Bolts Work Over Lions

The Chargers have upped the ante after clobbering the Detroit Lions and clinching the AFC West. The disciplined troops set new records, clearing the bench and revealing remarkable depth. Sizzling as a whole and capitalizing on every opportunity, the Chargers are contenders once again.

What Worked

Detroit Lions DE Ikaika Alama-Francis hit the nail on the head when he said "it [was] just the minor details that really hurt us."

The Chargers seized every opportunity, banking on the mishaps of their opponent. Lions QB Jon Kinta hit his career-high in interceptions (five), including three in the first half. The Chargers took full advantage, turning the first-half turnovers into 17 points and going into intermission leading by 27.

Marking his 27th consecutive start, Philip Rivers sported a bulky knee brace to protect the leg he injured in the brawl against the Tennessee Titans. Rivers didn't show any signs of hindrance from the extra armor.

Rivers' connection with Chris Chambers shined, as he found his newest weapon numerous times for big plays down the field.

LaDainian Tomlinson dazzled the crowd and the Hall of Famers when he scored two touchdowns, his 126th and 127th, placing him in seventh place on the NFL's all-time touchdown list. LT didn't stop there. He rushed for 116 yards, joining Eric Dickerson as the only players in history to rush more than 1,200 yards in each of their first seven seasons in the league.

Using the bench proved to be a solid decision. Darren Sproles ran 122 yards and landed two touchdowns, marking the first time in Chargers history that two backs rushed more than 100 yards in the same game.

Another sub, Andrew Pinnock, replaced Lorenzo Neal and helped pave the way for 274 yards rushing.

Antonio Cromartie's ruthless goal to make 10 interceptions this season was conquered. Breaking a 46-year-old Chargers' record and pacing the NFL, Cromartie recognized his own desire and talent.

"I have game-changing ability," Cromartie said. "I'm going to come up with big plays on defense and on returns, too," Cromartie said.

What Didn't

The connection between Rivers and Antonio Gates was nowhere to be seen. Gates let two potential touchdown passes slide through his fingers, failing to nab a touchdown catch that would have made him the first tight end in NFL history with three seasons of 10-plus touchdown catches.

Quentin Jammer went his 18th consecutive regular-season game without an interception. He had four interceptions through 12 games last season.

The Chargers suffered four penalties -- two false starts, one too-many-men-in-the-huddle, and one ineligible player downfield -- each costing them 5 yards. These are all mental lapses that could be more costly in a closer game.

LT ended the first half with a 49 yard jaunt, his longest run of the game and the season. He sat out the second half after feeling his hamstring tighten. His backup, Michael Turner, popped his shoulder out on his fifth carry, a 10-yard run that was his longest since week five.

What's Next

The Chargers' face the Denver Broncos on Monday, Dec. 24. For the first time this season, the goal is to maintain perfect, not obtain it. LT believes that consistency will be the key to the Denver game, and he plans to lead the charge.

"I've been pretty consistent the first seven years of my career," Tomlinson said.

Finally, the Chargers are following suit.

Pro Bowl Praise

For the second consecutive year, the Chargers led the AFC in Pro Bowl invites, sharing this year's honor with the New England Patriots.

Six players are making return trips to Hawaii: RB LaDainian Tomlinson (five), FB Lorenzo Neal (four), TE Antonio Gates (four), OLB Shawne Merriman (three), NT Jamal Williams (three) and special teams ace Kassim Osgood (two).

Two players earned their first invites: CB Antonio Cromartie and LG Kris Dielman.

P Mike Scifres was named a first alternate. Second alternates include LT Marcus McNeill, C Nick Hardwick and KR Darren Sproles.

QB Philip Rivers and K Nate Kaeding are the only Chargers who were invited to last year's Pro Bowl and not named in any manner for this year's game.


SD Super Chargers Top Stories