Chargers' Brees to enter the gauntlet

The trading deadline is days away from passing without a sound. In San Diego, Chargers quarterback Drew Brees has been rumored to be on the block again. For now, he is playing well and is truly living by Marty Schottenheimer's motto: <br><br> Don't turn the ball over and giving the team the best chance to win.

Marty Schottenheimer is a big believer in ball control. When his team has the football, he wants them to control the ball – as in not turn it over.

"He's got a terrific understanding of what we're doing," Schottenheimer said.

Give Tomlinson as many carries as possible and don't make the stupid mistakes.

Even the opposition is beginning to take notice:

"His quarterback rating has been over 100 the last two weeks and he's making good decisions with the ball," Falcons' coach Jim Mora said.

"They have a good quarterback in Drew Brees, who's playing real well right now," Michael Vick said.

Drew Brees has done a better than good job over the last two games. He is taking care of the football and delivering the ball to his receivers. The one thing he has not had to do, however, is make multiple reads. Often, he is able to hit his first target, namely Antonio Gates. There have been times where he has checked off and hit players, but Brees admitted that the wide receiving corps has not been a big part of the plan because he has been able to hit his first read more often than not.

Gates has proven to be an impenetrable force when he goes into the opposition's secondary. His size is an obvious mismatch and he is well advanced in using that size to his advantage.

"I feel pretty comfortable locking out a guy that is 210, 215," Gates says of his success. "I boxed out guys that were 6-8. 6-9, use my body as an advantage."

At some point, teams will begin to put two men on him. He will no longer be as open as he was and Brees will have to make decisions.

"He is a great matchup for us in many cases," Brees said of Gates. "We have a lot of other weapons and we are going to need every guy as we have down the stretch."

The stretch is coming. But who knows what sort of rapport they will have. We have already seen that some of the wide receivers don't actively look for the ball and continue their routes when the ball is in the air. There is no comfort level with the receivers.

So, when will Drew Brees come back to reality? Or are we finally witnessing reality for the first time.

History says that Brees will eventually fall and it will be a hard fall.

The line play, stellar in the past two games, will be severely tested this week. They face an Atlanta defense that is not only ranked number one against the run, but also has 19 sacks on the year.

"They have proven they can rush the passer," Brees began nervously. "They are very good in the run game."

Time to throw has been a big correlation between the differences in his play. When he is not being harassed, he makes plays. But this is the NFL. Quarterbacks need to make plays when they are getting smacked in the jaw. That is the reality and what makes a team a real contender.

The Chargers have won two straight games with a collected effort. When the pressure comes, how will he respond?

Even without pressure, he has missed several receivers. That is masked by big leads and overall team play being solid.

He is averaging 178.6 yards per game passing this year. That ranks in the bottom quarter of the league. When he has been held under 200 yards, the team loses. And last year he failed to get 100 yards passing on three separate occasions.

Perhaps the play of Brees is even more crucial to the team's success than LaDainian Tomlinson.

"He's a heck of a competitor," LaDainian Tomlinson said. "He never gives up. He never, ever thinks negative things. Even in tough situations, he's thinking positive and he has a lot of confidence in himself."

The team has shown gritty determination. When they are down, they battle back. Maybe it is Brees who is showing his leadership qualities.

"I am really starting to get a feel for the player I can be," Brees proclaimed.

It has helped that the two wins have come at home where the crowd has been on his side. Now they face a tough road test in Atlanta.

They have won two in a row and the confidence is high.

"We need to be able to put a third one together," Brees said.

To do so, the Chargers will be relying on Brees to shine again. Given his track record of streakiness, it is not a bet many care to make. At some point reality will rear its ugly head and people will again question whether Brees is the man to lead this team, especially with Philip Rivers waiting in the wings.

Lightning quicks:

Owner Arthur Blank hosted a small retirement party Monday afternoon for Bobby Beathard, who spent the last two seasons as a senior adviser.

From 1990-99, Beathard worked as GM in San Diego, where the Chargers won the '94 AFC championship. He also helped build a Washington roster that won two Super Bowls and three NFC titles

"You can't duplicate someone who could come in with the kind of experience and success that Bobby had in the National Football League," Rich McKay said. "He helped this organization immensely."

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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