Nothing but Praise

The San Diego Chargers will face a tough Miami defense on Monday and they will not have the benefit of their cozy locker rooms, plush pre-game spread or home field advantage. In a crowd that figured to be lined with jersey #55, the aura will not be present in Tempe, Arizona. Coach Marty Schottenheimer thinks they are facing their toughest test of the season.

It doesn't help that the minds of many players will be back in San Diego. Will they win one for the firefighters who gave their support to the team by watching them practice in Carson?

Is this game only the toughest test because of their dismal 1-5 record? There is no debating the Miami defense is tough.

"We are going to play arguably one of the best defenses in football," said Marty Schottenheimer. "I think they are terrific. We spent the whole offseason studying them from a defensive standpoint. And they are good. There is nobody any better in my opinion. That is a tough nut to crack. Their defense is terrific.

"It is hard to move the ball on them. They are good. Real good. They play to that strength and they try not to put themselves in awkward situations."

You have to wonder who Marty is coaching. Is he trying to heap enough praise on this Miami team that they will become overconfident?

Maybe his take on the offense will be different.

"We all know about their runner," added Schottenheimer. "He is a great runner and they keep giving him his opportunities.

"I think when you look at Miami's offense, it starts with Ricky Williams. They proved that a year ago when we played down there. You better be able to slow him down cause if you don't, the rest of it becomes academic."

These may all be true, but where is the praise of his own team. It seems the odds are insurmountable in the mind of Schottenheimer. Has he caved at a time when the team may need him most?

His job is to keep the team focused, especially when the events in San Diego dictate otherwise. This is the time to see if Schottenheimer can show his magic. This is his crunch time. A loss here and the demons exorcised by one win will come back.

How will the team respond to a Junior Seau led team?

"We are not playing Junior Seau, we are playing the Miami Dolphins and certainly he is an intricate part of it."

That was not necessarily true with the game in San Diego. Junior Seau jerseys would have been everywhere. Can you imagine them booing if the team got off to a slow start? It would have seemed like the crowd was filled with Miami fans.

"It'll definitely be best for our offense," said Zach Thomas. "There won't be many people out there making noise. There'll be maybe 10,000 people in the stands." Now it appears he has just made his first point to rally around.

"Moving the game is very disappointing, but obviously for the safety of everyone, if that's the best decision to make, do it for San Diego and for everyone affected by it," Seau said. "The game of football is secondary right now. I hate to see it happen to my hometown or anybody's hometown.

As always, Seau comes through with eloquence and character. It is the reason San Diego loves him so much and will miss him Monday night.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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