Lightning Quicks: Versatility reigns

With several key contributors set to miss this weekend's game, the Chargers will need others to step up if they hope to step into first place in the AFC West. The Chargers will need Antonio Gates to have a big day and for their offensive reserves to continue producing. Also, they will need the plethora of high draft picks in their secondary to make some plays against the erratic Jake Plummer.

Open Gates

It is hardly a secret that Gates' numbers have taken a dip this season. Whether that is due to the change in quarterback or the fact it is near impossible to match the numbers he put up in 2004 and 2005, the decline has been obvious.

Seeing as LaDainian Tomlinson and the running game historically struggle in Denver, this may be a prime week for Gates to step up and help carry the passing game. If the Broncos cover Gates like they do other tight ends, the All Pro could be in for a big day.

"They use their defensive end to cover tight ends," said coach Marty Schottenheimer of the Denver defense. "I don't imagine any defensive lineman covering Antonio Gates. Maybe they will. Maybe they have a secret I don't know about."

Hidden Points

The Chargers have scored more touchdowns than any other team in the league. The Bolts have scored 35 touchdowns, five more than the Cowboys, who are second in that category.

So who is scoring all these touchdowns? Starting receivers Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker have yet to score and Gates has but four touchdowns, a tepid pace not seen since his rookie season.

Aside from the record-setting Tomlinson, the scores are coming from surprising sources. Back-ups Malcom Floyd and Brandon Manumaleuna have three touchdowns each, while fellow reserve Vincent Jackson has a pair of scores, too.

Draft Day Connection

Since the 1970 merger, only four teams have selected defense backs with each of their first three draft picks. San Diego and Denver are two of those teams, with the Chargers doing so in 2002 and the Broncos following suit in 2005.

The Chargers selected Sammy Davis, Drayton Florence and Terrence Kiel. Davis has since been moved, but Florence and Kiel with each start on Sunday.

The Broncos drafted Darrent Williams, Domonique Foxworth and Karl Paymah. Williams is a starter and an explosive kick returner, while Foxworth and Paymah are still biding their time in reserve roles.

Success not a Brees for Plummer

When the Chargers drafted Philip Rivers in 2004, many predicted he would win the starting job right out of the gate. Instead, incumbent Drew Brees was motivated by Rivers' selection and responded with back-to-back stellar seasons.

The Broncos surely hoped Jake Plummer would respond in a similar way when they drafted Jay Cutler with the No. 11 pick in this year's draft. Instead, Plummer has thrown more interceptions through nine games (10) than he did all of last season (seven). Also, his passer rating has fallen by nearly 20, from 90.2 to 71.6.

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