USA Today: Inside Slant 12/6

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

It looms on the Chargers' December schedule, much like Christmas: the opportunity to spoil the Colts' perfect season.

Trouble is, that matchup is in two Sundays. First up for the streaking Chargers are the Miami Dolphins.

Any chance the Chargers will be looking ahead to Indy instead of focusing on the Dolphins, winners of two straight?

"We understand if we don't beat Miami, the last three games don't mean as much," quarterback Drew Brees said, "because we might already be eliminated. We understand every game from here on out, it's one game at a time. It's almost a must-win situation every time we go out.

"Don't look too far ahead. Been done that road before, and it doesn't work. Just one foot in front of another."

The closing three-game stretch Brees referred to starts with the Colts, followed but tough games against the Chiefs and the Broncos. But the contest the Chargers dearly have to win is their next one, against the Dolphins (5-7).

"When you look at that football team right now, they're pretty good," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "And the way this league is today, all it takes is a few wins in a row, and all of sudden you might find yourself right in the middle of the race."

The Chargers are in a coupe of races. They are one game behind the Denver Broncos for the AFC West lead. And at 8-4, they are one game behind the Jacksonville Jaguars for the best wild-card mark.

But the Chargers must be on the mark come Sunday. While some see the Dolphins' visit as an easy win, it also has the look of a trap game if the Chargers aren't focused.

So who do the Chargers root for in Sunday's Jacksonville-Indianapolis game?

"Maybe the Colts so they will be undefeated when we go there," Brees said. "But other than that, I'm just worried about us."


—Cornerback Quentin Jammer on the Chargers picking up a game on AFC West-leading Denver on Sunday: "We're right in the thick of things. We still want to win the division."

—With his third-quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Eric Parker, quarterback Drew Brees became the third Chargers quarterback with 20 touchdown passes in consecutive seasons, joining Dan Fouts and John Hadl. When Fouts did it in 1980-81, the Chargers advanced each season to the AFC championships game.

Brees was happy to bounce back after throwing three picks in Washington.

"Last week it was one of those things where I got a little greedy at times trying to go for the big play when it wasn't there," said Brees, who had two scoring passes. "You just have to remember, hey, if they are going to play like that, we're just going to take what they give us."

—Backup running back Michael Turner got his second NFL touchdown when subbing for an ailing LaDainian Tomlinson in the second quarter.

"I just happened to be in the game at that time," Turner said of his 2-yard run. "I didn't want to get out there that way, but it felt good to be out there."

Turner had 34 yards on seven carries.

—Wide receiver Keenan McCardell became the 13th player in NFL history to record 800 career receptions with his second-quarter catch good for 8 yards. The reception also plopped him into the top 20 for career receiving yardage, as he went past Harold Jackson (10,372). McCardell finished with four catches for 60 yards.

"Right now I can't put words to it," McCardell said. "It was a catch that helped us win."

—Mike Scifres nailed a career-long 71-yard punt — the third-longest in team history — to get the Chargers out from deep in their territory in the second quarter.

"I shanked it a little bit," Scifres said, with a grin.

—Coach Marty Schottenheimer ran his record to 25-7 against the Raiders.

—There was just one penalty accepted in the game, an unnecessary-roughness call on center Nick Hardwick.

—Quarterback A.J. Feeley had an IV before the game, still fighting a severe case of food poisoning.



—WR Kassim Osgood is out for the year after tearing a pectoral muscle. Osgood was a solid blocker and a special teams dynamo.

—LT Roman Oben (foot) has now missed four straight games. He'll test his foot again in Wednesday's practice.

—WR Vincent Jackson continues to be a disappointment. The second-round pick has battled nagging injuries and was a healthy inactive on Sunday. He has just one catch this season, but he'll be asked to do more with Kassim Osgood (torn pectoral muscle) sidelined.

—S Clinton Hart was subbing for Terrence Kiel (ankle) when he returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown. It was his second score of the season, as he returned one against the Eagles when taking a lateral from Donnie Edwards. Kiel, though, will likely return to the starting lineup against the Dolphins.

—RB Drew Brees has been spectacular in his last five games against the Raiders, all Chargers victories. He has thrown 10 touchdowns with no interceptions.


PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus — QB Drew Brees rebounded from a mediocre game in Washington with a solid performance in the win over the Raiders. Brees missed on just five of his 22 passes, throwing for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Five receivers got their mitts on the ball, and two of them, TE Antonio Gates and WR Eric Parker, had touchdowns. The pass protection was fine, and the on the few times Brees did feel some heat, he was able to roll out and throw on the run — something he does quite well.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A — Want to know how good the run-blocking was? RB Michael Turner spelled LaDainian Tomlinson, and he averaged 4.9 yards on seven carries. The Chargers finished with 126 rushing yards as Tomlinson got the lion's share of it with 86. FB Lorenzo Neal, as well as the front line, were very physical with a Raiders front that didn't seem to have much fight.

PASS DEFENSE: B — The secondary continues to make strides, and one of the reasons is the increased pass rush the Chargers are producing. They had three sacks Sunday, giving them 38 on the year, second-best in the NFL. QB Kerry Collins was pestered most the night from various angles and by various players. He was restricted to 236 passing yards and a score despite throwing 40 times. S Clinton Hart, subbing for Terrence Kiel, forced a fumble and had an interception return for a touchdown. Even if Kiel is fit this Sunday, look for Hart to get considerable playing time.

RUSH DEFENSE: A — The Chargers have regained their top ranking in run defense, with the Raiders rushing for 81 yards — and 24 of those came in one carry from Zach Crockett, in garbage time at the end of the game. Jamal Williams continues to take up two blockers in the middle, which allows the linebackers to snag the tackle — Donnie Edwards had a team-high eight stops. Randall Godfrey recovered a fumble when Hart dislodged the ball from LaMont Jordan on a run. Good effort and execution here.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B — Nate Kaeding hit two field goals, but his kickoffs were weak and didn't have much distance. P Mike Scifres got off a career-long 71-yard effort. The coverage teams were fine; Darren Sproles brought a kickoff back 35 yards. The Chargers have a much more sure-handed Eric Parker returning punts instead of Sproles.

COACHING: A — The Chargers were playing down to the Raiders' level in the first half, letting them stick around in a game the Chargers should have dominated. But San Diego pulled away in the second half, thanks to some minor adjustments in the run defense, but more important, a change of attitude. Marty Schottenheimer's players looked more refreshed in the second half than in the first, as their coach's message got across loud and clear at halftime.