Chargers' O-line at the forefront

Another strong rushing performance by the Chargers dictated the pace of the game on Sunday. And with Pittsburgh sacking the quarterback at a record-shattering pace, they will need the line to continue its dominance.

"Our ability to run the football," head coach Marty Schottenheimer pointed to as one of the primary reasons for success in New England.

The Chargers rushed for 183 yards on 40 carries, an average of 4.6 per. And that was without Toniu Fonoti for the second week in a row. They pounded out 268 yards on the grass the week before.

For the season they are averaging 158.2 yards a contest, second best in the NFL. Their 5.1 average per carry also ranks second best, trailing Atlanta in both categories.

While no run was longer than 18 yards on Sunday and 39 of those attempts were less than 12 yards, they drilled it continually and kept coming up with positive gains. Five yards on first down makes second and third down manageable.

It seems Fonoti has his work cut out for him in returning to the lineup when he returns to health. His replacement, Kris Dielman, was exceptional again.

And people are noticing his work.

"He is a great guy to have blocking for you," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "He is one of them country, kick their butt, bring ‘em on, we don't really care, we will play you in the street if we have to."

The Pro Bowl back also was impressed with his ability to come off the bench and pick up the blocking schemes and intensity.

It also helps when you keep the quarterback upright. The Chargers did not allow a sack for the second straight game and Brees has been taken down six times thus far on the year.

They will need an extra ounce of protection when Pittsburgh rolls into town. Their 14 sacks not only led the NFL after three games, they are on a pace to snap the league record of 72 set in 1984 by the Chicago Bears. At this rate, they would shatter their own record for sacks in a single season. The Steelers' record is 55. "He was killing people," Brees said, showering praise on Dielman. "He is a fierce competitor and tough guy."

But as Schottenheimer likes to say, this is a five man unit and each player on the line needs to perform his duty for the group to gain recognition.

Brees described a fitting tribute to his linemen, "They showed my jersey and how white it was at the end of the game. Those guys did a great job. The clean jersey says it all."

As for Dielman, he is just doing his job.

"I stayed focused and worked hard," he said.

That kind of work will earn him a lot more than two starts. With Fonoti an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, one wonders how Dielman's current performance plays a part in future plans.


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