Chargers Gameday Primer

Sunday's matchup between the Chargers and Bills has the look of a blowout – in favor of San Diego. But these are the games that are often tighter than you expect.

On Offense:

Drew Brees will talk about balance but why wouldn't the Chargers run the ball more than they have all year? Give it to Tomlinson and step out if his way. Not only is Tomlinson rested after the bye, but the Bills can't stop the run. They are allowing an eye-opening 150 yards per game, which is ranked ahead of only the Texans.

LaDainian Tomlinson has accounted for 18 touchdowns rushing, receiving and passing. He has 1,099 yards from scrimmage and is facing the 31st ranked rushing defense – a team that has allowed 13 rushes of 20 yards or longer, worst in the league.

"I've been asked, 'Is he the best running back you'll ever face?' I've mentioned names like Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Marcus Allen, Emmitt Smith - these guys are Hall of Famers - but he's right up there," Bills free safety Troy Vincent admitted. "This guy is a complete running back. He gets it done in the passing game, he's a fine runner obviously, and he's thrown touchdown passes. If you plan on beating the San Diego Chargers, you have to contain L.T. I don't think you can stop him, you have to try and contain him." But the Eagles were also ranked low on the totem pole before playing the Chargers and they proved the fiercest test to date for the running game.

The perils of throwing the ball are visible through the 12 interceptions that Buffalo has collected this year. Brees has eclipsed last year's interception total (eight) by one and now he faces a ball-hawking pass defense that is among the best in picking off passes. The key will be the Chargers' pass-blocking. If it supplies Brees with enough time, he can look off some receivers or go through his read an additional time to make sure he is throwing to an open target.

"Ball security," preached Brees. "We are way behind from that regard a year ago. To be minus 11 from where we were last year we have to consider ourselves lucky."

They lost the turnover battle against the Jets and won the game. Those situations won't happen very often as head coach Marty Schottenheimer surmised that if you lose the turnover battle, you will lost the game nearly 80 percent of the time.

On Defense:

The Bills wants to counter Tomlinson with Willis McGahee, taking the heat off J.P. Losman at quarterback. And the Chargers, obviously, will make it difficult for them to run the ball.

McGahee called himself the best back in the league a few weeks back and the Chargers number one rushing defense, allowing 79.6 yards per game, will be primed to deny him any room.

It has held two teams, Philadelphia (24) and Oakland (39) under 40 yards and has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this year. They've allowed only four 20-plus yard runs as well.

Among the reasons it is so tough is the player of NT Jamal Williams - although he seldom gets mentioned as one of the league's best at his position.

"We've been saying that for a couple of years," Tomlinson said.

Added DE Luis Castillo: "He's the kind of player that makes you want to go out and play hard for."

Odds are the ball will be in Losman's hands at some point when the sledding becomes tough and his best game came last week. Was that a precursor of things to come through the rest of the season of a one game mirage as he continues to learn?

This is one of those weeks when the defensive secondary can take advantage of a young quarterback and prove they have the ability to aid this team in their playoff run.

On Special Teams:

The Chargers kickoff coverage team has struggled of late and faces the number one kickoff return team in the league, led by Terrence McGee.

Schottenheimer prides himself on winning the special-teams battles, as he puts high importance on field position. But his kickoff return squad has been getting punched for 23.3 yards per effort and is ranked 22nd.

Schottenheimer has been working in new personnel groups, which could give the unit a spark. It will need it against McGee, as he leads the NFL with 31.1 yards per return. McGee did tweak a hamstring last week, but is expected to go on Sunday.

With Randall Godfrey returning to the starting lineup, backup linebacker Stephen Cooper can return to his work on special teams. "We got to get the kickoff team right because they have the No. 1 kickoff team," Cooper said. "We have to step it up this week."

Cooper is one of the best special teamers on the Chargers squad and he, along with the rest of the team, will have its hands full.


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