Rivers on a roll - balanced attack a must

Philip Rivers attempted a career-high 37 passes against the Steelers, completing nearly 65 percent of those in leading the Chargers to an impressive victory over the reigning Super Bowl champions.

The Chargers outscored the Steelers 16-0 in the second half of that game, which helps explain why Rivers has the league's best fourth-quarter passer rating. As impressive as all that is, it remains to be seen whether or not the team will revert to its run-heavy ways with some less-than-daunting challenges on deck.

After all, Rivers busy night against the Steelers was a direct result of his team's inability to run the ball effectively. With LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner sharing the backfield, nights like that will be few and far between.

Now that the rebuilding 49ers are up next, it will be interesting to see if coach Marty Schottenheimer will once again lean on his running game or if he will continue to develop his young quarterback.

"We are going to keep that privileged information because we don't want to give anyone an edge," Schottenheimer said.

"I am eager to run the ball but at the same time I am happy that – when we run the ball too much I think, ‘we have to throw it.' And then when I don't get it enough ‘we need to run the ball,'" Tomlinson explained. "As long as we move the ball and put points on the board."

If it were up to the players, Schottenheimer would take the Martyball pages out of his playbook and burn them like a Matt Millen draft choice. And it's not just the offensive players who are clamoring to maintain up the up-tempo scheme.

"Whenever our offense plays the way it did we feel like we have to win because no team should score more than 17 points off us," said Marlon McCree following the Pittsburgh game. "Our offense gave us a lot of momentum."

Momentum is just one of the reasons to keep the offense opened up. Another is that, although Rivers' teammates believe him to be a star, the rest of the league is still mostly unconvinced. It will take several outings like last week's before teams stop loading up to stop the Chargers' rushing attack.

Also, it is only by throwing frequently that the Chargers can fully utilize two of their biggest weapons – Antonio Gates and Keenan McCardell. Gates is on pace to finish with his lowest numbers since his rookie season and McCardell recently saw his streak of 104 games with a reception come to an end. If the Chargers are to be a championship contender, they will need these two to be significant contributors.

Against the 49ers, expect the Chargers to attack early and then use Tomlinson and a heavy dose of Turner to pound the ball and shorten the game. But Rivers will continue to pass aggressively, as it is vital he do so as he continues to progress.

"I still have a ways to go," said Rivers after the Steelers game. "I made some mistakes. Now, we got to bounce back and go on the road up the coast a bit."

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