No production from LT, no problem

Crazy. That is what you would say if the stats for LaDainian Tomlinson were shown to you before the game and the person showing off the final tally for the running back still said the San Diego Chargers would put 43 points on the board. Seventeen rushes for 36 yards and a fumble.

Crazy indeed.

Perhaps the train has left the rails. LaDainian Tomlinson was a non-factor in the Chargers victory on Sunday. That is about as bold a statement as any person can make. The heart of the Chargers has been reduced to a complimentary role.

Tomlinson is what Robin was to Batman. He is the Mini-Me of Dr. Evil. Amazingly, the Chargers offense is moving at the Mach III speed without the benefit of its normal captain.

The ball is being moved down the field, bereft, for the most part, of their Pro Bowl running back. The good news is he has a two week layoff to get his groin completely healthy and the number one scoring team in the league can really turn it on.

"He is continuing to make progress," coach Marty Schottenheimer said after the game. "He is improving."

A team that has put up forty points in consecutive games is ready for the bye week for one reason and one reason only, to get Tomlinson healthy.

Schottenheimer told his players after the game that he would prefer to get back on the field tomorrow and that is understandable given the level of play they have demonstrated over a two week span. But Tomlinson back healthy could be the difference in the stretch run.

Tomlinson is averaging under three yards per carry over the last two games. To put it in perspective, Tomlinson had a 5.3 average all of last year and is a career 4.5 yard per carry man.

But the Bolts have put up 85 points in the last two weeks and Tomlinson has been on the field but he has not been the reason for the explosion.

What was once a one-dimensional team has entered the Twilight Zone. Opponents are going insane trying to cover the different weapons that are finding seams. And just when they thought that no one else could find a way to penetrate, Kassim Osgood comes through and literally slaps the face of a Saints defender on the way to the end zone.

"The quarterback…gives you hope," Schottenheimer offered. "You have a quarterback you have confidence in…there is always an opportunity."

The confidence in Drew Brees has made the disappearance of Tomlinson a mere subplot. The magician at the helm is just biding his time before he brings back his greatest play in the book, handing it off to the franchise.

"We feel like our guys can win one-on-one versus anybody," said Brees.

The biggest target of affection is clearly Antonio Gates. Every week the creed is the same, cover Gates and you have taken away half the passing game. Every week he greets his newest challenge and every week he has come out on top.

"That is just the way this game goes," Gates said of being afforded more opportunities. "You make plays and you continue to move on."

The Chargers head into the bye week as a Ferrari on the Audubon. The pistons are revving and the dual exhaust is humming but they are running a straight six instead of the impressive eight.

The bye week offers a chance to bring that eight to life – eight ways to beat the Raiders up in the Coliseum instead of six. A healthy Tomlinson, of course, counts for two by himself. The only hope is the Bolts don't lose the rest of their flair in the process.


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