Chargers Seek to Avenge Prior Loss

The Chargers lost back-to-back heartbreakers in Weeks 11 and 12 as the Steelers and Colts each stole victories with last-minute field goals. The consecutive losses put the Chargers on the ropes, but Norv Turner's team has come back swinging. After avenging the loss to Indianapolis, the Chargers look to return the favor to the Steelers.

The Chargers loss to the Steelers in Week 11 is best remembered as the only 11-10 decision in NFL history. Pittsburgh kicker Jeff Reed drilled a 32-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining to drop San Diego to 4-6, marking one of the four games the Chargers lost by three points or less this season.

The Steelers contest was the second game of the Ron Rivera era and provided a foreshadowing of things to come. Although the Chargers defense gave up 410 yards, it held the Steelers out of the end zone and sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times.

The San Diego defense continues to improve under Rivera's guidance. In the eight regular-season games after he took over, the Chargers allowed nearly a touchdown less per game (6.4 points). Also, the Chargers were plus-five in turnover differential during that span, after finishing the first eight games at minus-one.

WR Kassim Osgood
Gregory Shamus/Getty

The Chargers will have to keep up the defensive intensity this week in what is expected to be a cold-weather, low-scoring game.

"[The weather] will be a factor in how you play the game," Norv Turner said. "When you get in those games, obviously, running the ball and playing defense are critical."

That puts even more pressure on the defense, because San Diego's ability to run the ball will be under scrutiny all week long. The Chargers expect to be without RB LaDainian Tomlinson (groin), who contributed 102 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the earlier meeting.

Darren Sproles looked up to the task in the Wildcard Round against the Indianapolis Colts, finishing with the third-most all-purpose yards in playoff history (328). However, it's debatable whether he can handle 35 touches for a second consecutive week.

Eight-year veteran Michael Bennett was impressive in spot duty against the Colts, but it's always scary to break-in a player during the postseason.

"Michael Bennett, we'll get him ready to go," Turner said. "He's going to be able to do a little bit more than he did last week."

When the emphasis switches to running the football and playing stingy defense, it's clear playoff football is in full throat. The Chargers will be the underdogs for the second consecutive week, but they head to Heinz Field brimming with confidence.

Since Coach Turner took over in 2007, the Chargers are 12-1 in December and January. If San Diego can run that win total to a lucky 13, it will earn a spot in the AFC Championship Game for the second time in as many seasons.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.

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