Norv Turner's smile that was rumored to exist showed its pearly whites on Sunday. In his first career playoff win, Turner even channeled his inner dancer on the sidelines, which earned him a call from ABC. Much to LaDainian Tomlinson's relief, Turner declined.
From dancing coaches to pass-rushing defenders, the Chargers have it all. Much of San Diego's success on Sunday came from Shaun Phillips, who anchored the defense in the first half.
Phillips led the squad with nine tackles. Between his stop on Ahmard Hall to end the first quarter and his fumble recovery to start off the second, Phillips kept the Titans in check.
"I was able to get out there and make some plays, but it's not about what Shaun Phillips does," Phillips said. "It's about what the other 10 guys to make me make a play and vice versa, us 10 so someone else can make the play."
Down field, the defensive backs accounted for 18 tackles, with Clinton Hart and Quentin Jammer recording six a piece.
Shawne Merriman finished with four tackles and a sack, his second sack in as many playoff appearances.
The defense kept on rolling. Drayton Florence intercepted a pass intended for Chris Davis. Florence has responded well since being replaced in the starting lineup by rising star Antonio Cromartie.
On offense, the line's pass protection was eons better from the Chargers' last matchup with the Titans. Turner noted one difference that was particularly noteworthy.
"Marcus McNeill came up big and had an outstanding game," Turner said. "I mean, he had an outstanding game. He had the type of game that people look at and say, ‘That guy's a Pro Bowl player.'"
Tomlinson never got his breakaway on Sunday, but reached the end zone on a 1-yard run.
Vincent Jackson played the best game of his career. He tallied 114 yards and one touchdown, marking his first 100-yard game and first playoff touchdown.
Chris Chambers, with a team-high 121 yards, proved once again that he was a flawless midseason addition to the Chargers' roster.
What Didn't Work
In a game predicted to be a blowout, the Titans showed their game faces early. Rivers was kept to just 14 yards in the first quarter.
The Titans' brutalizing defensive front kept Tomlinson to 42 yards, his third-lowest total of the 2007 campaign.
The Chargers have yet to release the results of Antonio Gates' MRI. Gates suffered a big-toe sprain in the second quarter of Sunday's game and was carted off the field. He left after recording 15 yards on two receptions. If Gates can't go, which appears likely, there will be a huge void to fill in the offense.
"I've never played without him that I can recall, particularly a big game such as this one," Tomlinson said. "If he can't go, then obviously that's a part we are going to miss because of the attention he attracts from defenses."
The Chargers will try to repeat their antics from Week 10 when they intercepted Peyton Manning six times. Tony Dungy knows San Diego comes with a great defense and will adjust accordingly.
As for Turner, he has a laundry list of what could go wrong.
"The Colts were the best team in the league last year and they were about four minutes away from beating who everyone perceives as the best team in the league this year," Turner said.
"We've got our work cut out for us. They're first in the league in scoring defense. They're fifth in total offense. They've got great weapons on offense. They've got a great quarterback. Obviously, we're going to have to go in and handle the crowd noise. As intense as this game was, it's another step. This game is going to be even that much more."
Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of Shawne Merriman, Lorenzo Neal, Shaun Phillips and others for Sixthman Communications.
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