Chargers run to Denver, but can they run in Denver

The San Diego Chargers head into cold hell on Sunday. The temperature may be mild this week but the welcome they receive will be a deep freeze. The Broncos were stung last week by a Quentin Griffin fumble and an angry team at a home the Chargers rarely win at doesn't bode well.

San Diego is not ready to concede the loss so easily. They still have the best runner in the league and they will need him at his finest this week.

LaDainian Tomlinson wasn't as big a threat last week, especially after the Chargers went down 14-0. The Bolts maintained his presence in the running game, but a 59 yard screen proves he needs to be used more.

Where is the running back slant that proved to be uncoverable last year?

Through two games, Tomlinson has just six receptions. He averaged over six receptions pergame in 2003. Clearly that was too much but three per game may be too little, especially in games where his carries drop.

"We understand we have a couple more weapons, and we're trying to give these guys a chance to make plays also," Tomlinson said.

The team boasts an improving by the day tight end in Antonio Gates and a surprisingly effective Reche Caldwell. Are they weapons? Gates is becoming one. Caldwell could become one.

If Drew Brees cannot hit them in the hands, neither will.

Which is why the Chargers need Tomlinson. He is electric and can take the wind out of Rocky Mountains and the hostile crowd at Invesco.

Tomlinson has not had the best of luck facing Denver. His best game in Denver was back in 2001 when he rushed for 75 yards. In 2002 he rushed for 48 yards and last year he managed just 29 yards.

Not kind at all.

The Broncos defense performed well last week against Jacksonville in a loss and is fifth overall in yards allowed. They maintain the awareness that they have to continue to perform in the NFL – week after week.

"The thing I've learned over the years is that great defenses, you have to keep doing it every week," safety John Lynch said. "Sure we can build off of this and we're going to come out humming. But what you've done is in the past.

"We got the Chargers and LaDainian Tomlinson – a great challenge. We have to step up."

"I know statistically they continue to be ranked among the best in the league as a defensive football team," Marty Schottenheimer said.

Statistically doesn't do the team justice. In Denver last year the Chargers managed just 96 TOTAL yards of offense in a 37-8 blowout.

Brees will start this week – which is different from last year's debacle where Doug Flutie was under center. Flutie did not sound like he wanted to get back in the huddle this week.

"One hundred percent Drew's our starter," said Flutie. "I'm just here in case of an emergency."

With the success they have had in Denver in the past, who can blame Doug. It is not hard to envision the Bolts being left cold and bloody after this game.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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