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November 2nd was "All Souls' Day" according to my Charlie Brown page-a-day calendar. This seems particularly appropriate because it was on this very day that the San Diego Chargers proved that they are truly a team without any soul. They couldn't even allow LaDainian Tomlinson to avenge the theft of his 2001 Rookie of the Year award by Anthony Thomas.

Even I can admit when the Bolts face a quality performer on the opposing team. But no matter how many times CBS' Gus Johnson calls him "A Train," I cannot call Thomas one of those players. I know that Thomas, lame nickname and all, is not the type of player who makes defenders miss, but I wasn't impressed with him even as he ran through holes the size of the Bering Strait. Yet, he gained 111 yards against the Chargers, just enough to make every "fantasy highlights" display that scrolled beneath all subsequent NFL telecasts I saw on Sunday.

This game started out like every other one seemingly has for the Bolts this season. Tim Dwight ran about 15 yards at top speed and was immediately tackled. Then the fun really began. Even CBS' broadcast team, never to be confused with a think tank, noticed that the offense seemed to solely consist of the unholy "run-run-pass" trinity. When you have LaDainian Tomlinson, whom Brian Urlacher hailed last week as the second coming of Barry Sanders, how can you not call a boatload of play-action passes? Of course, the announcers were quick to remind the viewers that they still have the utmost respect for Marty Schottenheimer. Clearly, they haven't been watching the Chargers play since last October.

Schottenheimer reportedly is a self-described "stubborn German." That's sure something to be proud of. Shortly after the broadcasters wondered aloud about the stagnant play-calling on offense, the Bolts countered by running Jesse Chatman straight into the line. This was followed by the fake reverse, even though this also never seems to work. We were then treated to yet another false start. Not even the players on the field seemed surprised. Remember when 3rd and 1 was a big problem down for the Bolts to convert? It still is. The addition of Lorenzo Neal hasn't changed that one bit. A healthy Toniu Fonoti, also acquired to improve the short-yardage game, didn't improve the situation, either.

On defense, we witnessed Marcellus Wiley being faked out of his Ivy League shoes by CHRIS CHANDLER. "If I was a Charger fan," revealed the broadcast booth, "I'd wonder where the pass rush is." No kidding. It was extremely appropriate that Drew Brees threw another awful interception while Alex Spanos was on the air to talk about the tragic situation befalling San Diego right now. When Adrian Dingle, who along with DeQuincy Scott is the only player capable of getting to the quarterback, got inside the pocket the Chargers magically shut Chicago's offense down. "The only pressure the Chargers seem to be getting is on the blitz," the analyst said. Do you think that maybe that means we should call it more often?

On offense, Drew Brees continued to slip farther and farther into the Pit of Despair. He threw a lame duck that completely let Reche Caldwell, fresh off the IR, out to dry. Welcome back, Reche, here's a concussion for you. I never thought I'd find myself hoping for Doug Flutie, but I did. Sadly, Schottenheimer probably waited too long to make the change. Flutie's short stint not only reminded us of what Flutie can do (usually when he comes off the bench), but made it painfully clear how badly Brees has been playing. With just a little success in moving the ball down the field, the entire team seemed to perk up. Even on defense, guys weren't missing tackles and blowing coverages.

Unfortunately, the Chargers' surge was short-lived. The Aussie punted short and the subsequent return basically finished the Bolts off. It's amazing that during the 2001 season I was pulling my hair out when Brees didn't get a shot to start. His one appearance against Kansas City was the only bright spot of that campaign's second half. Doug Flutie actually threw an interception against Oakland that BARELY TRAVELLED FIVE FEET. Plus, Douggie wasn't exactly handling the pressure well. I know what Bucky Johnson was writing about in Buffalo when he suggested that Flutie was not always the Good Samaritan you see in the commercials. Although no one would ever confirm it, I do believe that the late John Butler ordered Mike Riley not to bench Flutie. One only need look at Tim Dwight's contract to be reminded of Butler's stubbornness.

But if the Bolts were forced to keep Flutie starting, it was due to ego or past allegiances made in Buffalo. Right now, the issue with Brees is his development and finding the answer to whether or not he can be the quarterback of the future. He's not playing like the quarterback of the present. As was the case with the 2000 season, there are players (and hopefully a head coach) who will not return due to the team's struggles. Not only are there guys whose futures are on the line, but the team's subterranean morale could really use a win.

Marcellus Wiley was right and not only by admitting that he's having another poor season. Flutie should start right now. Brees is, as he himself admitted, making the simple elements of the game too difficult. Flutie is not the long-term answer and will inevitably run out of magic. By that time, Brees will hopefully have worked some of his problems out.

Marty Schottenheimer is taking his sweet time making a decision. Why? Is he simply enjoying the fact that he has the power to make it? The Chargers are so much worse right now than their talent level of the players they have, that Schottenheimer should be getting much more heat about keeping his own job. But in San Diego, only Nick Canepa and the talk radio circuit are willing to tell the truth. The season is at the halfway point and it's already over for the Bolts. Does it matter if the Chargers win some games in the season's latter half? Despite the fact that it would jeopardize our draft standing, I think it does. Recent history has shown that ever teams that don't make the playoffs benefit the following season from any momentum they build up in November and December. We've also seen the Chargers fail miserably during those months. Before you're sent back to the broadcast booth (for good, hopefully), Marty, try not to mess up my favorite football team any more than you already have.

R.W. McWarners

Does anyone else think that guy looks exactly like Bobby McFerrin?

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