Chargers Game Day Primer

The San Diego Chargers come home to Qualcomm to face the Denver Broncos today and yet another early test for the defense. The Bolts played one solid half of football last week, but down 24-0, they could only do so much. Now, after one week of action, the team is looking for bigger things, including their own version of the twelfth man. <br><br> <b>ARE YOU READY FOR THE HOME OPENER!</b>

"Right now, if you're getting ready to play us," Marty Schottenheimer said. "I'm not sure you would abandon the pass just to run the ball, because we're kind of green back there in the secondary."

Schottenheimer hit the nail on the head. The Chargers must play a complete game in order to win. No more half games, no more failures to react to what is being deployed against them.

Stop the Run:

In seven of its past 10 games, San Diego has given up more than 125 rushing yards. The linebacker corps for the Chargers didn't have a good day last Sunday, when getting thrashed for 131 rushing yards, including 85 from Priest Holmes.

It's imperative middle linebacker Zeke Moreno, a first-year starter, and Ben Leber, a second-year starter, are better in beating the Broncos' line to the point of attack. Denver's blockers, though, are active and efficient, something that could cause big problems for the Chargers. They were bottled up last week by the huge and agile Kansas City line. They also missed some tackles. That cannot happen again with Clinton Portis carrying the rock.

"The perimeter run, the toss stuff, and the handoff where they pull the guard and the center, pull the tackle and the center, and when they do that you have got to get as many people to the point of attack as they got," Marty Schottenheimer said. "On a couple of occasions, three that come to mind, including the 24-yard one for the touchdown, that touchdown, they had an extra guy there. He didn't have to block anybody." In particular, Jamal Williams, the Chargers' run-stuffing tackle, has to come up big against center Tom Nalen -- no small task with Nalen being a four-time Pro Bowler and back after a serious knee injury last year.

Williams will not let revenge get the best of him this Sunday. He may occasionally bump heads with Broncos guard Steve Herndon, the man responsible for ending his season in 2002, but his focus is on the game.

"Bygones are bygones," Williams said. "The season is the most important thing. I just feel blessed to be out there."

Marcellus Wiley and Adrian Dingle will have to do a better job of containment. Too often last week they were caught upfield. This opened running lanes outside the guard and inside the tackles (or their position upfield). Instead of the straight rushes upfield, some variety might be in order to force Portis, or Plummer, back inside where the meat of the defense is.

"The running game was focused on the perimeter and we didn't do a very good job of it," Schottenheimer added. "That is the key thing we have to address defensively."

Dingle was the best lineman on the field. He had two sacks, one a freebie, and two tackles behind the line. Wiley, meanwhile, did not have a good day. He was credited with one stuff, but was kept quiet for the better part of the day. He needs to step it up and become the high priced, get in your face "Wild Style". Without consistent play from both sides of the line, they are very beatable.

The defense needs to get the crowd in the game early. A big stop in the backfield is a sure-fired way to make this happen.

"I think the biggest fuel of emotion is success," said Wiley.

Jake Plummer:

"I don't know what the evaluation of him is up there," Schottenheimer said. "I'm sure he's capable of playing better."

The same can be said for the Chargers defense. Or at least, the hope is they will play better.

"I am going to work as hard as I can," Jake Plummer said. "I have already looked at a lot of the San Diego tape and I am into the game plan. The beauty of this business is that you get another week to come back and go after it again."

The real question is: Have the Chargers watched their own gameplan from last week?

Last week the Chargers stayed in zone and got beat. They switched to man and played better. A mix of both would be the responsible act this week. Much like Kansas City kept the Chargers defense guessing, the Bolts must do the same against Denver.

"We strive for perfection," said Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe. "Ninety-nine and a half isn't good enough: we want a hundred."

The Bolts were 50% at best. More and more teams are going to three step drops and the Bolts must bring more pressure up the gut. If they cannot get close, get a hand up. Blitzing Leber, in the Junior Seau role, failed. Leber was caught up in the line more often than not, and it left an outlet open in Holmes. Leber must see holes better and slide along the line to find the seam to blitz through. He was too one dimensional in his attack. Dale Lindsey must mix up his blitzes and hide his coverage. The harder it is at the line of scrimmage to read, the more problems Plummer will have.

"It is hard to relax, even when things are going well," Rod Smith said. "Some people are just wound that way. I am like that; I always want to get better. I don't know how Jake will react yet. I definitely want to see him smiling. If we can play like we did last week and win it would be great. That won't happen, though. We are going to try and take that heat off of him and we will see him relax."

Jake relax? He had a 27-3 lead at halftime and went 5-12 with two interceptions in the second half. He can be rattled, just like any quarterback in the league. The Chargers must work up front to allow the speed of the defensive secondary to make the difference Marty Schottenheimer spoke of.

The Offensive line:

Broncos' defensive end Bertrand Berry will face off against Damion McIntosh in what McIntosh has to view as redemption.

McIntosh gave up 3.5 sacks to KC's Vonnie Holliday last week, and will have to be on his toes against the cat-quick Berry. Berry had two sacks last week and is just hoping to continue that streak.

"We definitely have to be more lane-responsible as far as getting after (Drew Brees)," Berry said. "We let Jon out a few times and Drew has a little more speed. If we do some of those things, he's going to get some big runs on us and keep drives going and keep us on the field longer. That's something we don't want."

Overall, the Broncos had four sacks last week and 15 pressures and on the other side of fence the Chargers line was terrible. Add in three passes battled down (two by defensive tackle Darius Holland) and two forced fumbles and it is a match made in heaven for Denver. The left side of the line had particular trouble in pass defense and Brees was making a ton of plays outside the pocket.

"This sets a precedent," defensive end Trevor Pryce said of the dominant effort. "But it's one week. We have 15 more games." The run blocking on the right side had issues. On short yardage, they had little push. Of the runs by Tomlinson, any that went right, went for negative yardage. With the shoddy play on the right side of the line, the Chiefs were then able to overload the middle and take that away as well.

The Bolts need to control the trenches. Last week they did not and it proved fatal in a loss. With home field advantage in the house, the Chargers have no excuses regarding crowd noise and cannot afford to have a 0-2 record.

"You have to win up front these days," Schottenheimer said.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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