O-line shuffle not a hindrance to Chargers

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Oct 14, 2005

By Jay Posner

October 17, 2005

OAKLAND – One more injury, and the Chargers might have been trying to find a uniform for their 58-year-old offensive line coach.

"I think Coach (Carl) Mauck would have had to be activated to get in there if anybody else had gone down," left tackle Roman Oben said.

Right guard Mike Goff came up limping near the end of yesterday's game against Oakland, but fortunately for all involved, he was able to continue and the Chargers made it to their locker room without any further casualties – and without having to call on Mauck.

More important, they came away with a 27-14 victory against the Raiders, and one of the primary reasons was the play of their makeshift offensive line. Not that they were surprised.

"When you dress eight or nine guys, you know those guys are going to have to play," Oben said. "Obviously last year we were able to get five guys to play (almost) every snap, but that's not always the case."

It's certainly not this year. Toniu Fonoti, who began the season as the starting left guard, hasn't played in the last four games and very well could be traded before tomorrow's deadline. Right tackle Shane Olivea was unable to play yesterday because of a sprained knee, and center Nick Hardwick missed the second half with a sprained ankle.

In their places alongside Oben and Goff: Kris Dielman, Leander Jordan and Bob Hallen.

"Nobody's a backup in this league; it's a matter of who starts and who doesn't," Oben said.

"I thought they did great," said quarterback Drew Brees, who was sacked only twice yesterday, both times in the fourth quarter when Jordan was beaten by Derrick Burgess. "Dielman, this was only his fourth start. Leander, his first start here. We've still got some guys that are kind of new.

"I felt like they did a good job and they'll continue to get better. It's just a testament to them and their coach. They just find a way to get in there and grind it out."

Their success, while more apparent in the first three quarters than the fourth, could be seen mainly in the Chargers' rushing numbers. San Diego had 190 yards on the ground, including 140 by LaDainian Tomlinson, who extended his NFL record by scoring a rushing touchdown for the 18th straight game. He also tied Lenny Moore's NFL record for consecutive games with a TD of any kind (18) and became the first player ever to rush for at least 10 TDs in each of his first five seasons.

"I want to give a lot of credit to them," Tomlinson said. "Those guys did a good job. Leander and Bob Hallen did a great job of coming in when guys were hurt.

"It's not just me doing it. If they don't block anybody I won't score a touchdown. What they do for me, I'm really honored."

Not surprisingly, it's a mutual admiration society.

"LT's a hell of a running back," Dielman said. "I love blocking for him and I know everybody on the line loves blocking for him. He's a good dude. He deserves everything he gets."

Said Oben: "He's a special guy, and I'd rather have him in my huddle than have to stand on the other team's sideline and see what he does to our defense.

"And he works hard. A lot of these guys in this league, they've got the athletic ability but not the work ethic. This guy's got the athletic ability, he has God-given talent and he's one of the hardest-working guys in the building."

Added tight end Justin Peelle: "It's so easy to block for him. You create a lane for half a second, and he's gone. He makes the hard things look simple and everybody else look good."