SD Aims to Follow the Giants' Script

Let's see -- the Chargers defeat the Saints Sunday at London's Wembley Stadium, get hot and end up in Tampa and win the Super Bowl at the end of the year. Hey, the Giants followed that script last year.

"I actually did think about that; it's a good point you brought up," wide receiver Vincent Jackson said. "That would be something pretty unique to continue to happen. I'm sure everybody would want to jump on the wagon to get over here next year."

Ah, wait until next year. Could that, gulp, be the cry Chargers have at the end of the year if things don't go as planned?

The Super Bowl and playing in this big British bowl of a stadium couldn't be more different. The Chargers know it's a big stretch, but they still want to believe their Super dream.

But dreaming about it and doing it have to follow each other. And so far, this season has been a nightmare for the Chargers.

Still, by beating the Saints -- led by ex-Chargers quarterback Drew Brees -- and a loss by the Broncos on Sunday would technically have the Chargers tied for the AFC West lead.

WR Vincent Jackson
Stephen Dunn/Getty

So no matter how maddeningly inconsistent the under .500 Chargers have been this year, they are right where they want to be -- close to the top.

"True, (but) you never want to have that settling kind of complacent attitude," said Jackson, the Chargers' leading receiver. "It's going to get tighter and the pressure is going to continue to build at the end of the season. Of course, we still have to see (the Broncos) again.

"You never know what's going to happen with Kansas City and Oakland. They can go on a run as well. We don't really want to be happy to just stay behind them. We want to distance ourselves from the other teams; of course gain as much ground as possible on them."

It all can start Sunday. And a win over the Saints would then lead into a bye that would then lead into a home game against the dismal Chiefs.

So while the Chargers' gloomy start matches the London weather, the Chargers could be sitting at 5-4 without much of a stretch of the imagination.

Plus, the Chargers get to face the Saints without shifty running back Reggie Bush. He's out with a knee injury, but the Chargers still must deiced out how the Saints will react, so they can react.

"Reggie is such a great football player and they do so many things with him; that's part of what we're trying to figure out: the things they'll continue to do that feature him and the things they'll gravitate to," said coach Norv Turner, who is starting the get some heat for the Chargers stumble from the gate.

"Obviously they are a very talented football team; first in the league in offense. They have a lot of guys that make plays, so we have to prepare for what they do and then try to anticipate how they'll adjust based on the injuries."

Really, the Chargers have to worry about themselves more than rivals: They need to find a running game, they need to shore up their run defense, they need to get after quarterbacks and they need to play better on the backend.

Other than that?

The Chargers will enjoy their time in London, but it could be looked at as a crossroads for the season. Win here and head into the bye with some momentum. Lose, and it'll be grumbling about a draining two-game road trip that might have helped cost them their season.

The first leg of the trip resulted in a loss at Buffalo. The Chargers need to at least split or the doubt that can creep into a losing team that was supposed to do so much will be difficult to ignore.

"It's hard to say it's frustrating because we still feel the guys we have in there, even banged up, and the guys that are healthy, that we can go in there and score points, and go out there and win games," Turner said. "I think that's the frustrating part.

"We walk off the field and go, 'how is this happening?' That's every year. Every team deals with injuries and different things. We're dealing with it off the bat. There are other teams that are too.

"Hopefully we can get it going and get healthy as this season goes along and be in a position to hopefully be playing in January."

SERIES HISTORY: 10th regular-season meeting. The Chargers lead the series, 7-2, and have won four of the last five meetings. This is the first time the Chargers and Saints have played a regular-season game outside of America. More than 81,000 fans are expected for this International Series game at London's Wembley Stadium.


--While the Chargers have been lax about getting after quarterbacks DE Luis Castillo said the key is keeping rivals' running games in check. "You look at what we're trying to build our defense around and I think it starts with one (thing): stopping the run," he said. "That's something we struggled with early. It's something we've done a much better job of the last few weeks. I thought we started the game great against the Bills. The next thing is getting after the quarterback. We haven't played at our level. That's something we need to make sure we get back to."

DE Luis Castillo
Andy Lyons/Getty

-- While the Chargers' game against the New Orleans Saints isn't their first one played outside America, it is their initial regular-season game on foreign land. Here are the Chargers' other road trips to foreign countries, all of which were exhibition games: Tokyo, 1976, 1996; Berlin, 1994; Australia, 1999.

--Before heading for Buffalo and London, the Chargers had a game earlier this month at the Miami Dolphins. All told, the Chargers will fly 15,771 air miles in October, which is more than 11 of the NFL's 32 teams will travel in a full season. Here is a breakdown of the Chargers' October ramblings: San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale - 4,536 miles round trip; San Diego to Buffalo - 2,196 miles; Buffalo to London - 3,560 miles; London to San Diego - 5,479 miles.

--Coach Norv Turner and his staff aren't treating this week any different than others. While the players are seeing the sights, the coaches are seeing to it that the team is prepared for Sunday. "We're grinding pretty good," Turner said. "We've seen the inside of these meeting rooms. That's (sightseeing) not the purpose for us. Tuesdays are always the long day for us. Monday we were like everyone else: trying to get situated and adjusted to the time change. We got some work done Monday night, and yesterday was a good day."

