Just enough

After another unsuccessful turn at running back, is it officially time to sit LaDainian Tomlinson? Though the Chargers won on Sunday, Tomlinson was on the sidelines for the crucial clock-eating drive that eventually sealed the victory when Jesse Chatman first broke off a long gain and eventually scored.

Chargers Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: B- -- Drew Brees didn't get much of a chance in the first half, but responded in the second half when leading the Chargers to 17 points. The addition of Keenan McCardell proved to be a big lift, as it already seems like Brees and McCardell are on the same page, clicking on timing routes and having a feel for one another. Antonio Gates continues his rise up the charts, as it seems he always finds a way to get open for third-down catches. Pass blocking was good, as Brees had time to go through his reads.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C- -- The running game couldn't really get untracked in the first half. Much of it, though, was due to Tomlinson trying to run on a bad groin. He just didn't have the same burst which makes him so dangerous. But the run-blocking, too, wasn't up to snuff as the Carolina front line more than held its own against the Chargers' line. Backup Jesse Chatman again comes in and delivers a spark. He had a team-high 69 yards on just eight carries. He had a 5-yard touchdown run and a long of 52.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- Improvement here, as Drayton Florence replaced Sammy Davis in the starting lineup. But Florence hurt his ankle, and Davis was thrown back into the fire. He responded with two passes defensed, which should do a world of good for his confidence. Quentin Jammer was nailed for two pass interference calls. SS Terrence Kiel had probably his best day as a pro with a team-high nine tackles, an interception and three passes defensed. The pass rush was dreadful. Not only was Jake Delhomme sacked but once (Shaun Phillips), but he had more time than he should have.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- What had become a real team strength took a step backward. The Panthers were able to rush for 116 yards, the most the Chargers had allowed since Sept. 19. And Brad Hoover (who?) did most of the damage with 99 yards. The tackling wasn't good, and the Panthers' offensive line pushed the Chargers around. Not a good day here.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B- -- Nate Kaeding didn't let his first miss of his rookie season get to him, as he later nailed one from 44 yards. Mike Scifres was a big reason the Chargers often won the field position battle, as three of his five efforts were downed inside the 20. Eric Parker didn't do much on punt returns; Tim Dwight had a long of 28 on kickoffs. Coverage units played well.

COACHING: A -- It seldom happens, really, when a coach goes off at halftime and it pays dividends. But it did Sunday, when Mt. Marty erupted and told his squad they were getting their butts kicked. There's not anything worse than telling a team the other squad was being more physical, but sometimes the truth hurts. In the second half, the Chargers put the hurt on the Panthers, as they came out with more grit.

Panthers Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Jake Delhomme continued to struggle Sunday, overthrowing and underthrowing receivers all day. Delhomme overthrew Muhsin Muhammad and Brad Hoover on potential touchdown passes, costing the Panthers 14 points. He didn't get much help from his receivers as Muhammad dropped two balls and tight end Michael Gaines missed another would-be touchdown. Delhomme, who entered the game with a league-high nine interceptions, threw another pick Sunday and finished with just 155 yards passing.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Despite being without their top three running backs (Stephen Davis, DeShaun Foster and Rod Smart), the Panthers still gained 116 yards on the ground on 30 carries behind the running of fullback Brad Hoover, who had 99 yards on 24 carries, tying a career high. It looks as if Davis might miss a few more games, so get used to seeing Hoover in the starting lineup. Joey Harris got only two carries for the Panthers.

PASS DEFENSE: C-plus -- The Panthers contained quarterback Drew Brees on Sunday, limiting the Chargers to 196 yards passing and no TDs through the air. However, the Panthers gave up too many first downs in the second half. Panthers safety Mike Minter struggled defending tight end Antonio Gates, who had seven catches for 61 yards. It was disappointing that the Panthers allowed Keenan McCardell to catch five passes for 65 yards, especially since the guy hasn't played football all year. Carolina's once ferocious pass rush no longer has teeth and registered just one sack against a mediocre offensive line.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Until the final drive of the game -- doesn't that sound familiar? -- the Panthers did well against the run, holding LaDainian Tomlinson (17 carries, 47 yards) in check for the most part. But on the final drive reserve Jesse Chatman broke free and rumbled 52 yards to set up his own game-clinching 5-yard touchdown run. Tomlinson scored earlier on an 8-yard run.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- The game seemed to turn on John Kasay's missed 46-yard field goal in the third quarter. At the time, the Panthers were up 6-0 and could have made it a two-possession game. That's why Kasay gets the big money, and he's supposed to make those kicks. He didn't. Is Jamall Broussard ever actually going to return a punt or just call fair catch all season long?

COACHING: F -- Figure this one: The Panthers, down four, move the ball well in the hurry-up offense to reach the Chargers 25-yard line and then call a running play on third-and-9. And not just any running play, but a running play to rookie Joey Harris, who had never carried the ball entering Sunday's game. Harris was stopped, and then the Panthers opted to throw the ball on fourth-and-9 instead of kicking the field goal. As well as offensive coordinator Dan Henning did calling plays last year, it's hard to comprehend that decision.

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