Chargers to face well-rested opponents

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LT teh ghost

Well-Known Member
Aug 18, 2005

Say this for the schedule gods in the NFL: Powder Blue probably isn't their favorite color.

The Chargers yesterday began trying to put one of the most impressive performances in franchise history behind them by concentrating on the journey ahead, one that means three straight opponents afforded an extra week of preparation.

How do you quickly forget about thrashing New England 41-17 on its own turf, about stomping on the Patriots' 21-game home win streak like a bunch of autumn leaves around Harvard Square?

Simple: San Diego next hosts Pittsburgh on Monday night and then travels to Oakland and Philadelphia. All three will have been off the week before playing the Chargers.

"You know, we can't really worry about that," said linebacker Donnie Edwards. "We're just worried about who is in front of us and that's Pittsburgh. Sometimes, a bye can be bad for you. You start to overanalyze the opponent and drive yourself nuts. When you have too much time to (prepare), sometimes it's almost counterproductive."

Said running back LaDainian Tomlinson: "My focus is Pittsburgh. I don't want to keep thinking about the Patriots and us beating them. You know what? Now people are saying the Indianapolis Colts are the best team in the NFL. So, I mean, (for some people) it's like, 'Forget about the Patriots, its all about the Colts, baby.' "

For the Chargers, it's all about maintaining an extraordinary level of execution. They have followed an 0-2 start with consecutive blowout victories, beating the Giants 45-23 before outscoring the Super Bowl champions 24-zip in the second half Sunday.

An up-and-down Chargers offense those first two weeks is now a relentless machine that ranks among the NFL's top three in scoring, average yards per carry, average yards per play, average rushing yards per game, third-down efficiency and red-zone scoring.

Tomlinson leads the league in touchdowns with eight and ranks second in rushing yards with 450.

Drew Brees is a quarterback with a 99.2 rating, including a league-best 124.1 on third down.

Antonio Gates is a tight end that opposing defensive coordinators still haven't discovered how to scheme.

"We're starting to get in that rhythm we need to be in," said Brees. "The one where I drop back and feel comfortable throwing the ball and getting first downs and handing off to (Tomlinson), just pounding away at the defense and keeping them off balance. That's when we are at our best, when we gradually wear a defense down. We kind of beat (New England) into submission.

"It's interesting that three teams have (off weeks) to prepare for us now, but byes can be funny things. I've been in situations where we came off one and played terrible. I've also been in others where we came off one and just kept rolling. We have great momentum now. We just want to keep it going."

They will try to do so against the Steelers (2-1) and to say the teams are similar in key ways is to say Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a tricky last name. Each ranks among the league's best in rushing and rushing defense. Each has a quarterback playing at his best.

It's also a "Monday Night Football" telecast, the first in Qualcomm Stadium since 1996 and the Chargers' first since 2003, when a game against Miami was moved from here to Phoenix because of the wildfires that ravaged San Diego that week.

"We're making progress," said Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer. "But we're 2-2 and there are a whole lot of people with better records than that. I know the (Steelers) reasonably well and I know their coach (Bill Cowher) extremely well and I know it's a terrific football team. It will be well worth the price of admission. It's going to take every phase of our football team to hold serve.

"It's terrific for our organization to have a 'Monday Night' opportunity. It's great for the players and it's fine from a coaching standpoint. It's not something I get real excited about. But Pittsburgh is probably the most balanced team in football. They'll be ready to play. It will be a very entertaining evening, I think. The advantage we have is that we're at home and they have to travel across the country."

And yet the Steelers will be well-rested.

Ditto the two opponents that follow them.