Lights on – look to Phillips

The San Diego defense is back and Shaun Phillips is leading the charge with his electric play. The defense kept the Chiefs out of the end zone and held them to 241 total yards in a dominant effort last Sunday. No defender was more active than Phillips, who was blowing by offensive tackles and bowling strikes in the Kansas City backfield.

Phillips' play merits more attention than it typically receives. He now has 11.5 sacks on the season and is giving Shawne Merriman (12.5) a run for the team lead in that category. That number is even more impressive since Phillips missed two games and much of a third with a calf injury earlier this year. That means he is averaging about a sack a game.

"I have to thank my secondary," said Phillips. "They do a great job of allowing me to do my job and getting after the quarterback."

Judging by his preseason goals, those numbers would make this season a success.

"I'm one of the best, if not the best, pass-rushers on the team. I'd like to be able to get one sack a game, or at least double-digit sacks," Phillips said over the summer.

The way he went about padding those stats against Kansas City was downright impressive. On one passing play midway through the second quarter, Phillips flew around the block of a pulling Will Shields and ran over Larry Johnson before taking down Trent Green for a 6-yard loss.

On the very next snap, Phillips sniffed out a screen attempt and showcased his impressive vertical by batting down a Green pass attempt behind the line of scrimmage. The Chiefs punted two plays later.

Phillips also knocked down a pass intended for Michael Bennett during the first quarter.

He has been so affective, in fact, that his coach has compared him to one of his all-time great pupils.

"The guy that reminds me of Derrick Thomas is Shaun Phillips," Marty Schottenheimer said. "Their body types are similar and they have that great first step that gives them an advantage."

Phillips' reliance on that quick first step can get him in trouble from time to time. For example, he had an offsides penalty late in the fourth quarter as the tried to anticipate the snap. He has a tendency guess at the snap count and that has gotten him in trouble several times this season.

But given his productivity this season, that flaw is one the Chargers are willing to deal with. In addition to his 11.5 sacks, he has four forced fumbles and 58 tackles on the year.

A restricted free agent at the end of the season, the smart money says Phillips has earned more than his share. But it is the Chargers organization, as a result of Phillips' play, that has really cashed in.

Next week, when the Chargers travel to Seattle to take on the 8-4 Seahawks, we will analyze the performance of wide receiver Vincent Jackson.


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