Chargers Game Day Primer

Put up or shut up. When Jamal Lewis called out the San Diego Chargers, and specifically LaDainian Tomlinson, the Bolts could not come back with any biting remarks even if they wanted to. They are sitting at 0-2 and have no cause for celebration nor can they talk smack. Not that talking smack is something the collection of players would do, but it would be nice to have something positive to look at.

Special teams will figure strongly in this game. Denver had an average field position of their own 34 last week. Only once out of seven possessions when they started a drive beyond their own 30 yard line were they kept off the scoreboard. In contrast, only one time out of the four series when they had the ball inside their own 30 did they score.

It all starts on the kickoff.

Kickoffs are not going deep enough. Steve Christie has yet to send one of his 19 kickoffs deep enough for a touchback. Given enough opportunities, it is inevitable that someone will burn them bad with a long return. Mike Scifres, he of the powerful leg, has been inactive thus far. When the defense is struggling, a good kicker who can pin a team deep may be the remedy needed.

Everyone knows stopping the run is key, but perhaps just as important is limiting success on play action. The Chargers defense will be in man coverage and play action will give the Ravens, and rookie quarterback Kyle Boller, the extra time and space to make completions on intermediate routes. Boller is prone to make mistakes, and competing less than 50% of his passes.

The Chargers linebackers must play Todd Heap especially close. He will be the first option on crossing routes and will hope to make separation on play action. That extra step to defend the run is all Heap will need to get open. With the Bolts defense likely to be extra aggressive, the screen pass will also open up. They have yet to show competence in defending the screen and must place a shadow on Lewis. Often overlooked, he has great hands and is just as dangerous catching the ball as a rusher.

Look for Lewis to be used as a decoy quite often this week. Coming off a record setting performance against Cleveland, Lewis will be a target. That makes him even more dangerous as defenders will overpursue him to make plays. With Boller moving through his rookie campaign, the Chargers would be wise to play within their game and not try and make the "big" play against the run. It may after all be a pass play.

David Boston returns this week and he must be a focus of the gameplan. Forget "five or six plays", as Marty Schottenheimer says. He needs to see the ball and see it early. Set up a wide receiver screen to Boston early and open it up when it forces the Ravens secondary up to the line.

Not only will throwing the ball to him get him much needed receptions, it will also force Baltimore to double him more often. If that is the case, Eric Parker, with his speed and route running, should be open almost every play. Tim Dwight will also be able to expose the underneath routes as safeties play deep. He can then use his elusiveness to gain extra yardage after the catch.

Boston needs to run routes that put him into better position to use his physical attributes to shield the ball from his defenders. Short slant routes, curls and the like will ensure success. Airing it out will force the linebackers to drop back a step and give LaDainian Tomlinson more room. It is a ripple effect.

Last but not least is scoring in the first quarter. The Chargers cannot afford to go down by even a touchdown. With the Ravens defense as stingy as it is, they need to be the ones to set the tone and determine the pace of the game. Having been outscored 48-10 in the first half this year, the Bolts have been unable to play the style they want, aka Marty Ball.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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