was a 94-yard Dexter McCluster punt return for a touchdown – both the longest-ever such return by the Chiefs and longest ever allowed by the Chargers.

Two would-be tacklers slipped at the start, and then McCluster ran untouched to further a Chiefs lead with 1:43 remaining in the first half.

The Chiefs would end up 1-for-11 on third downs, going three-and-out on half their 12 possessions and totaling just 197 yards.

But one play -- a 56-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles -- gave Kansas City more than a quarter of its yards and also tied the game.

On the first Monday Night Football game in Kansas City since 2004 and first anywhere for the Chiefs since 2005, a refurbished Arrowhead stadium made its debut in a raucous manner. What had been a relatively serene place for visitors as the Chiefs struggled to 10 victories in the past three seasons, was loud until a vicious rain and the fact it was 11 p.m. locally at halftime, drove away at least half the announced crowd of 71,297 by halftime.

They missed a Chargers’ comeback that was ultimately a dash to defeat, as Rivers’ final pass sailed untouched through the end zone on fourth down from the six-yard line with 39 seconds to play.

"On the road, with this environment, this weather, you can't make those mistakes," Rivers said. "You're asking for it to be tough, and it was."

It may have been the rain blowing in circles, or maybe it was that Vincent Jackson wasn’t there to catch some of the passes Rivers might have thrown a little better, or a combination of those things, the Chargers’ offense was uncharacteristically horizontal until it had to not be.

A 59-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Legedu Naanee brought the Chargers to within 21-14 with 2:23 to play in the third quarter.

The defense continued to effectively stonewall the Chiefs, who had just nine first downs on the night and just 70 second-half yards.

After stalling on fourth down at the Chiefs’ 32 with 7:09 remaining, the Chargers got another chance with five minutes to go.

The Chargers took over at their 33 with 4:52 to play. Two plays later – after successive 22-yard passes to Buster Davis and Malcom Floyd – they were at the Chiefs’ 23.

Naanee made another catch over the middle on fourth-and-3 from the 16, getting down to the 4.

But an incompletion, two-yard loss by Darren Sproles and two incompletions ended the Chargers’ hopes.

The Chargers took a 7-0 lead with a little less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter, consummating a nine-play, 60-yard drive with Rivers’ three-yard pass to Antonio Gates. That followed by three plays a 34-yard gain by Gates.

Gates was double-teamed much of the night but still finished with five catches for 76 yards. Naanee had five catches for 110 yards. Malcom Floyd caught three for 38.

But while Rivers finished 22-for-39 for 298 yards and a 98.0 passer rating, it was not a cohesive night between he and his receivers. There were a number of passes he was a little off, and some that simply went off his receivers' hands.

He took blame, as did his targets.

"It hits your hands, you have to catch it," Floyd said.

The one real defensive breakdown was costly.

After having gone three-and-out on their first two possessions, the Chiefs’ tied the game three plays after the Chargers went up 7-0 when Charles burst through a gigantic hole and zigzagged 56 yards for a touchdown.

The teams traded three-and-outs for four more drives (two each) before a Ryan Mathews fumble set the Chiefs up for their second touchdown.

The rookie, who finished with 75 yards on 19 carries, made a nice cut, barreled through two tackles but after gaining 15 yards, Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson wrapped one arm around Mathews and with the other dislodged the ball. It bounced once and into the hands of Brandon Flowers, who returned it 23 yards to the 12.

"I've got a lot of stuff to work on," Mathews said. "This game showed me my weakness I need to come back and fix."

The Chiefs scored three plays later on a two-yard pass off a play-action fake that essentially every Chargers defender bit on, as tight end Tony Moeaki was all alone near the back of the end zone.

The Chargers offense continued to stall.

After gaining 106 yards in the first quarter, the Chargers had 21 in the second. After a first quarter in which the Chargers converted four of their five third downs, they were fruitless on four such tries in the second quarter.

After the Chargers' fourth straight three-and-out (not counting the Mathews’ fumble on a first down), McCluster returned the fifth of what eventually be eight punts by Scifres to the end zone.

Opening with the late Monday Night Football game for the third time in five years, the Chargers fell to 2-2 under Turner in openers. Even the victories, however, have featured more rough patches than the Chargers would hope for, and even those wins have been followed by struggles.

