Chargers Feel Effects of 'Easy Wins'

The Chargers head for Dallas on Sunday after coming off an easy win against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Or was the 30-23 triumph, the team's seventh straight, such a walk in the park?

"I've never been involved in an easy win," coach Norv Turner said. "They're easy maybe in the fourth quarter."

Turner contends that the Chargers had to use all their muscle to prevail against the woeful Browns, which makes Sunday's game against the Cowboys so much bigger.

"The games we have are extremely physical," Turner said. "It may look easy on the scoreboard, but you walk through the training room on Monday and watch the guys getting treatment, there wasn't anything easy about it. Every game you have to appreciate the different situations you're in."

The Chargers could be in for a challenge in stopping the Cowboys' offense with many key players still banged up.

It's a possibility the Chargers could be without Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman, defensive end Luis Castillo and safety Eric Weddle for the second straight week.

And the news isn't good on Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick's return after suffering a setback last week in his bid to rebound from ankle surgery. Hardwick, who would be a key in calling out the blocking assignments against the Cowboys' aggressive front seven, has been absent since the season opener.


SS Kevin Ellison
Kevin Terrell/Getty
But Turner isn't playing the injury card. Instead he is leaning on the leadership of veteran Shaun Phillips and is optimistic about the youngsters, like rookie Larry English.

"I don't see a drop-off in terms of effort or what we're trying to get done," Turner said. "We've got some young guys playing in there. Those outside linebackers other than Shaun are young guys. I think Larry is really improved every week and is going to be outstanding."

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Philip Rivers continues to take care of the ball and complete passes at an amazing rate. It was another eye-opening performance in Cleveland as Rivers threw for two touchdowns and 373 yards with no turnovers.

--WR Vincent Jackson is still being targeted by defenses as someone they must take away. That's fine, but Jackson is such a complete player that he contributed Sunday while only making two catches -- they went for 54 yards. In addition, he had two critical blocks that sprung Chargers receivers for touchdowns.

--RB Mike Tolbert continues to be someone to watch as defenses have to pick their poison against the Chargers. That usually means few defenders pay attention to Tolbert, and he proved Sunday that can be a mistake when going 66 yards on his lone reception for a touchdown.

--TE Antonio Gates had a career day, and that is saying something for this spectacular player. Gates went for 167 receiving yards on a team-high eight catches.

--WR Legedu Naanee is being used more in the Wildcat formation and he even threw a pass Sunday, which went for 21 yards. This guy is so versatile that teams aren't quite sure where Norv Turner will plop him into the alignment. Look for his contributions to continue to grow.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson was able to race past Marshall Faulk and Jim Brown to secure the No. 8 spot on the NFL's all-time rushing list. Tomlinson is running as well as he has since the end of last year's regular season. He had 64 yards and a touchdown. He should be pumped this week going back home to Dallas.

--OLB Shaun Phillips helped flip the momentum early with his strip of the ball and a sack of Brady Quinn -- the Chargers recovered the ball and the Browns never rewound their mojo. Phillips, especially with Shawne Merriman being out, is playing at a high level.

--SS Kevin Ellison continues to look more comfortable as the rookie gets up to speed with the Chargers' defense. Ellison had a team-high seven tackles and was seldom out of position.

--ILB Kevin Burnett chipped in five tackles and he showed he was fine after leaving the previous week's game with a head injury. Burnett came over from the Cowboys in the off-season, so he is primed to return to Dallas this week.

--ILB Brandon Siler is manning the strong-side spot well, and he had six tackles Sunday. The addition of Siler to the linebacking corps has made it more physical, although there remains work to do in stopping the run.

--FS Eric Weddle is going to be down one more week at least with a sprained knee. Steve Gregory and Paul Oliver will continue to fill in for this starter.

--OLB Shawne Merriman has basically missed the past two games with his foot injury. Knowing that DeMarcus Ware, the player selected before him in the 2005 draft, will be on the field Sunday might push Merriman even more. But the Chargers are being cautious, trying to keep Merriman fit for the playoffs.


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