Centered on Hardwick

After four weeks of nursing a foot injury, Nick Hardwick returned to tangle with a tough Ravens run defense. His comeback paved the way for Philip Rivers to author his best game of the season.

Nick Hardwick's return came at a pivotal time for San Diego. First on the agenda was to help LaDainian Tomlinson rush past a Baltimore Ravens defense that allows less than 3 yards per carry. Tomlinson raised that number when he averaged 3.2 and rushed for 77, his highest total in three weeks. Those numbers kept Tomlinson off the weekly leader boards, but entered his name into the NFL's history books when he passed the 10,000 mark.

The ink is not dry yet, but Hardwick foresees his role in Tomlinson's milestone as a story that he will pass on for generations.

"Every time he does something, I feel like I've done something, when really, I didn't even make a block on that play," Hardwick said.

Tomlinson rushed toward a personal record, but Hardwick received a hero's welcome of his own. Tomlinson said the energy, confidence and leadership that Hardwick brings to the offensive line makes the team comfortable with him at the center of each play. For Norv Turner, Hardwick's performance demonstrated why he gets the Hawaii invite.

"Hardwick makes a big difference," Turner said. "Cory Withrow played well in there, but there is a reason Nick goes to Pro Bowl."

LT of Seasons Past

Last year in week 13, Tomlinson was on his fifth consecutive week of rushing for more than a hundred yards, a streak that continued four more games. This season, Tomlinson has broken the 100-mark just twice. The silver lining is that both of those games were against AFC West teams: the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. The Chargers will face each lineup once more.

Tomlinson hopes he is still the same guy who seemed to break a record each time he touched the ball last season. Then again, Tomlinson conceded that he would never admit to losing a step, even after it was gone.

With the run slowed last Sunday, the Chargers passed their way around the Ravens. Turner gave the offensive line a pat on the back for the protection that Philip Rivers received.

Hardwick and his line would not have it any other way. He feels there are no excuses for failed coverage.

"We definitely take it personal anytime things aren't going right," Hardwick said. "Whether we are giving up sacks or Philip doesn't have time to set his feet in the pocket or LT can't make big plays."

Norv's Earmuffs

Despite a 4–1 record at home going into last Sunday's game, the fans at Qualcomm booed their home team two plays in. Turner would like to say he does not hear the jeers, but there is no way around it.

"I don't think any game has been won on the first play of the game and certainly never been won on the second play of the game," said Turner in a plea for patience from the fans.


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