Bolts Rediscover Swagger in Kansas City

The Chargers are playing the visiting Raiders on Sunday and they do so with a new feeling of confidence.

After starting 2-3 for the third straight year and falling 3 1/2 games behind the AFC West-leading Broncos, the Chargers have a newfound swagger.

Granted, that comes from thumping the Chiefs 37-7 on Sunday. But the way the Chargers were reeling they will take any bright spot they can find.

The Chargers had grand plans of going deep in the playoffs after recent postseason heartbreaks. Then the season started and the Chargers got hit with injuries and the reality their roster isn't as deep as once advertised.

Perhaps the patch of bad road is behind them. They looked like a different club in Kansas City, where they turned in their most complete game of the season.


RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Jaime Squire/Getty
The Chargers have been longing to establish a running game to balance their potent passing attack. But with center Nick Hardwick out until December, right guard Louis Vasquez absorbing the rookie learning curve and a banged-up LaDainian Tomlinson, running plays have sputtered.

The Chargers will show the Raiders they are more than a passing team. While Tomlinson didn't find the end zone Sunday, it was clear coach Norv Turner was making him a focal point of the game plan: Tomlinson finished with a season-high 71 yards. And that came on the heels of a 70-yard showing in the loss to Denver.

Years ago those numbers would raise eyebrows; it's telling how different Tomlinson and the Chargers are. Tomlinson doesn't need those gaudy numbers from his heyday -- he's being asked to carry a bit of the load, not all of it.

The Chargers aren't interested in being a power running team, more bent on gobbling up yards through the air. And while the passing attack had been good, it was starting to be compromised by no running attack. Quarterback Philip Rivers, who had three touchdown passes Sunday, wasn't going to survive without a ground game. He was getting sacked with more regularity with defenses not worried about the run.

But the Raiders will be forced to contend with both ends of the Chargers' offense, which is what they thought would be the case in that first game with Oakland on Sept. 14.

Then Tomlinson got hurt and the Chargers had to ditch their running game with a furious comeback to win 24-20 at Oakland.

The Chargers have seen plenty of triumphs against the Raiders of late, with 12 straight wins over their AFC West rivals. The Raiders haven't won at San Diego since 2002.

One thing the Chargers don't figure to do is take the Raiders lightly -- despite their recent string of success and the Raiders' 2-5 record.

The Chargers were manhandled for the majority of their first game with the Raiders, as the Chargers seemed surprised how physical the Raiders were.

The Chargers also know it's a critical game in the third of their swing of contests against AFC West foes. So far they are 1-1.

LINEUP WATCH: Steve Gregory has moved from strong safety to the cornerback nickel role, supplanting second-year pro Antoine Cason. Cason had frustrated coaches in that he wasn't more developed and through his inconsistent play.

UNDER THE RADAR: WR Malcom Floyd got his first touchdown catch of the season Sunday and it could be a sign of things to come. Floyd has surpassed Chris Chambers as the No. 2 receiver; Chambers had a rough day against the Chiefs, which won't help his cause.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

-- WR Vincent Jackson continues to prove he is among the league's top downfield threats. He had 142 yards on just five catches - all in the first half, a franchise record.

-- DT Ian Scott has provided some much needed girth and production in the middle. Scott has played two games after he was signed by the Chargers; they released at the end of camp.

-- ILB Kevin Burnett's status for the Raiders game is undetermined as he battles an ankle injury.

-- ILB Tim Dobbins proved his strength as a run-stopper when he filled in for Kevin Burnett against the Chiefs.

-- DL Travis Johnson continues to be idle with a groin injury; he could return this week.


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