Pass defense not living down to its reputation

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Oct 14, 2005
San Diego Union-Tribune

By Kevin Acee

October 29, 2005

Coming off a game in which they stymied the NFL's most prolific passing offense, the Chargers defenders are excited by the improvement they see.

"That was our best game since I've been here," said linebacker Randall Godfrey, in his second season as a Charger. "We didn't have too many breakdowns. We didn't give up any big plays."

The Chargers held prolific receiver Terrell Owens to his second-lowest yardage total of the season and did the same to the Eagles offense. A much-maligned secondary gave up just one completion longer than 15 yards, despite the fact that Donovan McNabb frequently had plenty of time to make his 54 passes.

The performance was not entirely unforeseen.

The Chargers defense, for all its well-documented difficulties, has not been altogether atrocious.

Its rushing defense (76 yards a game) is the league's second-best. The pass defense is ranked 29th out of 32 teams.

But only the New York Giants gained more yards against the Chargers so far than their season average.

Dallas, New England and Philadelphia had their second-lowest yardage totals against the Chargers. Oakland gained its fewest yards of the season. And all those offenses are ranked in the league's top 10.

There has been improvement, too. The Chargers have allowed an average of 302.8 yards over the past four games – 49 yards less than the average allowed in their first three games.

"I've been saying we were a good defense since training camp," cornerback Quentin Jammer said. "The first couple games, nobody believed that. Now people are starting to see."

And there is a specific time of the game in which the Chargers defense truly shuts down opponents.

Philadelphia was 0-for-5 on third down and gained just 77 yards in the second half.

Over the past five games, opponents are averaging just 130 yards in the second half and have scored a total of 30 points. Of the 26 second-half drives by opponents in those five games, 13 have ended in a punt after four plays or fewer.

"We're more confident," Godfrey said. "We've been in this situation so many times. We've got most of the guys back (from last season). I think everybody steps their level of play up at the right time."

Injury report
The Chargers added another name to their injury report – listed as questionable, of course – when wide receiver Reche Caldwell missed practice because of illness. It's not known whether he'll be able to play tomorrow.

Center Nick Hardwick (ankle) missed practice for the third straight day and cornerback Drayton Florence (ankle) was out for the second day in a row, leaving it unlikely either will play tomorrow. Linebacker Steve Foley also remained sidelined, as did kicker Nate Kaeding (back).

But coach Marty Schottenheimer said he was confident Kaeding would kick tomorrow. "Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think he'll be fine," he said.

The Chargers have not brought in another kicker this week. Punter Mike Scifres tried five long field goals from 2000-02 at Western Illinois, making three, although Schottenheimer said his punter made a 40-yard field goal in practice yesterday.

The rest of the Chargers are expected to play, except for tight end Ryan Krause (foot). The Kansas City Chiefs will be without defensive tackle Ryan Sims, wide receiver Samie Parker and cornerback Dexter McCleon. Defensive tackle John Browning is questionable.

Aztecs vs. Frogs
At least two Chargers will be attending tonight's SDSU-TCU game at Qualcomm Stadium, but they won't be together. In fact, Kassim Osgood (SDSU) and LaDainian Tomlinson (TCU) will be standing on opposite sidelines, pulling for their respective alma maters, hoping to collect on a small wager.

"I think it's going to be a good game," Tomlinson said, with the confident smile of a man whose team is favored.

"We're hoping to pull one out here," Osgood said.