--After all this travel, the Chargers will get a week off with a bye. That timing of it will also help RB LaDainian Tomlinson (toe) and WR Chris Chambers (ankle) get healthy.

--The Chargers have three divisional leaders looming on the remainder of their schedule -- Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Denver. But the entire slate isn't that daunting as the combined record of the nine remaining opponents is 28-29. It helps having two remaining games with the last-place Chiefs.

--The Chargers have lost three of four road games this season. After facing the Saints in London, they will travel to Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Tampa Bay.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Seasons Chargers QB Philip Rivers sat on the bench behind Drew Brees, before Brees left as a free agent for New Orleans.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Man, we've been to TGI Friday's, Angus Steakhouse, McDonald's. That's where we've been. We haven't really tried anything else, really." -- CB Antonio Cromartie, on where he's been eating in England for the team's visit.


The Chargers could be getting frustrated with the lack of burst they are seeing from LaDainian Tomlinson. That means Darren Sproles could get some more carries as the Chargers look for a spark for what has been a tepid running game. Also, they could go to more three-receiver sets after the emergence of Malcom Floyd when Chris Chambers was out. With Floyd showing what he can do and Chambers (ankle) expected to play, the Chargers might ditch the running game and start flinging it around to outlast the Saints in a shootout.


--RB LaDainian Tomlinson has but one 100-yard rushing game this season and has gone three games without a touchdown.

--TE Antonio Gates could be in for a big game as his hip and toe injuries are getting better. Plus, the last time the Chargers played the Saints he tied a career high with three touchdown catches.

--LT Marcus McNeill gave the team a scare last week when he twisted his ankle and had to leave the game. But he later returned and is taking all his reps this week.

--P Mike Scifres entered the game ranked second in net punting (42.3 yards) and third in gross punting (48.9).

--Despite turning the ball over three times in the loss at Buffalo, QB Philip Rivers remains the NFL's leading passer with a rating of 108.5. He has completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 1,697 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions.

--Before the season, CB Antonio Cromartie spoke of setting the NFL record with 15 interceptions this year; he led the league with 10 in 2007. If so, he better get busy. He has but two interceptions through seven games and they both came on Sept. 22.

--FS Eric Weddle leads the team with 20 tackles over the last two games.

GAME PLAN: It has been spotted but on rare occasions, but the Chargers need to rediscover what was once one of the most powerful running games in the league. The Chargers should pound the ball -- it's up to them how successful they are -- and keep the ball away from Saints quarterback Drew Brees. If they can run -- and score -- and keep Brees on the sidelines, it lessens the changes of him getting to pick apart a pass defense that is being battered like a low-hanging pinata.


Chargers pass defense and a weak pass rush vs. the Saints high-octane passing game.

The Chargers couldn't as so much lay a hand on Trent Edwards last week and he torched them right out of Western New York. Somehow the Chargers need to find a pass rush or any quarterback -- but especially one as accurate and hell-bent on revenge as Drew Brees -- will tear them up. The Chargers are dead last in defending the pass and that ranking is no mistake. The Chargers' task gets tougher with WR Marques Colston back in the lineup; they catch a break with Reggie Bush (knee) being out. The trouble for the Chargers' pass rushers -- they do have some, don't they? -- is that the Saints offensive line is stout and takes protecting Brees seriously. What's scary is while the Chargers are ranked last in defending the pass, the Saints are ranked first in passing.

The Chargers running game, which has been inconsistent, vs. Saints run defense, which is ranked 16th but got pushed around a bit in last week's loss to the Panthers.

The Chargers know it -- so does everyone knowing football: If the Chargers can't run the ball, they are fooling themselves in thinking they are an elite team. This didn't figure to be a problem with the great LaDainian Tomlinson but Tomlinson hasn't run like he used to -- he still has an injured big toe -- and the run blocking has been shaky. The Saints, though, gave up 143 rushing yards last Sunday, although before that it kept teams right around 80 rushing yards per game. This will be a key part of the game if the Chargers want.

Chargers run defense, with inside linebackers Stephen Cooper and Tim Dobbins, vs. a Saints running game missing Reggie Bush.

The Chargers' run defense hasn't been terrible -- in fact it has shown signs of coming on of late. But the key is when it absolutely has to stop a team and get off the field -- like when needing the ball back when trailing -- it hasn't been able to get that big stop. Cooper and Dobbins have brought some life into the run defense after they were recently inserted into the run defense. But this might not play into the Chargers hands, with Bush being out, because they will face a more smash-mouth type of running attack from Deuce McAllister, Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas. The Chargers' 3-4 alignment means their linebackers are more quick than beefy, which translates into being able to move more to track down speedy runners like Bush. Instead, they must prove Sunday that they can stick their nose in the gap and take runners more likely to run through them than around them.


--OLB Jyles Tucker (hamstring) was limited in his Wednesday work. How he feels on Thursday could determine if he plays Sunday. Marques Harris would replace him if he can't go.

--WR Chris Chambers (ankle) did some work, but was limited. He will also be looked at closely; if he can't go Malcom Floyd gets the start opposite Vincent Jackson. Chambers has missed the past two games.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson (toe) didn't practice, in what is becoming a regular part of his work week. Tomlinson will play Sunday but his toe is worth watching.

--WR Buster Davis (groin) didn't practice and the team is not counting on him for Sunday.

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