Chargers changing the perception

The San Diego Chargers are soft. At least that was the perception.

The whispers had started around the NFL, and they found their way into the Chargers' locker room. The Chargers have become a finesse team.

The Chargers heard it and couldn't wait to put it to rest. And they have a warning for this week's visitors, the Cleveland Browns. If they are under the impressions the Chargers are soft, cue up the tape from Sunday's 38-24 spanking of the Rams.

"We were tired of people thinking we are a finesse team," guard Kris Dielman said. "We are not a finesse team. We are physical upfront and I think we proved that (against the Rams). We hear that talk and it couldn't be further from the truth. If they think we are a finesse team tell them to watch this tape."

The Chargers are back to jamming the ball down rivals' throats after hitting a few obstacles in the first six games. Much of that chatter was started by noting that LaDainian Tomlinson had but one 100-yard rushing game in the team's opening six.

But part of that was teams loading up the box, daring first-year starting quarterback Philip Rivers to beat them. So what happened? Rivers welcomes the Browns with a gaudy 66 completion percentage, good for 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.

"He makes my job easier and obviously that is why this is the greatest game because you need everybody," said Tomlinson, who rushed for 183 yards and two scores on Sunday. "You need a good quarterback to keep people honest and be able to throw the football. If not, and you are just a running team, defense are just too good to run the football every week."

This week, the Browns bring one of the NFL's worst run defenses into San Diego. And that could mean another big day for Tomlinson and his confident front line.

"(Sunday) was a good day and now the goal is to do it back-to-back weeks, then you want to go three in a row," guard Mike Goff said. "You want to look at this not as an accomplishment but as a stepping stone. Teams will look at that and think of new ways to stop the run.

"But what Philip has shown is we can pass the ball as well. So we got to maintain this over the weeks left to go because it is going to be a dogfight the rest of the year."

While the offense is humming, the defense could be in for a shakeup.

Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman, the team leader with 8.5 sacks, could be headed for a four-game suspension for a positive steroids test. He has delayed his four-game suspension until his appeal is heard the first week of November.

Merriman dominated against the Rams, getting three sacks. But sooner or later, he will have to serve his sentence, and he is considering not following through on his appeal so he doesn't potential miss both games against the Broncos, who share the AFC West lead with the Chargers.

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