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It Will Happen: San Diego Chargers to Struggle in Kansas City

The 2010 season is upon us and the Minnesota Vikings predictably fell to the New Orleans Saints.

What is not predictable, however, is whether the Chargers will perform well against the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night.

Under Norv Turner, the Chargers have gone 2-1 on opening day, but in terms of performing up to expectations they’ve gone 0-3.

It’s been a 2-3 start for San Diego every year under Norv, but the Chargers have finished a combined 21-0 to end those three potentially disastrous seasons, winning the AFC West title in all three seasons and frustrating the perennially second place Denver Broncos (and the Bronco Nation) in the process.

In 2007, coming off of a 14-2 season under former head coach Marty Schottenheimer, the Chargers were supposed to blow away the competition. They opened the season against the defending NFC Champion Chicago Bears.

Off season smack talk centered around a LaDainian Tomlinson Nike commercial had both teams fired up. In what turned out to be a foreshadowing of the first month of the season, the Charger offense could barely get out of it’s own way.

Running back LaDainian Tomlinson was completely ineffective, rushing to the tune of 25 yards on 17 carries, but he dazzled the Bears with both a rushing and passing touchdown.

It was only dazzling due to the fact that the bad Rex Grossman-led Bears were lucky to end the game with the 3 points they did.

This game set NFL offenses back nine decades.

In 2008, the Chargers suffered through a rebuilding year as their two cornerstones, defensive tackle Jamal Williams and Tomlinson began to show their age. The NFL kings of stopping the run and running the ball were dethroned by younger players on other teams and the Chargers win/loss record suffered as a result.

To open the 2008 season, the Chargers welcomed the supposedly overmatched Carolina Panthers who proceeded to march up and down the Qualcomm turf like the 1999 St. Louis Rams in the first half.

Carolina dominated the first half time of possession battle. Well, that’s if you call the Dream Team verses Angola a battle.

All Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman attempted to play through torn ligaments, which seemed to make no sense to anyone but himself. He was injured and out for the season early. As was the case with the Chargers in those days, no Shawne Merriman, no defense.

Hot off of his stunning playoff performance the year before, Rivers continued to flourish as he made several amazing plays to come back from a 19-10 deficit to lead the Chargers to a 24-19 lead, forcing Jake Delhomme (in the swan song of his career) to lead the Panthers to a TD on the final possession.

Delhomme channelled his inner Joe Montana as he tossed the game winning touchdown pass to that perennial All Pro tight end Dante Rosario as time expired, robbing Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson of a game winning touchdown of his own.

In 2009, the Chargers returned to Oakland for a Monday Night showdown with the Raiders for the second time in four years. The assumption was that the Chargers would hand out another beating to the Raider Nation.

However, the Nation had other plans. The Bolts suffered a verbal beatdown from the Black Hole and a physical beat down from the Raiders on the field.

The shockingly hard hitting Raiders injured five Charger starters.

The sluggish Chargers run defense was once again a non-factor to open the season as Raider running backs repeatedly high stepped down the field untouched. However, they continued to shoot themselves in the foot by allowing JaMarcus Russell to throw the ball on running downs.

The gift from the Raiders coaching staff allowed the Chargers to adjust their game plan and the Raiders offense began to sputter.

While the Raiders never ran more than a play or two on the Chargers side of the field in the second half, the desperate Raiders went for it on 4th and 15 from their own 42 yard line.

Forty-eight yards later Louis Murphy was celebrating what the Nation contends should have been his second touchdown of the game to give the Raiders a 20-17 lead with just over two minutes to go.

Too much time for Philip Rivers and company.

In what has become a formality in close games against Oakland, Philip Rivers marched the Chargers 89 yards with running back Darren Sproles capping off the drive with a surprise draw play for the game winning touchdown.

In 2010, for the sixth straight year, the Chargers will play a supposedly inferior opponent and once again that opponent brings an unquestionably superior rushing attack.

The Charger defense has been very slow to come to the table in the last two seasons. Especially against the run. If it happens again, the upstart Chiefs will be looking to take advantage of the situation.

The only season opener under Norv Turner in which the Charger defense has come to play was against the Chicago Bears and that was an absolute grudge match against what was thought to be the elite team of the NFC.

In the Chiefs, the Chargers find themselves facing an opponent that they outscored 80-21 in two games last season and the games weren’t as close as the score indicates.

There is no motivation for the Chargers to come out of the gate with fire.

There is no Marty Schottenheimer soliloquy so elegantly and passionately recited to put a jolt in the bolt either.

Not so for Kansas City.

The Chiefs are playing the four time defending AFC West Champions at a newly remodeled, sold out home stadium with a young fiery team that ended a horrendous 2009 season by dominating the rival Denver Broncos.

Knocking the Broncos out of the playoffs in the process.

They will be ready for the Bolts. Recent history tells us that the Bolts will not be ready for the Chiefs.

The first half is a potential trouble spot for San Diego.

The Chargers have not gone to halftime with the lead on opening day since the days of Schottenheimer, but they have not been outscored in the second half during that time period either.

The Kansas City rushing attack may catch the Chargers defense out of position in the first quarter, but I expect the Chargers to begin controlling the game midway through the second quarter.

The outcome may not be decided in the fourth quarter, but the Chargers should pull off the victory by the skin of their teeth.


Super Bowl Prediction: Chargers vs Saints or Vikings

A couple of years ago, I was telling my co-worker Dave (who’s been a San Diego Charger fan longer than I’ve been alive) that the Chargers would not make it to the Super Bowl until this season.

I got caught up in the moment and half-believed that 2009 was the year, but in reality, I knew there was no way a team that couldn’t come close to either running the ball or stopping the run should have even made the playoffs.