The Chargers have started 2-3 each of their previous three seasons under Norv Turner . They return home to play Jacksonville on Sunday with the likelihood Qualcomm Stadium will be as empty as it has in at least seven years. Furthermore, a schedule that was perceived to be easy at its start features three straight opponents who won their season openers.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Chargers Make Final Cuts

Source: SD Tribune

The news trickling out of Chargers Park is not earth shattering, but it does represent a diversion from past precedent and what would have been expected a week ago.

Jonathan Crompton, es expected, was released, meaning the Chargers will go with two quarterbacks. If Philip Rivers were to be injured, the team would deal for another QB.

If there is a surprise so far, it is that cornerback Nathan Vasher was released, though that was signaled when the team picked up Fred Bennett off waivers on Tuesday. Vasher would only have been kept had the Chargers decided to go with four corners.

The Chargers also cut rookie running backs Curtis Brinkley and Shawnbrey McNeal, meaning they will go with two tailbacks and two fullbacks as opposed to the five-man backfield corps they have typically employed in recent years.

As expected, receiver Josh Reed was cut. Reed was almost certainly going to be safe had the Chargers not been able to trade for Patrick Crayton. But they figure to go with four receivers, and the acquisition of Crayton on Friday meant Reed was out.

The Chargers also cut rookie receivers Seyi Ajirotutu and Jeremy Williams. One of them, most likely Ajirotutu, will be signed to the practice squad.

The Chargers are looking to keep more players at linebacker (Brandon Lang made the team) and the defensive line (as expected, only Derrick Jones got cut).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Patrick Crayton Traded to Bolts

Source: Yahoo Sports

After months of speculation that Patrick Crayton just wasn’t going to fit into the Dallas Cowboys after they used a first-round draft pick on Dez Bryant, the veteran wide receiver was finally shipped.

Just more than 24 hours before final cuts are due to the league office, the Cowboys dealt Crayton to the San Diego Chargers. Multiple media outlets have reported the Cowboys will receive a seventh-round draft pick in 2011 in return.

Crayton, also a valuable special teams performer, had fallen on the depth chart and wanted out. He’s a solid pickup for the Chargers, who are seeking some depth at the position and may well be bracing themselves for the post-Vincent Jackson era. Of course, maybe that era has already kicked off as the star receiver has been nowhere to be seen.

Could the Cowboys have gotten more for Crayton? Possibly around the draft, but it looked like the team was heading to cutting him and a seventh was probably as good as they could do this weekend.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mathews impressive in debut, Chargers win 25-10

Source: SD Bolt Report

Ryan Mathews said he's been pretty good about keeping the jitters in check as he worked his way through training camp. But the former Fresno State star said being in the NFL smacked him with full force on Saturday when the Chargers prepared to face the Bears.

"Right then it hit me," Mathews said when he entered the stadium. "My nerves kicked in and I took a lap around the field. I then went inside and put my gear on and threw up."

He's not the first to be queasy over the responsibilities which come with being the lead back, as a rookie, on a team with Super Bowl dreams.

"It's humbling and I'm grateful for it," Mathews said.

He didn't little to dispute the Chargers' thinking in moving up the draft board to snag Mathews 12th overall. He rushed nine times for 50 yards and opened some eyes in doing so.

That is once his midsection was at ease -- to a degree.

On a running play in which he follows pulling left guard Kris Dielman, Mathews beat him to the hole.

"He told me to slow down a little bit; that was just the nerves," Mathews said. "I was just trying to out there too fast."

Mathews admitted he didn't get much sleep the night before the game. But he looked fresh against the Bears, in particular on a first-quarter run.

Mathews took the handoff and was met near the line of scrimmage by Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs. It appeared Briggs was set to wrap on Mathews when Briggs was brushed aside by the powerful Mathews. He quickly got into the secondary where he collected 18 yards before being brought down.

"That was impressive," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "And he showed some speed right there."

Mathews is learning quick. Not only is he picking up the nuances of being an NFL back, he is saying all the right things.

When others were gushing about his running, Mathews was pointing toward the big uglies.

"Without those big guys," he said of the offensive line, "I would be in a whole lot of trouble."

