Can the Chargers dethrone the champs?

Fresh from their first playoff win since the 1994 season, the Chargers' task grows larger on Sunday: knock off the defending world champions.

The Colts are up next on the Chargers' playoff slate, and if nothing else, they are confident going up against the AFC's No. 2 seed. That confidence comes from defeating the Colts earlier this year, 23-21, which marked the second time in three contests the Chargers had prevailed.

Chargers linebacker Matt Wilhelm said the Chargers are even better than they were in November, when Peyton Manning was forced into six interceptions in the loss.

"I just think we match up extremely well against them," Wilhelm said. "We are a complete defense now; there aren't really any kinks in our armor against an offense that can move the ball up and down the field.

"Our pass rush and our defensive backs have come a long way. The linebacker play too, to take away their run game and make them one dimensional. Obviously, Peyton Manning can beat you so we have to be on top of that as well."

The Chargers likely didn't get the Colts' best shot earlier this season. There were Manning's six interceptions, a missed 29-yard, game-winning field goal by clutch kicker Adam Vinatieri and wide receiver Marvin Harrison was out with a knee injury.

Manning doesn't figure to duplicate that showing and the Colts are rested after enjoying a bye in the playoffs' opening weekend.

"They are still the No. 1 team in the league, even though New England is 16-0," linebacker Shaun Phillips said. "Indy won a championship and nobody can take that away from them. They are the champions until someone knocks them out."

The Chargers knocked the playoff monkey off their back with a 17-6 verdict over the Titans. It marked the first time the Chargers had won in the postseason since the 1994 season's AFC Championship Game.

But they know they can't get caught up in that postseason victory, no matter how rare it was.

"You got to keep it going," linebacker Shawne Merriman said. "If we are satisfied with a first-round win in the playoffs then we are not meeting the goal we set forth before the season started."

It's a season that started with three losses in the opening four games and had the team at .500 after 10 games. But from that, the Chargers rallied to face the Colts in a divisional playoff game.

"They got some of the best players in this league," coach Norv Turner said. "They are a great defensive team. It's going to be as big of a challenge as you can face. We are going to have to play our best."

Merriman said his calendar is clear for a Super Bowl run.

"It's too early to go home," he said. "I have nothing else planned right now so I don't want to sit on the couch."

Titans coach Jeff Fisher said the Colts' defense will have its hands full.

"When you're playing a team like this, that's so talented, with receivers outside and a running back like (LaDainian Tomlinson) it's difficult to balance into a defensive game plan," he said. "You have to commit to stop something, and hope that you make plays."

PLAYER NOTES

--All-Pro TE Antonio Gates suffered a dislocated toe against the Titans and his availability for Sunday is uncertain.

--When QB Philip Rivers threw a second-quarter interception against the Titans, it was his first pick in his last 104 attempts.

--WR Chris Chambers, who came over in a midseason trade from Miami, was a force in his first playoff game with 121 receiving yards.

--WR Vincent Jackson gave the Chargers two receivers with 100 yards as he went for 114 and a score.

--K Nate Kaeding still isn't ready to resume kickoff duties with a sore left leg. Dave Rayner continues to do kickoffs.


SD Super Chargers Top Stories