Stacking the Box

Superstars are targets every week in the NFL. The idea many defenses have is: Take out that one guy and make someone else beat you. In theory, this is sound strategy, but it does not always work. The San Diego Chargers wanted to stop Priest Holmes last week and couldn't. Now they want to stop Clinton Portis. If anyone will beat the Bolts this week, let it be Jake Plummer.

"I've always been a fan of Jake's," Marty Schottenheimer said. "I think that he's a good quarterback. I think he's a guy with quickness in his arm, good velocity. I think his mobility is a big plus; my understanding is that was one of the reasons that the Broncos brought him in. He is certainly a guy that can give you a lot of problems on the move."

Tight end Shannon Sharpe attributed the miscues to Plummer "wanting to do well" in his regular-season debut with Denver.

"We know it going to take a couple of weeks before he (Jake Plummer) just grasps the system and completely understands everything that is going on, because we have a lot in our game plan," said Portis. "For the rest of the guys, we just have to step up, and eventually Jake (Plummer) is going to come around and be at the top of his game and when he does, I think it is going to be hard to stop us."

And if Plummer proves the three interceptions he threw last week were just a case of doing too much, the Chargers may not have a chance anyway.

Portis clearly states the reasoning why the Chargers must concentrate their defense against him. He knows Plummer still has learning to do before he is a real general in Denver. Plummer threw three picks against Cincinnati a week ago. He did not deliver any complete passes to Ashley Lelie or Ed McCaffrey. If he stumbles off his "horse" this week, the Chargers will not give away the opportunity.

The Bolts cannot afford to allow Clinton Portis any room to maneuver. Last week Ben Leber drew the job of shadow. He will have to do the same again this week as Donnie Edwards looks to neutralize Sharpe.

"We have to be effective in all areas," said wide receiver Rod Smith. "If they stack the box, we are going to have to find a way to get Clinton (Portis) and Mike (Anderson) the ball. If they do stack the line, we will have to throw the ball better. We need to move the ball down the field consistently, through the air or on the ground. We have to work together."

Gameplan and counter. It is like a game of ‘Risk'. You line your troops up and stack the border, hoping no one will be able to get through your defenses. When the front lines falter, reinforcements are called in. When the attacks keep coming -- it is game over.

"You know as well as I do with the speed that they got in Portis, they are going to be trying to run around that corner," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "And they are going to test us very, very early, I'm sure.

"It's just making sure you get everybody in the right position to contain the end run," Schottenheimer added. "And every end run defense involves containment and involves somebody who's in the running lane, the cutback lane, then your pursuit comes off of that."

Every once in awhile it feels like you are defending Australia. Your defense is perfect and you ensure the offensive strike can only go one way.

The Chargers know if they can't stop Portis, they are in for a long afternoon. If the Broncos can establish the run, they will toy with a secondary that is getting its feet wet. If Portis rumbles, that sets up the downfield action for quarterback Jake Plummer who'll freeze the defense with play-action, then wing it down field.

The Chargers don't want to play that game again. They have already seen it once.

"We could have played my high school team and may have had a tough struggle with them, the way we played last week," Marcellus Wiley said referring to the Chargers play against Kansas City.

Let's hope the Chargers don't get stuck defending the multifaceted attack on Europe or Asia ever again.

Did you know?

Marty wanted to draft Plummer?

"When we were in Kansas City, we were trying to work a trade during the draft to move up and get into a position to draft him," Schottenheimer recalled. "It never materialized, obviously."

Record Books:

If Denver Broncos running back Clinton Portis rushes for 100 yards Sunday at San Diego, he will reach his 10th 100-yard rushing performance in 18 career games, tying him with former New Orleans-Washington running back George Rogers in reaching the plateau in the third-fewest games in history. Portis rushed for 100-plus yards in both games against the Chargers last season (102, 159).

It took Edgerrin James 15 games, Eric Dickerson 17, Rogers 18, Earl Campbell 19, Ottis Anderson 20 and Jerome Bettis 20.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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