Can the Bolts Surge Past the Titans?

The Chargers left Oakland with every item on their to-do list checked: 1) win the game; 2) keep players healthy; and 3) secure the rushing title for LaDainian Tomlinson. Now, the Chargers must take what they accomplished on Sunday and use it to propel them past the Tennessee Titans.

What Worked vs. the Raiders

--Jyles Tucker saved his best for last. The rookie out of Wake Forest delivered three sacks, two forced fumbles and a touchdown in his most extensive playing time of the season. Marques Harris (hand) will be back for next week's game, but Ted Cottrell will have a difficult time calling on anyone but Tucker when Shawne Merriman or Shaun Phillips needs a blow.

--Nate Kaeding went 3-for-3 on field goals in his first game since injuring his lower left (non-kicking) leg. The Chargers need Kaeding at his best if he is to overcome his penchant for postseason pratfalls. In 2004, Kaeding missed a 40-yard field goal in overtime against the New York Jets. In 2006, he missed a 54-yard kick against the New England Patriots that would have sent the game into overtime.

--Antonio Gates had multiple receptions for the first time since the Tennessee Titans game, catching six balls for 62 yards. Gates does not have a touchdown since that Titans game, when he caught a 2-yard score with nine seconds left to play. Gates figures to play a key role in the rematch with the Titans; in two career playoff games, Gates has caught 12 balls for 150 yards and a touchdown.

--The Chargers backup defensive linemen are playing lights-out football, something that will be vital with the run-heavy Titans coming to town. Ryon Bingham, Jacques Cesaire and Brandon McKinney have combined for 97 tackles and four sacks this season, despite having just 10 starts between them. Defensive line coach Wayne Nunnely loves to rotate his players to keep them fresh late in games, and this deep lineup will allow him to deploy that strategy to the fullest against the Titans.

What Didn't Work vs. the Raiders

--The Chargers allowed Dominic Rhodes to carry 29 times for a season-high 122 yards and a touchdown. That is the most yards the Chargers have allowed since the Titans ran for 131 yards in Week 14. However, it took the Titans 37 carries to hit that number. The Chargers are counting on the return of Jamal Williams to strengthen their run defense.

--The Chargers lost the time of possession, 28:07 to 31:53. San Diego ranks No. 16 in time of possession (30:04), compared to a No. 4 ranking for the Titans (31:53). Just how important is time of possession? Six of the top seven teams in terms of time of possession made the playoffs, while no team ranking No. 20 or lower qualified for the postseason.

--The Chargers were penalized six times for 75 yards against Oakland, giving away even more yardage than their oft-penalized foes (60 yards on eight flags). The Chargers will have to clean that up before the playoffs get underway. It was stupid penalties last season against the New England Patriots (six for 64 yards) that led to the Chargers being bounced from the playoffs.

What's Next for the Chargers

--While most Chargers fans preferred a matchup with the less-physical Cleveland Browns, the Chargers got the team they wanted. San Diego is still fuming over questionable hits on Merriman and Philip Rivers during the last meeting and will look to extract revenge but bouncing the Titans from the first trip to the playoffs since 2003.

--San Diego will appear in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1994-95. The Chargers aim to win their first postseason game since that '94 season, when they marched all the way to the Super Bowl. The Chargers are currently mired in a four-game postseason losing streak.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. He has followed the Chargers for more than 14 years and covered the team since 2003.


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