But it's clear Mathews knows what he is doing. Once he dialed it down a tad.

"It was all fast at first then it started to slow down a little bit," Mathews said. "But it is going to take some time."

Among the things the Chargers like about Mathews is his work-ethic and lack of ego.

"I got a lot of work to do still," he said. "I got to work on everything."

CAMP CALENDAR: Aug. 20: Walk-through at Marines Corps Air Station Miramar. Aug. 22: Players off. Aug. 23: Final training camp practice.


Linebacker Shawne Merriman ended his baffling boycott of training camp when he reported to the team last Friday.

Merriman, who signed his one-year tender for $3.168 million, wasn't staying away for more cash. Instead he stated that he wanted assurances that the Chargers would not trade him and that they would build the defense around him.

He got no such assurances on both fronts and finally decided he wasn't getting much accomplished sitting at home after skipping 21 practices.

"I'm happy to be back with my teammates," Merriman said. "I got a chance to speak with them over the phone, but I'm glad to be back in the building with them.

"It was time for me to come in and get ready. You can't show up before Game 1 or Game 2 and expect to play at a high level. The only way to emulate game speed is to play football."

This is a critical year for Merriman, who was once one of the most disruptive defensive players in the league. He collected 39.5 sacks in his first three years as he was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of those years.

But he only played one game in 2008 after delaying knee surgery. Then last year, slowed by the knee and a foot injury, he had but four sacks.

So with four sacks in two seasons, it's clear Merriman needs to prove himself to get a big contract next season. That contract is unlikely to come from the Chargers.

Merriman has long got under the skin of general manager A.J. Smith. he certainly didn't enhance his reputation in Smith's eyes by not reporting with the other veterans.

"We're happy to have Shawne back," Smith said. "He's an excellent player. We're ready for him to get back to work."

Linebacker Stephen Cooper, the Chargers' top tackler last year, said the moment had arrived for Merriman to slap on the pads.

"It was time for him to come in," Cooper said. "Everybody wants to get paid and everyone wants a big contract, but you can't get one sitting at home. You have to be out there performing and be on film in order to get paid.

"People are always asking whether his knee is healthy and whether he can be as productive as he was in the past. We all know he can do it, but he has to prove it on the field."

Admitted Merriman, "I didn't accomplish anything at all (by not reporting). I always knew that I was wanted here, which was one of the biggest reasons for getting things sorted out. You hate to deal with the whole business part of it, but I'm so glad it's behind me and I can go out and play.

"Everybody's on the trading block. It was more a question of it being talked about so much. This team has bigger fish to fry, and that's playing the Kansas City Chiefs in a month. At no point in time did I want conversation about my future to be above the team, and at some points (last season) it got there. That's what I wanted to stay away from."

--Even with return ace Darren Sproles sitting out the first exhibition game with a bum shoulder, coach Norv Turner was impressed with his special-teams play. "I don't see why we can't be one of the top three or four special teams in the league," he said.

--K Nick Novak was brought into camp to save the wear and tear on K Nate Kaeding's leg. But he is making the most of his chance and could land with another team. Novak hit two of three field goals Saturday, clicking from 48 and 43 yards; his miss was from 41.

--Among those getting the loudest pregame cheers Saturday was rookie RB Ryan Mathews.

"It was an unreal moment," he said. "I didn't think they were going to do that the first time."

--The Chargers' pass rush was potent in the first game. Five Chargers had sacks, led by Antwan Applewhite with two. "It changes the game," said DB Donald Strickland, who had a sack. "It gives the offense the ball more so they can score. It definitely gets in the quarterback's head. He might rush a pass, he may hold onto the ball a little longer. He's trying to get it out faster, so now he's making more mistakes when we're in his face."

--The Chargers welcome the Cowboys in Saturday night then it's off on the road. Not only are the Chargers final two exhibition games at New Orleans and San Francisco, but four of their first six regular-season games are away from Qualcomm Stadium.

--Despite OLB Shawne Merriman being a workout maniac, ILB Stephen Cooper said being in football shape is a different animal. "It'll take him a few weeks to get it back," Cooper said. "Training on your own is a whole lot different than being here. I think the coaching staff will gear towards his strengths and keep him from having to think about certain situations. He's going to be an impact player for us. Missing time this early won't change that."

