For all the marbles

This is for all the marbles on the board. The right shot this weekend could knock Denver out of the circle and leave the San Diego Chargers sitting comfortable with marbles to spare.

It has been a long road for this group. From preseason banter that punched hole in every phase of their game until now – using a silencer in the form of an offensive pistol that hasn't been stopped in months. The run defense has been an impenetrable bulletproof vest that ranks second in the league.

"We had non-believers at the beginning," safety Terrence Kiel said. "We have paved our own way. We have to keep going -- the playoffs"

Some of the cult groups still haven't given the Chargers their due and refuse to believe their eyes. The Chargers are simply playing good football and no matter who they have played or what their collective record is, the team would be and will be a tough matchup for any team in the NFL.

Denver comes to town this weekend. They are one of only three teams to beat the Chargers this season. Since losing 23-13 to them earlier in the year, the Bolts have won seven of eight and the one loss was a game they handed to Atlanta. Five of those wins have been by ten points or more and only in the past two weeks has the nail biting begun. That is what happens when divisional foes come to town.

Their opponents are rightfully scared and understand the significance of stopping the second ranked scoring offense in the league.

"They are loaded," Denver coach Mike Shanahan said of the Chargers. "At home they are scoring 37 points a game. That's pretty impressive. Take a look at their third-down situations, they have been very good. In the red zone they have been good.

"They have had balance in the running game and the passing game. (Drew Brees) is playing at a very high level. Twenty-one touchdowns, I believe, and three interceptions. That's impressive. He is a heady kid; he's always been very sharp. He's playing with a lot of confidence, and he's got a good supporting cast around him. Obviously he's got a running back and receivers and obviously (Antonio Gates) is playing at a very high level.

"Defensively, they are in the top two or three in rush defense. Anytime a team stops the run, you have a chance for goods things to happen. They are very well coordinated, (they have) good special teams, and it's one of the reasons they have the record that they have."

Their own head coach, Marty Schottenheimer, attributes the success to confidence. A year ago they were myriad in disappointment and playing the blame game. This year, however, they have rallied around their quarterback and the defense has gotten energy from the consistent play of their linebackers.

"They have a lot of trust in each other," their coach said. "They have a lot of confidence in themselves. It is a group that even in the face of adversity has found a way to buckle their chinstrap and go get things done."

Plane rides home are filled with excitement but they remain focused on the task at hand. There is no substitution for how a playoff game at home will feel. The locker room jargon is much the same.

"I think that is the number one thing that is talked about in the locker room – staying humble and continuing to work hard in preparation," Gates said.

A win this weekend could turn the Chargers locker room into a state of euphoria. They are one win away from securing the game board and truly being in the driver's seat. The challenges will continue through the rest of the season regardless of what happens on Sunday but a win will surely leave the taste of chocolate on their lips.

Lightning Quicks:

Randall Godfrey missed practice on Wednesday due to swelling in his ankle. Steve Foley had soreness in his knee and also missed the activities. Gates was held out of specific drills because of a hamstring injury and the team exerted caution with it. Keenan McCardell also missed out but will be back Thursday. All other injuries and missed time was expected.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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