Bolts Roundup: Burning Questions

Wildfires authored most of the burning questions for Sunday's Chargers-Texans game, but much remains to be answered on the field. Can a banged up offensive line hold off Mario Williams, Amobi Okoye & Co? Will Jamal Williams be healthy enough to anchor the defense? Catch up on the latest news from off and on the field right here.

Finally, the Chargers got back to work. What isn't clear is where they'll work on Sunday. Or Monday.

The Chargers' schedule calls for them to entertain the Houston Texans.

Mother Nature said otherwise.

Just where the Chargers (3-3) will try to extend their winning streak to three games remains to be seen. Qualcomm Stadium is being used as an evacuation center in the wake of the devastating wildfires that have wreaked havoc throughout the San Diego region.

The Chargers fled San Diego to work out Wednesday through Friday at the Cardinals' facility in Tempe, Ariz.

"You just adapt and deal with it," said LaDainian Tomlinson, who was evacuated from his 10,000-square foot house. "Everybody is. Look at all those people over at the stadium."

For the Chargers, it's just another obstacle to a season that already has featured its share. The biggest one was the Chargers' season-opening expectation that their 14-2 mark in 2006 meant something.

When they staggered to a 1-3 start, many wondered if the Chargers could dust themselves off and climb back into the race. They did, by winning two straight.

But just when they got back on track came the fires, which disrupted their routine and brought into question where their next game would be played.

"From the standpoint of our organization and our players, we'd love to play it (in San Diego) in front of our fans and provide a positive influence in this situation," said coach Norv Turner, whose home was threatened by the fires. "If that doesn't happen, we still have to be ready. We're just focused on preparing for the game."

So that means a home game will feature three practices on somebody else's field and three nights in a bed other than their own.

"How we handle that will have an impact on how it turns out on Sunday," said quarterback Philip Rivers, yet another Charger chased from his home Monday.

Football players are creatures of habits and routines. The Chargers have been thrown for a loop the past couple of days, and it will be interesting to see how they absorb that and move on.

What is known is because of their early-season woes, the Chargers can't afford to give away any games. Although the AFC West appears to be down this year, the Chargers didn't give themselves much wiggle room after their poor start.

SERIES HISTORY: 3rd meeting. Chargers lead the series, 2-0. Houston has failed to beat the Chargers in San Diego or in Houston. When the Chargers welcomed the Texans to San Diego in 2002, it marked Houston's first road game ever. The Chargers posted a 24-3 victory.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Chargers have been staying in contact with San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and police and firefighters regarding the feasibility of playing their game against Houston at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday. No decision has been made yet. "Protecting the public safety is the Mayor's top goal, and the Chargers will continue to cooperate with the Mayor to achieve this goal," the Chargers said in a statement.

--Among the sites where the Chargers could play is the University of Phoenix Stadium, the home of the Arizona Cardinals. But the venue isn't available on Sunday, with a trade show having been booked. It could be ready for a Monday night game; the same could be said about Qualcomm Stadium. It's also possible the game could be moved to one of the two NFL stadiums in Texas.

--When the Chargers returned to the practice field Wednesday, it was five days between workouts. Their Monday practice after the bye was canceled because of the wildfires.

--How big was the acquisition of WR Chris Chambers? Despite playing for the woeful Dolphins, his 31 receptions are two more than the combined total of the Chargers' top two wideouts, Vincent Jackson and Craig Davis.

--The Chargers played the opener of their 2004 season in Houston, where the Texans gave them a good game. But four turnovers did in the Texans, including a critical fumble on their last drive, and San Diego won 27-20. RB LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 121 yards, and TE Antonio Gates collected 123 receiving yards.

--The Chargers' pass protection has been keen of late. It is looking for its third consecutive game without allowing a sack.

--Veteran LS David Binn knows the NFL show goes on, regardless of the obstacles of a natural disaster. "At some point you have to get back to football," he said. "Obviously the NFL is not going to stop for a fire. It'll be a distraction for sure, but not something we can't overcome."

--Texas CB Jamar Fletcher spent two years with the Chargers.

