Chargers Look to Get Physical

The Chargers are looking to continue their physical play. And when going against the Steelers, that is a good notion.

After disposing of the Dolphins Sunday, coach Norv Turner turned his attention to the Steelers on Monday.

Pittsburgh will be revved to play the Chargers, not only because they beat them just a few months back in the playoffs but also because it is eager to get back to its winning ways after losing Sunday.

But before getting too far ahead, Turner wanted to mention two things that stood out Sunday.

"Consistency, and the improvement we've shown from a physical standpoint," Turner said.

That wasn't the case in the first couple of games and the Chargers were pushed around by the Raiders and Ravens. And they knew they were in for more roundhouses from the Dolphins.

"We knew what was coming in, in terms of the style of the team we were playing and I think our guys did a great job from a physical standpoint of matching that and competing in that area," Turner said. "I thought with their base offense we played extremely well and the run very well. It took us a while to adjust to the Wildcat stuff - they are very good at it."

The Chargers know they won't likely see anything offensively exotic from the Steelers. The defending Super Bowl champs would just as soon punch rivals in the mouth than dazzle them with formations and schemes.

What gave Turner a good feeling was watching how his defensive front played Sunday. With Pro Bowl tackle Jamal Williams out for the season, it was a team effort up front.

"I think up front it was the best we have played up front," Turner said.

QB Ben Roethlisberger
Gregory Shamus/Getty
But the Steelers are a different beast, especially with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, protected by the stout Steelers' blockers.

It's the Chargers' blockers, though, needing to pick it up. The Chargers' running game is still AWOL, ranked No. 31 by averaging 66 yards per game.

It would help if LaDainian Tomlinson was in the mix, but he's still hobbled by a bum ankle.

"We need to continue to get better," Turner admitted.

Especially this week - otherwise, the Steelers' defense will point its pads toward Rivers and barely give the running game a second thought.

"We are one block away, one guy away from finishing his block or doing his job," Turner said. "I believe those things are correctable."


--WR Vincent Jackson continues to emerge as one of the NFL's top receivers. He has collected 100 receiving yards in the last two games; last season, he was the first Chargers wideout to go over 1,000 yards since Curtis Conway in 2001.

--QB Philip Rivers has thrown for 736 yards the past two games; that's the fourth-highest two-game total in team history. Four of Rivers' passes were for more than 30 yards. "No question he's improved," coach Norv Turner said of Rivers' ability to throw the long ball. "I think it's from doing it over and over again. And then there is really a mind-set of trusting your receivers. Obviously Philip is showing that he's willing to put the ball right on the receiver with a defensive back on him."

--LT Marcus McNeill got into a spirited session of trash talking with the Dolphins' Joey Porter: "I guess he looked at me and figured I was the biggest and toughest he was going to find and started talking smack."

--LB Kevin Burnett got his first sack as a Charger on Sunday. "I'm just doing my job," said Burnett, who came over from the Cowboys. "I learn from the guys around me: Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips and Larry English. I'm just trying to be a piece of the puzzle."

--LG Kris Dielman got a chuckle out of Rivers' 5-yard touchdown scamper. "He looks like a giraffe," he said. "I'm sure we're going to get a laugh in meeting time."


OG Louis Vasquez
Shana Siler/
--OLB Shawne Merriman (groin) could be down this week; he will be evaluated on Wednesday.

--RG Louis Vasquez (knee) is expected to practice on Wednesday and could go this week after missing the past two games.

--QB Philip Rivers took a pretty good shot in his ribs Sunday and didn't meet with the press like he usually does on Mondays. The team claims he is fine but it is worth watching.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson isn't walking with a limp due to his sprained ankle, but he is not a slam dunk to play this week. The team could let him sit one more week to take advantage of the bye the following week.

--DE Travis Johnson (groin) will likely be down one more week.


PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus - Philip Rivers continues to be the driving force of an offense that can't run the ball. Luckily it has Rivers, who has thrown for more than 300 yards in two straight games. He did take a few shots Sunday, but when working the downfield routes so often, that is to be expected. Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd made several acrobatic catches. Rivers is playing at a very high level - even if he did lose a fumble that resulted in three points for Miami.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F - The Chargers didn't and can't run the ball - no use sugarcoating it. With two new guys along the front line and the absence of LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers are struggling for every yard. Darren Sproles and Michael Bennett both averaged 2.3 yards per carry. The day's biggest run came from Rivers, who cruised in from five yards out for a score.

PASS DEFENSE: B - Not bad here, as the two Chads - Pennington and Henne - both had trouble getting anything going on a consistent basis. Eric Weddle had a great read when jumping a route for an interception and a touchdown. The pass defense allowed but 146 passing yards. The pressure on the passer is still hit and miss - the Chargers had one sack, giving them three in three games.

RUSH DEFENSE: C - With Jamal Williams missing in the middle, teams are running it right up the gut and getting success there. The Chargers got hit for 149 yards on the ground, although the bulk of them came in the first half. The Chargers are still having issues with their tackling and it shows up here the most.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B - The coverage units were keen - good stuff. Sproles wasn't spectacular for the first time this season in his returns. K Nick Kaeding got a workout with three field goals but he did go wide right from 41 yards.

COACHING: B - This was a big game for the Chargers. Doubt was starting to creep in after they played bad in winning at Oakland and got beat at home by the Ravens. And while the Dolphins started with an impressive drive, the defense under coordinator Ron Rivera made the adjustments. Turner has won two out of three despite not having a running game - that's hard to do and Turner deserves the credit.

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