- Aug 18, 2005
SAN DIEGO ---- What do you want to do, look ahead or sift through the car wreck of the Chargers' opening-day loss?
Regarding the latter, coach Marty Schottenheimer was steadfast in his resolve Monday about not using Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who didn't officially touch the ball in the final drive.
Again, he stressed the Dallas Cowboys were flooding the box expecting the run, so Schottenheimer's teachings told him to throw.
Quarterback Drew Brees did just that from the Dallas 7-yard line in the final minute Sunday. Four passes later, the Chargers didn't find pay dirt --- just a share of the AFC West cellar thanks to a 28-24 defeat.
"They decided they were going fill every gap and blitz every gap there wasn't going to be a hole in the running game," Schottenheimer said. "And there were opportunities in the passing game. Because of the pressure we never got the ball completed the way the opportunities were there. We have people that were there we just didn't get it to them.''
Schottenheimer wouldn't even bite on whether the Chargers would have had a better chance to score that late touchdown if All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates were in uniform. Gates was serving the final game of his three-game suspension.
"It is what it is,'' Schottenheimer said. "He was not available, the reason for which is not relevant. He wasn't available, and we knew that full well going in and we still had every opportunity in the world to win the game, even in his absence. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.''
Gates will be active Sunday in Denver, when the Chargers try to erase their bagel from the win column and reach .500.
"I've been 0-1 before,'' Schottenheimer said. "I have every confidence we'll get the troops rallied and we'll go back to work. It was as disappointing to them as it was for all of us.''
It's not a stretch to say Gates is counting the minutes to kickoff Sunday. Forced to the sidelines for not meeting a Chargers signing deadline, he's eager to vacate the sidelines.
"I'm happy,'' Gates said. "Dealing with all the obstacles I overcame ---- the contract negotiations and all --- I'm just happy I have the opportunity to play football again.''
Denver is the only AFC West rival Gates has not scored a touchdown against. In his breakout season last year, Gates caught seven catches for 61 yards against the Broncos.
But can Gates bust from the gate and be productive? Good question.
"Am I in game shape?'' Gates said. "That remains to be seen. I'm definitely in practice shape.''
For the first time this year, the light practice Monday included Gates running with the first unit. He had been working with the scout team leading up to the past three games.
So it's on to Denver, where a grumpy Broncos outfit opens its home season after getting pounded 34-10 by the Dolphins on Sunday.
"That's a very difficult place to play, as we all know,'' Schottenheimer said. "We'll have our work cut out for us.''
CHARGERS NOTES ---- DE Igor Olshansky (calf) likely will be listed as questionable for Sunday. Rookie Luis Castillo would replace him as a starter if Olshansky can't go. ... Coach Marty Schottenheimer said there's a possibility LB Shawne Merriman (knee) will be active Sunday if he can master his chores in the kicking game. ... WR Vincent Jackson (Achilles' tendon, calf) could be down on Sunday. .... Bhawoh Jue will retain the starting role at free safety. ... Schottenheimer was ecstatic over his kick return and coverage game Sunday. "We were outstanding,'' he said. In particular, rookie Darren Sproles was a bright spot. "That No. 43 doesn't need a real big hole,'' Schottenheimer said. Sproles averaged 36.5 yards on his four kick returns, which is second-best in the NFL. .... To make room for Antonio Gates, the team released TE Landon Trusty.