Bump and Fall

In an odd twist after the San Diego Chargers has had some success playing cover-2, the defense went back to its bump and run roots against the speedy Hines Ward and 6-5 Plaxico Burress. The one game they may have been better suited to sit back and react to the play, they decided to man-up and play tight. What happened was the secondary fell flat on their face, or more appropriately the ground of Heinz Field.

That ploy didn't work. Sammy Davis got beat by Plaxico Burress for a touchdown when they were in man-to-man coverage early in the first quarter. Davis fell down on the play and Burress was able to run into the end zone after making the catch.

Marty Schottenheimer wasn't so sure Davis got beat.

"There is a learning curve and he is in the process of fighting his way through the learning curve. The very first touchdown they scored on, I felt like it was an offensive foul. I clearly thought it was an offensive foul. They indicated to me that Sammy fell and I said the reason he fell is because the guy pushed him."

Burress beat Davis once more before drawing coverage from Jammer. He then beat Jammer for a touchdown on the other side of the field early in the second quarter.

Burress could not believe they left him in one-on-one against cornerbacks who are five inches shorter than him.

"They played me bump and run, and hardly anybody does that," Burress said. "I looked over to their coach, I was surprised. I don't get too much of that."

The feeling coming into the game was they would play more zone to keep the talented duo of Burress and Hines Ward in front of them and limit big plays. In an effort to apparently throw Pittsburgh off, they went to bump and run. The plan backfired as the Steelers capitalized early to their biggest receiver – finding him in single coverage on both occasions.

Next year, Schottenheimer says Davis will be ready for the bigger receivers of the league.

"We've talked about Sammy and what his is going to have to do is he needs to get bigger and stronger because the wide receivers in the league are 210, 215, 220 pounds. And they are going to knock you around if you don't have some size and strength to you."

The Chargers doubled Burress later in the game, with Jerry Wilson sliding over, and Ward had his way with them, including a 20-yard TD catch in the third quarter when he was singled up with Sammy Davis and Burress was doubled.

The Chargers defense has now given up 36 touchdown passes on the season, twice the league average.

"We were hitting them good with a couple different plays and Mike (Mularkey) just kept changing it up and bouncing it back and forth between a couple of them," Alan Faneca said.

The defense did a solid job on Jerome Bettis, despite his 115 yards. He needed 32 carries to get that sum and was held in check for the most part.

"They were definitely a good defense," Jeff Hartings said. I sensed Jerome running the ball real hard and we had a good game plan."

Zeke Moreno and Donnie Edwards were among the active linebackers this week.

What they have not done is have a complete game as a team. When one phase of the game is playing reasonably well, another phase is getting dismantled.

Rarely does the defense show multiple looks. Reading the defense becomes easy.

"We have been thrust into a position where some young players have had to step up and play," said Schottenheimer.

"The heart is there, the energy is there and the potential is there, but we are not there as a team," Moreno added.

Without a team, LaDainian Tomlinson sits out the Pro Bowl. Without a team, the Chargers losses continue to pile up.

"We are better than the record shows," counters Schottenheimer.

But their record is all that matters when the end of the season rolls around next week.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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