--The Chargers lone touchdown reception against the Cowboys came courtesy of Legedu Naanee. He is running with the first team with Vincent Jackson out of camp. "I can't say that what we're seeing from him is new," QB Philip Rivers said. "He's been a quality receiver for some time now, and it's clear that he's coming into his own."

--Turner wasn't please the team had 10 penalties agaisnt the Bears, nine coming in the first half. "We're doing some things at the line of scrimmage and trying to get ourselves into the best play situations and we have some work to do," he said.

--The exhibition game was blacked out on local television when it failed to sell out 72 hours before kickoff.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You trust what your eyes see and I've seen him for three months now and he has all the things you need to be an outstanding runner." -- Coach Norv Turner on rookie running back Ryan Mathews.


The big news of camp -- well until Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson return -- is that three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman has signed his tender and is back practicing. Merriman was held out of Saturday's exhibition season opener but could play Saturday when the Cowboys visit.


--LT Marcus McNeill, who declined to sign his restricted free-agent tender offer, was sent a letter to report by general manager A.J. Smith. His agent, Alvin Keels, confirmed the letter and said it doesn't change his client's stance of not reporting.

--WR Vincent Jackson is in a similar situation as McNeill. He was also sent the letter to report but doesn't plan to.

--With Shawne Merriman returning, it could cut into the reps Larry English was getting; English is having a solid camp.

--With ILB Donald Butler being lost for the season with an injury, it solidifies James Holt's chances of making the team. It helps that Holt has been active in the coaches' eyes as well.

--LB Ali Highsmith was cut to make room for Merriman.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Antonio Garay vs. Cam Thomas vs. Ogemdi Nwagbuo for starting DT.

Garay earned the top spot on the depth chart, but when the game came it was Nwagbuo trotting out wit with the first team. Garay showed well last year when coming aboard and is having a good camp. Thomas, a fifth-round pick, isn't shy about throwing his 6-foot-4, 335-pound (at least) frame around. Nwagbuo was a life-saver last year when Jamal Williams went down in the season-opener. But it seems Garay has wrestled the starting position away. This battle is worth watching the entire camp.


Josh Reed vs. Buster Davis for the No. 3 wide receiver spot.

Reed is the consummate pro, able to run exact routes and rely on his steady hands. Davis is a former first-round pick the Chargers keep talking up -- but he can never stay out of the trainer's room. The Chargers would prefer Davis starts showing something for what they have invested in him, but after one catch Saturday he was again being attended to by the medical staff after a taking a shot to his hip when returning a punt.

Richard Goodman vs. Jeremy Williams for kick return duties.

This spot will end up in the hands of Darren Sproles. But with his slight size and the Chargers trying to save him for the base offense, they might lean on someone else to occasionally field kickoffs. Goodman has had his share of drops in camp at wide receiver, but he ripped off a 51-yard return. And Williams, who is having a sensational camp, contributed a 34-yard return.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: OLB Brandon Lang -- This undrafted rookie out of Troy continues to get noticed with a string of solid plays in practice. But really, it's what you do on game days -- especially for a long shot to make the roster -- where you must shine. Lang got his first big chance Saturday and didn't disappoint by blocking a punt out of the end zone. Lang's chances for making the team improved when Donald Butler, a third-round pick, landed on IR during camp. If making the team, Lang will likely contribute on special teams considering how loaded the Chargers are at his position.

ROOKIE REPORT: RB Ryan Mathews averaged 5.6 yards on nine carries in his NFL debut. ... SS Darrell Stuckey has been slowed with a groin injury; he is still fighting for a starting job. ... DT Cam Thomas continues to push for playing time on running downs. But he applied good pressure on a pass which was picked off by Paul Oliver. ... QB Jonathan Crompton was intercepted in his NFL debut; he's having a mediocre camp.


--RB Darren Sproles (shoulder) should return this week.

--OLB Larry English (foot) should be a go this week.

--LT Tra Thomas (knee) is still likely another week from returning.

--ILB Brandon Siler (ankle) will return to practice this week.

--SS Darrell Stuckey (groin) should return this week.

--G/C Scott Mruczkowski (ankle) could be down another week.

--T Nick Richmond (knee) is day-to-day.