Chargers can't match physicality

Monday was a game that was going to be won in the trenches. Two running teams batted heads with knowledge that each would pound the ball on a consistent basis. In the end, it was the Chargers that bowed out.

Stopping the run has not been an issue in San Diego since the inception of the 3-4. Even on Monday, the Bolts again held their own, limiting Pittsburgh to 3.3 yards per carry.

But it was the final drive that will live in infamy as the Chargers defense could not slow "The Bus", Jerome Bettis.

Drew Brees always talks about third and manageable. Pittsburgh received that from the bruiser. He never gained more than five yards on that final drive but his ability to crack through the front line of defense and fall forward ate up precious minutes off the play clock.

"Jerome Bettis was his usual self," rookie linebacker Shawne Merriman said. "He kept pounding the ball towards the end of the game."

"They had nine or ten guys up at the line of scrimmage," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher confided. "You put one of them on him and he gets downhill like that.

The defense was on the field for nearly twenty minutes in the first half. That had to lead to some fatigue?

"When you are out there so much in the first half, sometimes it takes effect in your legs in the second half," defensive end Igor Olshansky admitted. "But I was fine."

As for the rest of the defense and their level of weariness?

"I really can't judge our total defense," said Olshansky.

It wasn't just on defense, although they need to find a way to make the big stop.

The offense had a hard time finding consistency and rhythm. The rushing game averaged 3.1 yards per carry and though quarterback Drew Brees was sacked once he faced an inordinate amount of pressures.

It was a similar defense to what they faced the first two weeks of the season and had no answer for.

"They were physical, they were playing fast and they made plays down the stretch," tight end Antonio Gates said.

The clogged running lanes ended up being their doom as they could not find a way to uncork LaDainian Tomlinson.

Tomlinson, usually ready to praise his line, made an honest assessment.

"They played alright," he said. "Their guys up front are good."

"I thought the front seven did an excellent job," Cowher said of his team. "I thought our defense did a very good job containing him (Tomlinson).

Missed blocks plagued the team as well. Lorenzo Neal whiffed several times. Mike Goff missed a few blocks that could have been springboards. And there was plenty of blame to go around.

Now they must figure out how to beat a team when the defense is swarming over them. That will enable potentially enable them to win these close games.


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