--The Chargers have numerous Texans on the team, including RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Waco) and CB Quentin Jammer (Angleton).

--The Chargers are tied for third in the NFL with 14 takeaways. In games when they have won the turnover battle, they are 3-0.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Times since 2003 a Chargers home game has been in doubt because of the region's wildfires.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've got a job to do. We have to worry about the Texans." -- FB Lorenzo Neal on the Chargers switching their focus from the fires to their next opponent.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Keep an eye on how C Cory Withrow fills in for Nick Hardwick (foot). Withrow, an eight-year pro, has started just 13 games in his career and none with the Chargers. His work will be a key if the Chargers want to keep their running game on track. Withrow fared well in the last game, when Hardwick exited after seven plays.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--WR Chris Chambers will play his first game as a Charger after being acquired in a bye week trade for a second-round pick in 2008. Chambers faces the Texans for the second time in four weeks. He had two catches for 19 yards in a recent Dolphins defeat. --RB LaDainian Tomlinson enters this week's game with 106 rushing touchdowns, which ties him with Jim Brown for fourth place on the NFL's all-time list.

--TE Antonio Gates, despite having a bye last week, still leads all tight ends with 43 receptions for 547 yards. His 17 third-down catches are also tops for his position.

--OLB Shaun Phillips looks to extend his streak of collecting a sack in three straight home games. He has 5 1/2 sacks, tied with Shawne Merriman for the team lead.

--OLB Shawne Merriman seeks his third multi-sack game of the season. Merriman, a Pro Bowler, has 32 1/2 sacks in 33 career games.

--K Nate Kaeding is three points shy of reaching the 400-point plateau.

--WR Vincent Jackson's stint as the team's top target on the outside ended after six games with the addition of WR Chris Chambers.

--ILB Brandon Siler, a rookie, continues to gain the confidence of coaches. He's done well on special teams and is seeing action in the short-yardage and goal-line defense.

GAME PLAN: Stack the line and shut down the run -- which might not be too tough against the Texans. Houston is horrible running the ball, averaging just 75 yards per game. If the Chargers stone the run, and they will, that forces the Texans quarterback -- Matt Schaub or Sage Rosenfels -- to look into the teeth of a pass rush that has shown a spark of late.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

Chargers secondary, with CBs Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence, vs. Texans receivers, including Andre Davis and Kevin Walter -- Jammer and Florence have played well of late, and the Chargers pass defense has righted itself in the two-game winning streak. Jammer and Florence have both picked up their games and are tackling better. The Texans probably will be without their standout, Andre Johnson (knee), again this week. But Davis paces the NFL with 19.2-yard average and Walter has a team-high 33 receptions for 435 yards.

Chargers pass protection, with RT Shane Olivea, vs. Texans pass rush, with LT Mario Williams -- Olivea will have to be on his game to keep Williams off QB Philip Rivers. Williams will long be the answer to the trivia question as the man picked before Reggie Bush. After a shaky rookie year because of a foot injury (he had 4.5 sacks) he has rebounded with a solid start to his second season. He has three sacks.

The interior of the Chargers offensive line, with journeyman C Cory Withrow getting a rare start and RG Mike Goff coming off thumb surgery, vs. an active Texans middle of the line, featuring rookie Amobi Okoye -- Withrow is forced into action because of the foot injury to Pro Bowler Nick Hardwick. Goff spent his bye week getting a ligament in his left thumb repaired. They will be tested by the Texans, especially Okoye, who already has four sacks.

INJURY IMPACT: C Nick Hardwick (foot) is out for two to three games. Cory Withrow will replace him...DT Jamal Williams (knees) did not practice Wednesday; he did some work on the side. His availability will be determined later in the week...RG Mike Goff (thumb) practiced and will play in the game...DT Jacques Cesaire (ankle) was able to practice and will go this week...CB Drayton Florence (knee) was limited in his work but should play this week...WR Craig Davis (ankle) was limited in his work, and his status is unclear. If he can't go, Malcom Floyd would move up the depth chart.


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