No walk in the park

Picking up a win this weekend won't be just a walk in Monster Park for the Chargers. The 49ers aren't the most talented team – to call them such would be like calling Courtney Brown durable – but they are well coached, they play hard, and they're improving on a weekly basis.

The 49ers will challenge the Chargers on both sides of the ball. On offense, the 49ers will run the league's leading rusher, Frank Gore, smack into Luis Castillo and the league's best run defense. On the other side of things, the 49ers will rely on their complex blitzing schemes to get pressure on Philip Rivers.

"They have multiple fronts and coverages, so it is hard to prepare for the unexpected," Antonio Gates said.

The Chargers biggest test this week, however, won't be figuring out the San Francisco defense. After Rivers' shining performance of a week ago, no one is questioning his ability to dissect opposing defenses. The true challenge will be maintaining the intensity displayed in that Steelers game against an opponent less deserving of it.

After all, the stage was set for San Diego last week. The Chargers were playing at home, in their Powder Blues, during primetime, and against the defending Super Bowl champions. While that type of game is Jessica Simpson-type sexy, the 49ers contest is more comparable to little sister Ashlee.

"Marty made it clear – Wade Phillips made it clear – you can't look past anyone because any given Sunday you can be beat," Donnie Edwards said.

The Chargers appear more than receptive to that message. Just a season ago, the Dolphins came to San Diego with a losing record and left having dealt a heavy blow to the Chargers' playoff chances.

San Francisco coach Mike Nolan, for one, does not believe this Chargers squad is prone to letdowns.

"They've got guys that are really competing hard to make plays," he said. "It's a pleasure to watch it."

Don't expect the Chargers to go back into their conservative shell for this contest, either. Now that Rivers seems to have earned the coaching staff's trust, the Chargers will likely use this game to get some of their underused skill players more involved.

Gates is one player who clearly needs more touches. So too does Vincent Jackson, an ascending player with limitless potential.

"We have a lot of weapons," LaDainian Tomlinson said. "We have tall receivers, quick receivers, two great tight ends, and a real good backfield. This is a versatile and very skilled team."

The 49ers are hopeful the same will be said about them in the not-too-distant future. San Francisco is a team seeking respect; they'll have their chance to earn it on Sunday.


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