Chargers now Merriman

If only the Chargers had lost a game or two during Shawne Merriman's suspension, his return performance might have vaulted him to savior status. Instead, he simply reassumed his role as a dominant contributor on a team streaking its way into the playoffs.

Merriman made his presence felt early; on the fourth play from scrimmage, he chased J.P. Losman from the pocket and forced him throw erratically into the waiting arms of Quentin Jammer. As the contest wore on, he kept making plays and turned the game into a showcase of his complete and unparalleled skill-set.

It started early in the second quarter, when he displayed his incredible strength by running over running back Anthony Thomas en route to his first sack of the game. Later, on the Bills' final drive of the first half, he showed his terrific closing speed by chasing down Losman from behind on a scramble attempt, limiting the slippery signal-caller to a 3-yard gain.

During the intermission, Merriman helped get his defensive teammates fired up for a strong finish.

"I don't feel like I am a second-year guy," he said after the game. "I have a placement of being a leader on this team. A leader has no year."

He continued his rampage after the break, when he showed the ability to make plays without even getting to the passer. He lined up on the left side of the defense on one fourth quarter play and was able to leap into Losman's passing lane, knocking down his attempt behind the line of scrimmage.

But Merriman's specialty is sacking the quarterback. By the end of the Buffalo game, he had pushed his total in that category to double digits for the second time in as many seasons. His second sack came on the Bills' final drive, as he bull-rushed Jason Peters and pushed the 328-lb. tackle back into Losman.

"I was brought in to be a game changer and I have goals I want to achieve, personally and as a team," Merriman said. "I want to be considered the best."

Merriman's rapid ascent towards elite status is startling. As a rookie, he registered 10 sacks even though he did not move into the starting lineup until week seven. This year, he trails only Julius Peppers – and by just half a sack – for the league lead, despite missing a quarter of the season.

So while the fans in Buffalo may have referred to him as juiced, the Bills players – and Losman in particular – know that the Merriman has more than earned his Lights Out moniker.

Next week, when the Chargers host the Denver Broncos, we will analyze the play of left guard Kris Dielman.

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