The Chargers won't have trouble getting up for Sunday's visit by the Baltimore Ravens.
"Definitely," linebacker Shaun Phillips said. "We let one slip away from us last year."
Despite their inconsistent play this year -- which includes Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Jaguars -- last year the Chargers lost but twice in the regular season. One of those defeats came in Baltimore, where the Chargers tried to sit on a 13-7 halftime lead only to fall 16-13 on Todd Heap's touchdown catch in the final minute.
Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman can't erase the memory of Heap bouncing off him and into the end zone.
"I don't miss too many tackles, man," Merriman said. "I remember it like it was yesterday."
If nothing else, that forgettable day in Baltimore flipped the Chargers' season. Then-coach Marty Schottenheimer -- who sat on the ball in the second half -- would fully relinquish the play-calling duties to ex-offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Marty Ball was dead and the Chargers came alive in winning 12 of their next 13 and their second AFC West title in three years.
But the Chargers don't look much like that team any more. And LaDainian Tomlinson is starting to question it.
"My concerns are 'Do we have what it takes going down the stretch? Do we have what it takes to come together, coaches and players alike, and put a run together?' Put all egos aside and play football, that's my concern," he said.
A wobbly Chargers run defense must contain the Ravens' Willis McGahee instead of Jamal Lewis.
"He can play," Merriman said. "He's a little different from Jamal Lewis, more shifty."
If the Chargers want to shift their momentum, they'll have to stand strong against the run; the Jaguars went for 122 rushing yards and a score. With inconsistent Kyle Boller at quarterback, the Ravens lean on their running game and tough defense.
The first-place Chargers used to hang their defensive hat on their run-stopping ability, but that reputation took a hit when the Vikings' Adrian Peterson plopped an NFL record 296 yards on it.
"We still know who we are and we have a lot of confidence in our run defense," said defensive end Jacques Cesaire, who has replaced Luis Castillo (ankle) in the starting lineup. "We know it's going to be a dogfight from now on, with people thinking they can run on us."
If so, Cesaire said to bring on.
"We like that; our mentality is we like to stop the run and we're going to stop the run," he said.
Merriman won't run from his friendship with linebacker Ray Lewis, the Ravens' most decorated player. The two have a long friendship as Lewis' younger brother played with Merriman at Maryland.
"We talk about everything; we jaw about so much," Merriman said. "We just enjoy being warriors for the game and he has been doing it for so long and at a high level that it is amazing.
"I kind of want to get where he is and surpass him in maybe even a shorter time period."
Merriman said their numerous in-season phone conversations won't cease this week.
"I'll talk to him," Merriman said. "As long as we don't have to line up against each other, we talk. But we both understand there are no friends out there on that field."
--Pro Bowl C Nick Hardwick will expand his practice time this week. But it still appears he won't return until the Chiefs game on Dec. 2, at the earliest.
--DE Luis Castillo (ankle) hasn't suffered any setbacks in his rehabilitation and is hoping to return for the final two games.
--WR Chris Chambers is coming off his best day as a Charger after catching four passes for 93 yards.
--RB LaDainian Tomlinson has gone four straight games without reaching 100 yards rushing. He had 62 rushing yards and a score on the ground against the Jaguars, and added 93 yards on a team-high five receptions.
--KR/PR Darren Sproles is getting more looks in the base offense. He had two receptions in the Jaguars loss, although he didn't gain a yard.
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