Keys to the Game

Drew Brees has had a decent season thus far. He has a lot of room to improve and nothing would be finer than making a statement in what appears to be San Diego's final game of the 200 season.

Brees has been streaky. He has thrown interceptions at inopportune times and has left too much air under the ball when he should be zipping the ball in. Some of that is his fault of not reading what he sees, and some is his unfamiliarity with his young receivers.

Early in the year he leaned on Curtis Conway, and little else. Now with Conway missing the past few weeks, and expecting to be out this Sunday, Brees has had to go to his other options, the same ones who were unseen during the beginning of the season.

Last week against Kansas City Brees missed four open receivers on deep patterns. Tim Dwight twice beat his man in the corner of the end zone but Brees led him too far on both as they fell incomplete. Eric Parker twice beat his man deep as well and Brees hung the ball up in the air and the defenders were able to cover that ground quickly to bat the ball away. If Brees put a little zip on those balls, the Chargers likely would have won.

Now he faces a Seahawk team that has been much improved over recent weeks. The goal is to end on a high note with his receivers the beneficiary of a distribution of the ball. Even at 8-7, the Chargers have had a successful year in year one of Coach Marty Schottenheimer and quarterback Brees. They would like to continue that trend and build on the momentum for next year.

Shaun Alexander is a premier running back. With the emergence of Matt Hasselbeck, who making a habit of 300-yard passing games, Alexander has been able to do what he does best, score touchdowns.

Alexander has 17 touchdowns on the season which leads the NFC. He has surpassed the 1,100 yard mark in rushing and is second on the team in catches with 58.

San Diego is allowing 105.1 yards per game, and is 31st in passing defense. What that means is they cannot afford to concentrate solely on stopping Alexander for fear of Hasselbeck beating them with his arm. That smells like trouble for the Chargers.

They must force Hasselbeck to beat them. By stopping Alexander and making a team one dimensional, the Chargers, despite their pass coverage woes, have a clear advantage. Look for Donnie Edwards to lead the assault on Alexander and shadow him in pass coverage. That will go a long way in deciding this game. In four previous games against the Chargers, Alexander has averaged just 2.7 yards on 59 carries.

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