Chargers Study for the A.P. Exam

The hide-and-seek portion of the season is over. San Diego found its confidence and sealed its swagger with the win over the Texans. This Sunday will bring another Texan showdown and No. 56's admiration comes at a cost.

Sunday's match-up against the Minnesota Vikings (2-5) is the type of game Shawne Merriman loves to play in. Part of the reason is Adrian Peterson, a sensational rookie running back with LaDainian Tomlinson potential.

"Sometimes people have a problem with giving a young guy too much praise too early, thinking he'll fall off, but I've been in a situation before and I know that he wants to go out there and make things happen," Merriman said. "He's fighting for every inch and that's something you can't coach."

Merriman leaves out Tomlinson comparisons. A smaller Eddie George is a better choice, someone Lorenzo Neal knows 1,509 yards about. In 1999, Neal paved the way for George on the Tennessee Titans.

The Texas connection plays a role in the Peterson-Tomlinson argument. With all the good guys before them, Tomlinson said there is pride in running the football. With Craig James, Eric Dickerson and Earl Campbell there are bragging rights as well.

The numbers are on Peterson's side. Peterson has more yards (74) with fewer carries (128) and a 5.8 per-carry average. Tomlinson's early struggle keeps him at 139 carries for 617 yards and a 4.4-yard average. Peterson is also on pace to beat Tomlinson's rookie numbers.

Defenses already prepare for Peterson the same as Tomlinson.

"You have to have the same mentality against Peterson as you have when you play L.T.," Philadelphia Eagles CB Sheldon Brown said.

Peterson better go into Sunday's game prepared to face the Chargers defense.

"I told [Peterson] I was going to smack him in the mouth a couple times, but I do respect his game," Merriman said. "I really enjoy watching him play and I wished him luck the rest of the season, just not against us."

Will Work for Punts

Last Sunday's botched punt turned touchdown for Antonio Cromartie was heard around the league. In the first quarter against the Houston Texans, Bryan Pittman snapped the ball over punter Matt Turk's head. Cromartie merely picked it up, which left Mike Scifres with a clear message.

"If you ever do that do not come to our side, just run to the other side," teammates said.

Scifres, who spoke briefly with Turk, got the point. Turk and Scifres left the play-talk brief, but Turk said that half was the longest of his 12-year career. The two wished each other continued success and a healthy season.

The pep talk worked. Scifres was named the AFC's Special Teams Player of the Week. The honor came from his five punts that held the Texans inside their 20-yard line. Scifres reached a career-high 50.2 net average and earned his season-best 63-yard punt.

The achievement came after a disappointing stretch for Scifres.

"I started off a little slow, which I was pretty upset with and that bye week hit just right and it gave me some time to look back at the things I've been doing wrong and the things I've been doing right." Scifres said.

Scifres' focus on what worked helped him last Sunday. His prior downfall was his success in 2006. Last season's 69 punts went for 2,893 yards with just two touchbacks. Already at four, Scifres felt inconsistent. He tried too hard to earn his numbers from last year, which had the opposite effect.

"We are all in this together," Scifres said. "When I go on the field and our team is moving the ball and stopping teams, it makes me want to do good. It makes me want to go out there and do my job to the best, knowing that those guys are doing theirs."

If the offense is dong its job, Scifres' role will be limited on Sunday. With the absence of wind in the Vikings dome, Scifres' punts will carry their true yardage. Unfortunately for the Chargers, the arena also resonates with noise, which makes hearing the quarterback in the huddle difficult.

"The crowd noise just stays on you," Tomlinson said.

Lightning Quicks

--Most network attention will be devoted to Sunday's Indianapolis Colts (7-0) and New England Patriots (8-0) match-up. For the first time in NFL history, two teams with records of 7-0 or better will meet.

Tomlinson has not used one minute of his time to think about the Chargers' destiny with the Colts in week 10.

--The Kansas City Chiefs (4-3) share the top spot in the AFC West with the Chargers and will face the Green Bay Packers (6-1) on Sunday. Both teams managed to turn their teams around.

Last year the Packers were 8-8, but are now in first place in their division. The Chiefs faired better in 2006, but started their season with two losses, and have now won four of their last five. One win was recorded against the Chargers at Qualcomm.


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