#1 rushing offense in the NFL vs. #2 rushing defense in the NFL
The San Diego Chargers lead the league in rushing yard per game at 182, and boast the leading rusher in the league, LaDainian Tomlinson, who has 506 yards rushing. He has accounted for most of the success of the team and is one of the main reasons the Chargers sit atop the AFC West at 4-0.
The Denver Broncos are giving up 56.5 yards per game on the ground and are led by the extremely quick linebacking trio of Al Wilson, Ian Gold, and John Mobley who lead their team in tackles with 43, 38, and 37 tackles respectively.
"You will not see a more competitive player in this season, or maybe in seasons to come, than Ian Gold,'' coach Marty Schottenheimer said.
"It's a different week,'' Tomlinson stressed, "and Denver hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher yet.''
Something has to give this week and the term "yet" is that much more appropriate.
Jason Ball handled the hot seat last week and came through with an excellent game. No longer is he the undrafted rookie out of New Hampshire. Ball is now the savvy veteran of 1 NFL start. Toniu Fonoti is playing right beside him at guard and you can bet the house that the Broncos will test that side again this week with a basket full of blitzes. This means they will both again have to come up big against a faster defense and they cannot afford to miss assignments or Tomlinson will not get his yards.
"They are fast ---- I mean really fast, similar, I think, to us. We've got more size at linebacker, but they are fast'' Schottenheimer said.
Gold said. "San Diego is No. 1 in rushing, so we're going to embrace the challenge.''
The winner of this battle could decide the game.
Pressure Brian Griese
Last week vs. the Patriots the Charger defense did not record a sack. They did have a number of hurries and Junior Seau had his hand in the face of Tom Brady as an interception was made. Pressure that came from the No. 1 sack defense in the NFL. The Chargers entered the game with 16 sacks and left with that same total. That prompted defensive end Marcellus Wiley to state, "Some of my rushes were my best rushes in history, and I didn't get close." They were close but with the quick throws of Brady neutralizing the rush it was up to the linebackers and corners to make their plays. On Sunday in Denver the defensive line will need to reclaim their sacking prowess. Nothing kills a scoring drive like pressure on the QB and a sack will take the edge out of the hostile Invesco Field at Mile High crowd.
Raylee Johnson, Adrian Dingle and Wiley all have 3 sacks apiece on the year. Dingle may be the key. He has played great football all season and has hurried the QB in every game he has played. Having Dingle in on third down only enhances what is an already formidable line. This does not even take into account the linebacking crew, which has seen its time on the pass rush. Ben Leber is tied for the league lead in sacks with 4 and Junior Seau is sure to put his helmet in the chest of Griese.
Griese has shown he can still throw ill-advised passes. Last week in Baltimore he threw 3 picks, 2 deep in Baltimore territory. Pressure from the No. 1 sack defense will only aid that cause. Griese has faith his talented wideouts can catch any ball thrown their way, but this confidence has been shown to get him into trouble.
The best news to the Chargers ears: The Broncos have allowed three or more sacks in six straight games dating back to '01.
Having a defense that is also tied for the league lead with 7 interceptions tells you that these guys are all itching to make plays. Junior Seau has been the best example of a leader and his team aspires to have the heart he has shown. Week to week someone steps up their play and for the Chargers to continue to win, the trend must continue this week.
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