Riddle Me This

The San Diego Chargers went into Cleveland and controlled the line of scrimmage, the one key to the game. In the trenches was where the action took place and LaDainian Tomlinson was the beneficiary. Tim Couch, on the other hand, was the goat. With all the applause for a victory, there is definite room for concern, starting with the playcalling on offense late in the game.

With the game potentially on the line, the Chargers chose play-action pass on third and goal from the one. They play resulted in a sack by Courtney Brown and the Chargers were forced to kick a field goal. They were up 23-20 and 3:49 was left on the clock. The field goal put them up by six, or less than a touchdown and an extra point.

"Obviously, in hindsight, you say give the ball to LT," Drew Brees said. "He was the guy that got us down there and the guy that was hammering out positive yards throughout that drive. Let him leap over the top. It did not happen that way. We got the victory, so it is easier to say ‘Who cares.'"

"I made a bad call," said Marty Schottenheimer. "I have the authority to overrule any play our offensive coordinator calls. If I had to do it all over again, I would do exactly the opposite. I would have run the ball."

LaDainian Tomlinson had been stomping all over the Browns, but with first and goal at the eight, he never saw the ball again. Lorenzo Neal had two runs to bring it to the one and rest was history.

"He is a very special player and a very special person," said Schottenheimer. "He has as big of a heart as anyone around. With guys like that, you really do not need much coaching. He is a great player, person, and competitor. There are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe my admiration for him."

The one fault is he did need coaching on that drive. He needed to be given the rock again. Schottenheimer and his staff control that. With Brees floundering all day and having completed just one pass on that drive, to Tomlinson, his rhythm was not where it needed to be to complete a pass had there been no pressure.

"What can you say about LT that has not already been said? He is obviously a special player and someone we rely on quite a bit," said Brees. "He came out and had another great day. He was bound and determined not to let us lose. He wanted the ball. When you are averaging seven yards a carry, you would be saying ‘Give me the ball' too. When I see a man run the ball like he was, I am saying ‘Give that man the ball.' To do what he did today was impressive."

If Brees was the leader he may or may not be meant to be, he should have stepped up and made a stand for LT to get the rock with the game on the line. The mark of leadership knows when someone else is at their best and chucking responsibility their way. Even if Tomlinson fails to score, you look back and say, ‘200 yards, yeah I would have given him the ball too.'

The Browns defense never had an answer for Tomlinson. They missed open field tackles, were blocked well and really never came close to giving him a solid lick in the backfield.

"I told you he is bad (meaning good)," said Browns linebacker Andra Davis. "He is the best back we have faced all year, probably the best we will face all year. He is the real deal. We had a game plan to stop him but the plays he made, he made them. On the touchdown run, I missed him."

That statement comes from a guy who also faced Jamal Lewis. The same Lewis that torched the Browns for an NFL record 295 yards.

The Browns feared Tomlinson. Giving him the ball at that crucial point in the game could have sealed it. It could have deflated a team that was riding a high known as Kelly Holcomb.

"We got into it in the second half," said Davis. "We fought our way back in and made a game out of it. We gave ourselves a possession where we had a chance to maybe drive down and take the lead in the ballgame."

"I think the crowd turned the momentum once they started cheering, when Kelly was coming into the game," said Browns running back James Jackson. "That gave the rest of the team a spark and he completed that first pass and the rally started from there."

The fight began with just under three minutes to go in the third. Holcomb came into the game, replacing Tim Couch. Holcomb led the Browns to two straight scoring drives in a span of six minutes. With the field goal they left the coffin open.

"I was scared," Tomlinson said. "I really was."

"To be honest with you, when they put Holcomb in, I kept talking to one of our guys because I did not know much about him," Schottenheimer said. "He said he is going to throw the ball where it needs to be thrown, he knows and understands the offense, and he will make very good decisions."

For a man who preaches fundamentals and preparation, the last statement leaves me befuddled. How is it possible Schottenheimer does not know who Kelly Holcomb is?

Apparently it showed in the defense as they allowed two quick scores, one off a costly Tim Dwight turnover. Holcomb is a solid quarterback and, just for the record, he took the job from the number one overall selection Tim Couch before the season started.

Preparation may be made on a week to week basis, but with the certainty of a quarterback being pulled in Cleveland if the play of one is poor, his statement shows a total lack of commitment to the current sate of the game. The Chargers even had an extra week to prepare for this matchup. Schottenheimer doesn't know this guy?

Hopefully this is a lesson. Homework on everyone needs to be done. Just like scouting the draft, a team needs to cover every possibility and Holcomb, for the Browns, was at the top of that list to scout. To hear Schottenheimer tell it – it sounds like the glory days have passed him by.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

SD Super Chargers Top Stories