Old Friends, Sunday Enemies

The San Diego Chargers host the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend at Qualcomm and the two franchises could not be headed into the game under different circumstances. The Bengals are riding high atop the AFC North while the Bolts are caught in the toils of despair in the AFC West.

Two Bengals will reunite in different ways this weekend. Marvin Lewis faces his hometown counterpart Marty Schottenheimer this weekend and Rogers Beckett returns as a starter in the Cincinnati secondary after being let go by the Bolts this past offseason.

"Yeah, it's big. Two people born the same day 15 years apart exactly," Lewis said.

Same day, same hometown of McDonald, PA, and countless knowledge has been passed on from the older Marty. Lewis is the new, the winner coming in with his own mantra. He is exciting and has his team playing well while Marty eyes retirement in San Diego.

"Obviously Marty has been a big part of why I'm standing here in front you," Lewis added. "I've been able to be a fly in the corner where ever he has coached. Being able to have access to visit his staff wherever he has been has been a big part of my development as a coach. When I got the job here, he was probably one of the first people that I saw after squeezing into Jack (Brennan's) shirt (at the news conference announcing his hiring during Senior Bowl week), and he made sure I had his home phone number. He said if you need anything, call me.

"He knew everything about everything. I'm saying that in a positive way. I remember they were preparing for the AFC playoffs and he was coaching the running back on how to run the flat route, the linebacker — or whoever was supposed to cover him — and it was just amazing. It's a big game."

It isn't all about the reunion – it is about getting the "W", especially on the road.

"It's just time to go win," Lewis said. "It's just like playing any other road game once we get there."

Lewis knows he will still have to contend with Doug Flutie who is starting this week for the Chargers. His hope is to harass him as much as Denver was able to do a week ago.

"Doug has great ability to avoid the rush, and make things happen out of the ordinary. My last experience with Doug Flutie wasn't a very good one. This is going to be a big game for us. He's been a brilliant player, and his ability when the play breaks down to make something positive to happen for his team."

Beckett has been the starter since week three of the season and appears to have returned to the form that netted him 93 tackles as a Bolt not so long ago.

Rather than fitting the system to the players, San Diego went out and got all new toys to play a scheme they wanted. That hasn't worked for the Chargers and Beckett could not be happier.

"It's worked out perfectly for me here," said Beckett. "The safety does more in this system. I think I blitzed three times the entire time I was in San Diego."

"He's done great," Lewis concurred. "He came in here as a guy that didn't get a chance to take part in our minicamps. He hit the ground running in training camp. He had to make up some ground, and he did that, and he did it without ever smiling. He didn't smile very often, and he still doesn't. I'm glad he's played extremely well every week on defense, (especially) his heroic effort vs. the Texans with the severely bruised ribs. He played extremely well again last week. He got back to some of his duties that he has been doing on special teams as well. Just tremendous. I'm glad for him. There are football players out there that can fit in and find their niche with you. He's been a pro, and it's been great."

He already got three sacks this season and says he has blitzed six times in the past two games alone, securing a sack in each. But he's got nothing against Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer's staff, which deemed him a bad fit for its two-deep scheme and benched him 10 games into its administration last season.

"That happens in this league. It's a business," Beckett said. "I'm just worried about winning."

And the Chargers are worried about the embarrassment they have shown this year. Forget the nostalgia, jobs are on the line in San Diego from the Head Coach on down. The Bengals are worried about winning – two different directions – two different directions.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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