The Justice Files

Frighteningly enough, I felt a little fatalistic spending my allotted space last week dwelling on the Chargers' failure in the playoffs last year. But all among us in The Legion Of The Lightning Bolt have that secret fear in the back of their mind that the Bolts will somehow come up short in the end. We all have similar scars.

After sending my last installment of "The Justice Files" to Denis Savage last week, I read a piece in the Union-Tribune describing the soul searching that the Bolts themselves went through after the loss to the Jets. LaDainian Tomlinson described the initial shock but assured us that the game only now serves as motivation for this season. Steve Foley apparently ate Jack-In-The Box in the dark after the game.

But let's be honest. Those are two guys in whom I gladly place my fanaticism and faith.

If you've been reading at all since after the playoffs, you know that Marty Schottenheimer and Quentin Jammer don't fill me with a similar sense of confidence.

I wrote at length last week about how Marty's first season in San Diego brought as many penalties as Mike Riley's last. I also think that whether it was taking a shot at the end zone or running LDT straight into the line of scrimmage that he (and possibly Cam Cameron) were ordering the Bolts to play it safe in OT against the Jets.

It's like how certain managers in baseball will always "go by the book" no matter what.

I don't have a problem with Schottenheimer being outwardly stubborn with the media. Bill Parcells has always done that. I do, however, have a problem if that obstinance affects his decision-making and ends up hurting the team.

Quentin Jammer?

Defensive backs are supposed to have short memories, not non-existent ones. He's becoming like Elvis "Toast" Patterson when he was with the Giants (before his big touchdown return for the '87 Re-Chargers in LA). More recently, I'm having nightmarish visions of Terrance Shaw.

Is it possible that Jammer doesn't get the benefit of the doubt from the referees when he employs the aggressive approach that made him a #5 pick? Probably. But you need to earn that respect from the officials. If you have a history of getting burned, mugging receivers and then taking out your frustrations AFTER they've already caught the pass the referees aren't going cut you slack. How many times does he need to screw us before we view him as the liability he is? Luis Castillo's penalty, however, dubious could at least be chalked up to a "rookie mistake."

These weren't the only sickening parallels between Sunday's game and the playoff loss. The Bolts lost the game long before the last play.

My friend Fred Rosenberg used to describe the early '90s Chargers as having "the best two-down defense" in the NFL. When Dallas was committing all those UnParcellsian penalties, the Bolts had the chance to really take control. If it wasn't for Darren Sproles' fantastic returns, we wouldn't have even had a shot at the end. Mike Scifres, who's been great thus far, shanked a punt when we could least afford it. Brees' miracle throw to Eric Parker gave us a chance to win a game we didn't play well enough to deserve.

Dallas certainly should be credited for showing improvement, especially on defense. But Drew Bledsoe and Keyshawn Johnson are no longer superstars that are too talented for our defense to handle. The Cowboys clearly got good pressure on Brees. They shot the gaps extremely well.

But they DID NOT shut down LaDainian Tomlinson. Look at the way both Philadelphia and Atlanta used their running backs on Monday Night. Tomlinson is so classy that he didn't point fingers even though he looked like he might break into tears due to disappointment. He mentioned that if the ball isn't coming to him then he tries to help out by picking up the blitz. But I bet some of that sadness was due to the fact that he knew that he could have won the game for us.

Schottenheimer claimed that there were no running lanes. I think that from the seven, Tomlinson could get it done either as a rusher or receiver.

In basketball, even if the entire arena knows that the best player is going to take the last shot, it is still in-bounded to him. As my wife put it, that is the point of having LaDainian Tomlinson. The first down pass made sense. But nothing else after that did.

The Bolts have a horrid track record in Denver. The Bunkos may be without Bailey and Anderson. One preseason publication referred to their 2005 squad as "soulless." But if the Chargers are as good as they hope to be, they will overcome their own demons and rise to the occasion. Sure, Antonio Gates (or even Merriman and Jackson) would have helped. But we know that it's the Chargers themselves that are the biggest obstacle on Sunday.

Let's just hope they don't trip themselves up again.

Justice, where art thou?


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