LT Frustrated by Slow Start

The Chargers have long hung their offensive hat on being able to run the ball. And when you have LaDainian Tomlinson in your backfield, what's wrong with that?

But there is something askew with a running game that could manage just 92 yards on Sunday against a 1-8 Chiefs team that was ranked last defending the run, and on two occasions, allowed more than 300 rushing yards in two games this year.

Sure, the Chiefs showed some eight-man fronts. But that is hardly breaking news that defenses do that to try and slow LaDainian Tomlinson.

So what gives, with Tomlinson gaining but 78 yards on 22 carries -- he's gained 100 yards in a game this year just twice?

Whatever it is, Tomlinson is becoming frustrated.

"That's tough to handle," said Tomlinson, who ranks 11th in the NFL in rushing yards (629). "I honestly believe, certain things -- when you start to discuss things like this -- they stay in house, that we discuss them among each other."

One thing not bothering Tomlinson is his big right toe. When given space, it's obvious he can still twist and wiggle to make defenders miss.

"There's reasons, but I'm not willing to talk about it to the media," Tomlinson said, not wanting to either finger the run-blocking or the play-calling. "That's something that has to be dealt with internally within the organization; players, coaches, you know, that has to be dealt with between us."

It better be dealt with quick, as the Chargers aren't facing a dreg defense this week. The rugged Steelers await and Pittsburgh is seldom the place -- especially after a Steelers home loss -- where running games get back on track.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES


QB Philip Rivers
Nick Laham/Getty

--QB Philip Rivers is coming off another solid day, but one that would have been more impressive if not for two more turnovers. Rivers leads the league with 21 touchdown passes, but he added two more interceptions Sunday to give him eight on the year. Combined with two lost fumbles, that's 10 turnovers. Still, Rivers is playing at a high level, as the Chargers have become more of a throw-first offense instead of relying so much on the run.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson was eager to have one of his better games of the season against the Chiefs' woeful run defense. Instead, he gained but 72 yards despite getting 22 carries. The run blocking has been up to its usual standards. Tomlinson, at least, is fit.

--RB Darren Sproles got a little more involved in the offense with three carries for 15 yards and a reception for 15. But his biggest contribution still comes on returns and he brought back just one punt for minus-2 yards.

--FB Mike Tolbert, an undrafted rookie, has had an uneven year. But he had one of his better games Sunday and it included a 23-yard reception; he caught three passes for 37 yards.

--TE Antonio Gates had his best day of the season as he continues to play better each week with the toe and hip injuries behind him. Gates had a team-high eight catches for 66 yards and a team-best sixth touchdown catch.

--WR Vincent Jackson is continually stretching defenses and has the top per-average gain among Chargers receivers. On Sunday he had a team-high 83 yards on just five catches, with a long of 23. Jackson would be a No. 1 receiver on many other teams.

--WR Chris Chambers had a rare day in which he didn't have a catch. He didn't start as the team was trying to keep him fresh at the end of the game as he still continues to rebound from a high ankle sprain. But while minus a catch, defenses must account for him, which opens up passing routes for his teammates.

--WR Malcom Floyd got the start over Chris Chambers. Floyd had four catches for 76 yards and a score. Since getting more in the rotation in Week 6, Floyd has 12 catches for 237 yards and three touchdowns.

--WR Buster Davis claims his nagging injuries are behind him and he went through an entire week of practice last week. That said, he has work to do in regaining the coaches' confidence and was inactive on Sunday.

--FB Jacob Hester is still basically limited to special teams duties as the player the Chargers surrendered a 2009 second-round pick for to draft last April hasn't lived up to his billing. He failed to record a special teams tackle Sunday.

--OLB Shaun Phillips was turned loose toward QB Tyler Thigpen and he might have saved the game. Phillips flushed Thigpen to his right as he searched for TE Tony Gonzalez for the game-winning, 2-point conversion. But Phillips made him hurry his throw, which was deflected. Phillips had two tackles on the day and the lone quarterback hit as the Chargers, for the most part, continued to fall short in getting to the quarterback.

--OLB Jyles Tucker was supposed to lessen the blow of Shawne Merriman's season-ending injury but it just hasn't happened. He was slowed with a hamstring but says he is fit -- the stats, though, are lacking. He had but two assists on tackles on Sunday.

--SS Clinton Hart was called for pass interference and gave up a touchdown down the stretch Sunday but rebounded to knock down what would have been the go-ahead 2-point conversion play. Hart had three tackles Sunday and might have gotten away with a hold on the critical play.

--ILB Stephen Cooper had one of his better days since coming off his suspension. He recorded nine tackles and one for a loss, shoring up the middle of the defense.

--CB Antonio Cromartie didn't start and the team said it was because of his sore hip. But many think the benching also came with a message, as Cromartie has struggled this year, one year after leading the league with 10 interceptions. He had a game-high 11 tackles, which shows that teams are no longer hesitant to throw in his direction. Despite being the target time and again, he had zero passes defensed.

--CB Quentin Jammer bit on a stop-and-go and was burned for a first-quarter touchdown. But he shook it off and had a decent game. The Chargers, despite Tyler Thigpen heaving it 41 times, had zero interceptions and just three passes defensed -- all three by Jammer.

--S Eric Weddle got a sack, which the Chargers haven't had since playing the Patriots in Week 6. That said, the sack was cheap as Tyler Thigpen ran out of bounds. Weddle did have four tackles and a tackle for a loss.

--DT Jamal Williams had another solid game, his fourth straight of the season. He had seven tackles -- a lot for what he is asked to do -- and two tackles for loss.


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