When the Chargers Run
"We've been kind of up and down and we've gotten hot at the right time," LaDainian Tomlinson said.
When the weather gets colder, the Chargers get hotter. The same is true for LT, who is ready to make his weekly run at history.
Tomlinson is one touchdown shy of his fourth consecutive 15-touchdown season, the longest streak in NFL history.
Tomlinson is 6 yards away from reclaiming pole position in the race for the rushing crown. LT trails only Pittsburgh's Willie Parker, who is out for the season with a broken leg.
In the last 25 games, LT has had a carry good for at least 10 yards, the longest streak in the NFL.
With Philip Rivers recovering from a sprained knee, which limited his participation in Thursday and Friday practices, the Chargers will be looking to their running game to help alleviate the pressure on Rivers.
Darren Sproles will surely be utilized after his audacious performance against the Detroit Lions. Sproles proved his speed and agility, carrying a career-high 25 times for 122 yards. His performance silenced critics who questioned whether his slight frame could handle such a workload.
"Some people thought I could just do my third-down stuff and be a return guy," Sproles said. "It was fun to get back out there and run it like that. I knew I could do it."
Michael Turner ran 147 yards in the first meeting with the Broncos. Turner is questionable for Monday's game with a shoulder injury.
When the Chargers Pass
Chris Chambers, a solid addition coming via a trade from Miami in October, proves steady and reliable. He needs 150 yards to reach his second career 1,000-yard season. Chambers is averaging 15.5 yards per catch.
Chambers and Rivers are beginning to connect with more fluidity. In the last two games, Rivers found Chambers for eight times for 159 yards.
Rivers is 172 yards shy of reaching the 3,000-yard mark. He threw for 270 yards against the Broncos earlier this year.
Pass protection is key, not only to protect the ailing Rivers, but because Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil has 11 sacks -- ninth-most in the NFL. Broncos DE Tim Crowder's stamina is also noteworthy, as the rookie has 4 sacks.
When it comes to stamina, Chargers offensive tackles Marcus McNeill and Jeromey Clary need to amp up the volume. McNeill appears mired in a sophomore slump, allowing 9.5 sacks compared to five last season. Clary is new to the starting lineup, taking Shane Olivea's place only two games ago.
Antonio Gates, who is still less than 100 percent after suffering a back injury two weeks ago, needs one more TD catch to get 10 for the season. This would be the 3rd 10-touchdown season of his career. Gates has been a Pro Bowl starter the past three seasons.
Vincent Jackson, a Colorado Springs native, hopes history will repeat itself. Jackson caught three passes for 84 yards and a score earlier this season against his hometown team. In two games against the Broncos last season, Jackson caught six passes for 134 yards, including a 55-yard catch-and-run in the Bolts' division-clinching game at Qualcomm Stadium.
Jackson leads the team with 16.1 yards per catch.
With the Broncos failing to haul in more than one interception in any game this season, the Chargers will do their best to leave that stat unchanged.
When the Broncos Run
An effective running game for the Broncos means keeping the middle of their offensive line tight and taut. Broncos C Chris Myers moved over from right guard after Tom Nalen suffered a bicep injury. Myers will focus on warding off Chargers NT Jamal Williams.
A repetitive knee injury has derailed the season of Denver RB Travis Henry. He has managed only 680 yards this season, after rushing for more than 1,200 yards last year with the Tennessee Titans.
The Chargers have held four of their last six opponents under 100 yards rushing, including last week, when they allowed just 26 yards on the ground to Detroit. The Broncos rank eighth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 124 yards per game.
"That's what Denver does best and that's what we do best," Jamal Williams said. "We feel better about the way we've played. We've just got to keep it up."
When the Broncos Pass
Jay Cutler is having only an average season, with a 64 percent completion rating and 18 touchdown passes against 12 interceptions.
Being average won't cut it against an aggressive Chargers defense.
Most of the offensive load will fall on Cutler, especially after a non-existent running game netted only 72 yards last week against the Houston Texans.
WR Brandon Stokley's uncertain status due to a knee injury leaves much of the focus on WR Brandon Marshall, who leads the Broncos with 1,136 receiving yards. Marshall grabbed 21 catches the last two weeks and the much-hyped matchup between Marshall and Antonio Cromartie will be one to watch.
Cromartie leads the league with 10 interceptions and was named to his first Pro Bowl earlier this week. The Chargers pace the league with 27 interceptions.
Broncos TE Tony Scheffler (40 catches for 460 yards and four scores) hopes for a breakout evening. Scheffler will start in place of the injured Daniel Graham. Scheffler has value on special teams, too -- he blocked a punt against the Chargers earlier this season.
According to Sports Business Daily, LT leads the league in jersey sales for 2007. LT has proven he can work the field, breaking records and making history, and now he's working the sales counter, too. It's a wonder that LT is only the seventh-highest paid Charger.
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