Rally the troops

Look at the names that dot the Cleveland Browns roster this week and you would swear the San Diego Chargers were playing a charity game against an Arena League team. Cleveland has lost 16 players, including nine starters.

Rally the troops Marty.

Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer will likely need to reach deep into his coaching manual for pep talks to get the Chargers interested in Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.

We know, every given Sunday and all that hogwash. But if the Chargers were ever to deliver a lay-up this late in what has turned into a surprising season, this is it.

The Browns stink. They've lost their coach, their quarterback, their tight end, their best run stuffer ... you get the idea. Hey, those 17 net yards last week the Browns "produced" were no misprint. The team is spent.

But Schottenheimer swears his team will be ready - that a team that has won seven in a row will stake an opponent which has lost seven in a row.

Maybe Schottenheimer will point to the first loss of the Browns' skid, when they took the high-octane Eagles into overtime. But that Browns team is different than the one trotting out Sunday. At least the Chargers hope so. In fact, they know so.

The Chargers, though, have fresh memories in their noggins to help them from looking past the Browns to their showdown with the Colts the following week. The Chargers were sitting at 8-4 two years ago and needed but another victory to reach the playoffs. They never got it, and have been cursing that squandered opportunity since.

Schottenheimer should remind them of that pratfall before taking the field against a team which has been blasted 79-22 in the two games since interim coach Terry Robiskie took over for Butch Davis.

The first-place Chargers could even claim a playoff berth without beating the Browns if the Broncos lose to the Chiefs. Just another reason Schottenheimer might have trouble getting his team's attention.

But this team has more veteran leadership than the 2002 squad. And many are guys like Mike Goff, Randall Godfrey and Steve Foley, who have played on teams used to playing out the string this time of year. They are getting a rare taste of winning football in December, and aren't likely eager to spit it out.

"I wouldn't say I'll ever sit back until we're holding up that Lombardi Trophy," quarterback Drew Brees said. "It is nice to know that we're sitting here and have 10 wins under out belt. It's one of those things when you're on a roll, we just want to keep going; you don't want top stop. That's the point we're at. One more down and plenty more to go."

That includes Sunday's glorified workout against the Browns.

"I guarantee you one thing," Schottenheimer said, "we will not look past the Browns."

Lightning Quicks: The Chargers brought their training camp back to San Diego after a two-year tour in Carson. With the year they have had it was a wise move from a PR perspective - it also coincides with the team wanting a new stadium in San Diego. The closer they are, the more they stick out in everyone's minds.

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