Vikings-Chargers Game Plan

No matter which Chargers quarterback is on the field tomorrow, the Vikings' main focus has to be on LaDainian Tomlinson. But that is far from the only intriguing matchup as the Vikings try to get back to their winning ways.

VIKINGS GAME PLAN
Offenses have been attacking the Vikings' soft perimeter with screens and quick tosses since the Atlanta game a month ago. The Vikings expect San Diego to do the same with running back LaDainian Tomlinson and either Drew Brees or Doug Flutie at quarterback.

Several changes are being made defensively and with the practice schedule to strengthen the Vikings' defense. Something had to be done in the wake of a two-game home losing streak.

Two weeks ago, Giants quarterback Kerry Collins got into a quick-passing rhythm and threw for 375 yards in a 29-17 victory. Last week, the Packers ran for 261 yards on just 34 carries (7.7). Ahman Green ran for 137 yards on 21 carries (6.5) and caught five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown.

The key to beating the 1-7 Chargers is shutting down Tomlinson and the Chargers' screens immediately. Tomlinson is second in the AFC in rushing with 780 yards on 156 carries (5.0-yard average), and leads the Chargers with 47 receptions for 280 yards (6.0).

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Vikings LBs vs. Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson — Linebackers Greg Biekert, Henri Crockett and Chris Claiborne are coming off their worst two games of the season. The Giants and Packers destroyed the defense with quick tosses and screens. Expect the Chargers to try the same attack. Tomlinson averages 5.0 yards per carry, leads the team in receptions and also has thrown a touchdown pass.

  • Vikings WR Randy Moss vs. Chargers CBs Sammy Davis and Quentin Jammer — Moss is on pace for more than 1,700 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns. The Chargers are 24th in the NFL in pass defense. Moss is 6-4. Davis is a 6-foot rookie. Jammer is a 6-foot second-year pro.

  • Vikings LT Everett Lindsay vs. Chargers DRE Adrian Dingle — Lindsay might start in place Bryant McKinnie, who sprained his left ankle in the first quarter of the Packers game. Lindsay replaced him and played the second half. Dingle has a team-high 4.5 sacks.

  • Vikings DT Chris Hovan vs. Chargers interior line — Hovan isn't making big plays. He has only half a sack. The Chargers are 11th in sacks per play, and have a total of 15, which is four fewer than the Vikings have allowed. The Chargers have used backups at center and right guard the past two weeks. Cory Raymer is at center in place of Jason Ball, who is questionable with an ankle injury. Rookie Phil Bogle has been at right guard the last two weeks after playing right tackle the previous two.

  • Vikings CBs Ken Irvin and Brian Williams vs. Chargers WR David Boston — Irvin will get his first start of the season in place of left corner Denard Walker. Boston, who left Arizona for San Diego during the offseason, has only 33 catches for 413 yards (12.5) and two touchdowns.

  • Vikings RB Michael Bennett vs. Chargers front seven — Bennett looked explosive in 13 snaps against the Packers. He had eight carries and three receptions, and his role will be expanded gradually. The Chargers are 25th against the run. Outside linebacker Donnie Edwards leads the Chargers in tackles with 70, which is 21 more than the next best tackler.

  • Vikings secondary vs. Chargers QBs — The Vikings are tied with Kansas City for the league lead in interceptions with 18. Strong safety Corey Chavous leads the NFL with seven, while free safety Brian Russell is tied for second with six. Drew Brees has thrown 12 interceptions and only seven touchdown passes this season.

    INJURY IMPACT: LT Bryant McKinnie is a question mark to play against the Chargers because of a sprained left ankle. Everett Lindsay, a 10-year veteran with 65 career starts for the Vikings, Browns and Ravens, is expected to start if McKinnie can't go. Lindsay isn't as big as McKinnie, and will need help from a tight end or running back in pass protection.

  • LB Raonall Smith has had a hamstring injury all season. He was inactive last week and is questionable this week. His role on the team is minimal.

  • KR-WR Nick Davis, who hasn't played all season because of a shoulder injury, will replace rookie Keenan Howry as the secondary kickoff returner alongside Onterrio Smith. Davis provides a greater burst of speed than Howry.


    CHARGERS GAME PLAN
    Despite their horrendous record, the Chargers have the personnel to possibly defeat the Vikings. Or rather, the person: RB LaDainian Tomlinson. The Vikings defense traditionally struggles against power backs and players with good cutback ability, traits Tomlinson has in spades.

    If Flutie plays, his height will come in to play. Many of the Vikings' 18 interceptions this season were the result of their defensive linemen getting their hands up when quarterbacks throw. The diminutive Flutie will likely be asked to bootleg and rollout on most pass attempts, playing to his strength and to a Vikings weakness.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH: The Chargers' pass defense, which has allowed 15 passing touchdowns — tied for most in the NFL — vs. The Vikings' passing offense, which is ranked No. 6 overall. What's going to be critical here is Quentin Jammer, who is likely going to find himself on Randy Moss much of the time. Jammer has been slowed the past two games with a chronic ankle sprain which doesn't seem to get better. Moss has played the Chargers only once, but he had seven catches for 127 yards and a touchdown, with a long of 60. The Chargers might have to ditch their preferred man coverage to give Jammer — and anyone else — help in derailing Moss. If Jammer was to go down, his replacement will be Kevin Ross and rookie Drayton Florence. Both, as with most CBs, would be overmatched against Moss. Another key is the Chargers generating some kind of pass rush to disrupt Daunte Culpepper. But the Chargers haven't much success getting to quarterbacks getting rid of the ball as quickly as Culpepper

    INJURY IMPACT: C Jason Ball (ankle) didn't practice and doesn't look like a go for the third straight week. Veteran Cory Raymer replaces him.

  • RT Solomon Page (ankle) didn't practice Wednesday, but he might go later in the week. If he can't go, rookie Courtney Van Buren would play.

  • DT Jamal Williams (calf) didn't practice and seems 50-50 for Sunday.

  • TE Stephen Alexander (groin) took some snaps; he's still a week away.

  • RB LaDainian Tomlinson (wisdom tooth) didn't practice, but will go Thursday.

  • S Vernon Fox (groin) is fine.

  • WR Reche Caldwell (concussion) is fine. He'll be asked to contribute more with Eric Parker being put on IR. He's still not in game shape, after returning briefly last Sunday after being out since Week 2 with a dislocated wrist.





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