Chargers Have Key Advantage In Matchup

Tom Brady isn't Tom Brady when he's under pressure, just as the New York Jets. When he's not hurried, things like Monday Night's historic outing happen. Does San Diego have an advantage in their matchup up front? Here's one angle they can try to exploit.

 It looks like an edge for Chargers defensive tackle Antonio Garay come Sunday when the Chargers travel to New England.

  With Patriots Pro Bowl center Dan Koppen out with a broken ankle, good fortune has found Garay.

   Then again, he's likely to have his hands full regardless of the person lining up opposite him, which will be Dan Connolly.

   On both sides of Garay is nothing but green Chargers.

   Rookie end Corey Liuget, the team's top pick, is making his second NFL start in as many games.

   Vaughn Martin is on Garay's other side, and it'll be his first NFL start.

   So while making sure he's on-point, the veteran Garay will be directing two inexperienced ends as well.

   The Chargers need a big effort up front, to engage the blockers and to allow outside linebackers Shaun Phillips, Travis LaBoy and Antwan Barnes some space.

D.Connolly
Connolly (63) blocks New York Jets defensive end Mike Devito (70) (Alan Maglaque-US PRESSWIRE)
   If hoping to disrupt the Tom Brady express, the Chargers' pass rush has to reach him. And that could hinge on the two kids doing their thing up front, to help those behind them.

   Liuget graded well in his first game with two tackles and one for a loss.

   Martin, in his third year, has been thrust into the lineup after Luis Castillo broke his leg. He may not be ready, but the Chargers have few options.

   Garay had other worries leading to the regular-season opener, when a knee injury derailed his preseason. But he played well Sunday, recording four tackles, a sack and a quarterback hit. The Chargers hope Garay can provide that same push up the middle to harass Brady on Sunday.

Postseason Preview?

    It's a matchup that seems a little early in the season: Chargers vs. Patriots.

   Often these two AFC strong men square with a lot more riding on a game. But come Sunday, they'll have to be content with the prospect of going 2-0 to fuel their fire.

   The Chargers couldn't pick a much tougher spot to start their road schedule. Although it's not so much the home field that propels the Patriots as what is on that field.

   The Patriots are good, and they proved it again Monday night in thrashing the Dolphins.

   The Chargers are good, and -- while not with the same pizzazz -- proved it by rallying in their opener over the Vikings.

   "Obviously we've played them a handful of times, as recent as last year, and they make us earn everything," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "Some of the drives we were able to put together late in the game, it took us awhile to get down the field, they made us earn every yard and that's what we're going to expect this Sunday."

   Bent to get off to a rare good start, the Chargers must show their mettle in New England. The defense will be under the gun to slow the Tom Brady-led attack, while the Chargers' offense knows it must match points with the Patriots juggernaut.

   "I have to worry about that defense and doing all I can to help us score points," Rivers said. "But certainly, not so much as a quarterback battle by any means but it's always fun to play against a team led by arguably one of the best in the game if not the best in the game. Certainly that makes it even more exciting. Obviously, it's exciting enough to go on the road and play a team like the Patriots in their home opener with all the history and success they've had.

   "We haven't fared too well there in the past; obviously the one that stands out is the AFC Championship Game. I know we're excited to come play there and that certainly would fall further down the last as a little sidebar that makes it more fun, playing a team led by a guy that is as good as it gets."

   Rivers isn't far behind Brady as far as the numbers go of late. What he doesn't have is the jewelry, with Brady owning three Super Bowl rings. Some speculate that the best NFL quarterback without a ring is Rivers.

   But that's something to check off the wish list on another day. This Sunday, it's all about keeping their record spotless.

   And considering the impressive game the Patriots are coming off of, well, it opened the Chargers' eyes.

   "New England had an unbelievable performance and they're explosive, and they've got a lot of good players," coach Norv Turner said. "We're going to do our best to contain it and the way you contain an offensive football team like that is you do everything you can to keep from giving up big plays. And if you don't give up big plays then you have a chance during a drive to get good pressure on the quarterback.

   "The teams that have played the best defense against New England - I look at Detroit in the preseason and I look at the Jets and Baltimore from the last couple of years. They've been able to pressure the quarterback and disrupt Tom and that's what obviously people try to do to our quarterback. When you have a quarterback who plays at the level that is, (if) you can't pressure him and disrupt him a little bit, you're going to be in for a long day."

   But show him all-out blitzes, and the risk doesn't always equal the reward. Lay back and with the Patriots two great tight ends and the sly Wes Welker, they will kill you with the underneath routes.

   Tough team. Tough game. Tough for the Chargers to not come back west with a 1-1 record?

   "We still have a ways to go just after Week 1," Rivers said. "But certainly the challenge doesn't get much greater than this one."

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