Chargers clearly the NFC's best; unfortunately ...

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#GoIrish #Aztecs #SDGulls #Raiders #THFC #RipCity
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA

LANDOVER, Md. -- If the San Diego Chargers were in the NFC, they would be the team to beat.

"I don't know about that," said coach Marty Schottenheimer.

Well, I do. They're better than Seattle. They're better than Carolina. They're better than Dallas, Chicago and the New York Giants. But because they're in the AFC, they might not make the playoffs, which would be a shame, because this year's Chargers are better than last year's Chargers -- and last year's Chargers won the AFC West.

"I've said that from the outset," Schottenheimer said after San Diego's 23-17 overtime defeat of Washington on Sunday. "I said going into the season that we're better than we were a year ago, but we might not have as good a record because of the schedule we faced.

"Now, I'm not complaining, but my approach to the schedule is this: Go make the playoffs playing that group that we played, and you're going to feel pretty good about yourself going into the playoffs."

The Chargers (7-4) should feel pretty good about themselves, whether they make it or not. In beating Washington they ran their record in the Eastern time zone to 3-1, with the lone loss a 20-17 setback to Philadelphia when a blocked field goal was returned for a touchdown.

More important, they won their fourth in a row to stay two games behind division-leading Denver and remain within one of Cincinnati and Jacksonville and a half-game behind Pittsburgh. Yeah, I know we have five weeks left, but it's not too soon to start gauging the Chargers' playoff chances -- and, frankly, this is a team that absolutely, positively cannot lose another start.

"That's something we talk about all the time," said linebacker Steve Foley. "We can't allow a slipup. Basically, we can't afford a loss. If we were in the NFC maybe the story would be totally different, but I'm glad we're not. Because at this point, it's going to say a lot about this team's character if we stay on this path."

You have to like their chances, at least for the short run. The Chargers play their next two at home against Oakland and Miami, and no disrespect to either, but San Diego should win basically because the Chargers are better and because they're an 800-pound gorilla at home, winning three of their past four there by a combined score of 143-77.

And then it gets interesting. The Chargers go to Indianapolis, where the Colts haven't lost, period. Then it's on to Kansas City, and not only do the Chiefs have the same record as San Diego, but they just blew out defending Super Bowl champion New England.

Of course, so did San Diego -- and the Chargers did it at Foxborough.

Finally, there's that Dec. 31 date against Denver in San Diego, and the Chargers hope that game means something. The way they're playing now, it could.

And here's why: Look at Sunday's win. The Chargers pulled it off despite an off day by quarterback Drew Brees, held without a touchdown pass for only the second time this year and the first time in nine games; two missed field goals by Nate Kaeding, who had missed one all season; and a rough afternoon for tight end Antonio Gates, handicapped by a foot injury.

In short, they won despite inconsistent play from an offense that has driven this team for most of the season.

But the important thing is that they won, and they won because they have a solid defense and the best running back in the business. The last time I checked, that's how you get to the top, and with LaDainian Tomlinson, anything's possible. All Tomlinson did Sunday was shred Washington for 184 yards and three TDs, including a 32-yarder to tie it and a 41-yarder to win it.

That puts Tomlinson at 19 touchdowns for the season, and that's not only a career high, it has him on schedule to tie Priest Holmes' NFL season record of 27.

"This win is huge," said Schottenheimer. "I don't ever like to put 'must-win' on any football game. I'm reluctant to do that because if you should fail, then what do you tell the players?"

Schottenheimer hasn't had to answer that question the past month. And he hopes he won't have to answer it the next month, either. Then we might have a race here, and we might have the Chargers in the playoffs.

That would be only right and fitting because San Diego belongs.

"We kind of backed ourselves in the corner by losing close ones early," said guard Mike Goff. "We need to win close ones like this from here on out. As much as I wish it weren't like that and that we were like Indianapolis at 10-0, the truth of the matter is we need to play to keep playing like this."

There is no reason to believe they can't. The Chargers are hot, and it's not hard to imagine them arriving in the Eastern time zone for the fifth -- and last -- time at 9-4 for that Dec. 18 date against Indianapolis. And that's when we find out how good these guys really are.

So far, we've had glimpses. And, lately, it has all been good.

"We have to continue to make plays and win games, and we can't worry about what anybody else does," said Schottenheimer. "I look at things from a pragmatic standpoint: We have 16 of them, and nobody decides until all 16 are played.

"Now, had we lost today would it have made it harder? Absolutely. But now we have two games at home. These East Coast trips are not easy, but we only have five of them."

That was a joke. His team is not. Beware San Diego. The Chargers are rolling, and here's hoping we see them in January.


Aug 15, 2005
The Chargers schedule this year was nuts but the NFL has a lot of good teams this season (with the Chargers being definitely one of the better ones.)