The Chargers have such a good offensive system in place that they can beat most NFL teams even while bringing inferior talent to the field which explains why they were able to lose five starters in the first game of the season and still go 13-3.

The Chargers have been in rebuilding mode for two seasons right under your nose. While the national sports writers have been proclaiming that the Chargers’ window of opportunity is closing, Chargers general manager AJ Smith has been plugging holes with draft picks collected over the last few seasons.

Oops.

For years, LaDainian Tomlinson was the Chargers’ most highly regarded offensive player and Jamal Williams was the most highly regarded defensive player. When those guys fell off, the offense became pass happy and the defense couldn’t stop anybody on the ground.

Running the ball and stopping the run wins championships.

AJ Smith knows it, head coach Norv Turner knows it, and de facto team owner Dean Spanos knows it. National sportswriters, otherwise known as male gossip columnists (Mike Florio anyone?), overlook obvious things like this.

Writers who do not follow the Chargers casually gloss over the facts. They haven’t noticed that the Chargers have been grooming Vaughn Martin, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, and Antonio Garay. They forgot that the Bolts traded for solid veteran Travis Johnson and recently drafted massive defensive tackle Cam Thomas.

Run defense woes solved.

They totally missed the solid power running back who can put a defense away in the fourth quarter known as Mike Tolbert. Then proclaimed that the Chargers reached for Ryan Mathews. Anyone for baloney?

Rushing attack woes solved.

The Chargers were without those key aspects last season and could still hang with the top teams in the NFL. They swept the NFC East and went 8-2 outside of the AFC West.

Enough with the “they play in the AFC West” crap. The Chargers could have gone 2-4 in the AFC West and still made the playoffs.

The Chargers rebuilding appears to be complete, so I am sticking to my prediction. Now we will just have to see if they are good enough to beat the NFC heavyweights. If you don’t know who that is, I will tell you.

Guess what those NFC powerhouses have in common? They will never see Vincent Jackson wearing their uniform! More on that later.

Now about that kicker…

Chargers QB Philip Rivers Is An Entertaining Fellow

Browsing around the internet, I found a message board topic about the San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. We already knew what was coming.

“PHILIP RIVERS IS A TOOL!!!”

Unlike Philip Rivers haters out there, I love the Philip Rivers smack talk! Love it!

For a time, every one was upset with Philip Rivers. You knew it was bad with the Steve Urkel of the NFL Network, Fran Charles, angrily called Rivers “the Opey of the NFL.”

I thought they were going to have to get the man some cheese to calm his nerves.

In Rivers’ first game as an NFL starter against the Oakland Raiders, he completed a beautiful 37 yard pass to Keenan McCardell as he was being ransacked by a seemingly angry Warren Sapp (is there any other kind of Warren Sapp, really?). Rivers could be seen standing over Sapp, who was shocked by the crowds reaction to the completion, and yelling something at him. The announcers seemed to think it was “cute” that the young player got the beast of NFL great Warren Sapp.

Sapp claims he told Rivers to “fix his skirt,” but there is no evidence anything other than a deflated Sapp shuffling back to the huddle.

Perhaps the most famous “toolism” by Philip Rivers was interruption of a Jay Cutler tirade with a classic SCOREBOARD taunt. Jay Cutler was cursing out the Chargers side line and grabbing his “stuff” after being stopped by the Chargers defense once again. He was promptly pointed to the Denver Broncos sideline and told to get lost. While Rivers didn’t think much of the exchange, it deeply affected Cutler. Cutler took to the national airwaves to bash Philip Rivers for the way “he carries himself.” Oh the irony. Cutler was last seen high tailing it out of the AFC West.

To a point, Cutler was affected by one of the biggest cry babies ever to grace a football field. Champ Bailey.

Champ Bailey enjoyed an unchallenged run of smack talk as he easily bested Chargers quarterback Drew Brees in 2005 and the Broncos had won three of four games against the Chargers along with the AFC West Division. The Broncos were only one win away from winning the AFC Championship. Clearly, the Broncos were on top and that wasn’t going to change anytime soon with Drew Brees out of the picture.

The Broncos led the Chargers by 17 points in Denver in the third quarter of a 2006 night game thanks to a Darrent Williams (RIP) interception. Champ Bailey was feeling superior. Unfortunately for Champ, Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson led the Chargers back from the dead to victory and the Bolts haven’t looked back.

Suddenly, Bailey found himself repeatedly targeted by Philip Rivers passes with no success (at all) in defending them. After taking a verbal barrage from Philip Rivers on top of a steady stream of seemingly undefendable passes, Champ had no choice but to voice his frustrations to ESPN which led to the Cutler debacle.

“And I don’t really care for the guy, first of all,” Bailey said of Rivers. “He’s not a respectable guy right now because you talk too much trash and do this and that, but you’re really not a great player in this league right now. You’re surrounded by great players, but you’re not a great player. I think he needs to understand where he stands in this league – where he stands on his team first and foremost.”

As the leader.

My favorite was the time Tommy Harris of the Chicago Bears shot a commercial with the Chargers in the 2007 off season.

“He kept telling Tommie how they were going to put at least 30 (points) on the board against the Bears,” remembered Harris’ agent. “I listened to him trash-talking all night. I remember saying to one of the guys there, ‘Man, I wish I had a camera rolling on this.’ I can’t wait for Tommie to get after him.”

Tommie would soon get his chance. The Bears were coming for a visit to San Diego to open the 2007 season. The Chargers defense referred to Rex Grossman as a mental midget, but that wasn’t all. They also called out running back Cedric Benson as being soft. The Bears players shot back with talk of how few yards Tomlinson rushed for the previous time the teams met.

An angry Bears defense showed up in San Diego and dominated the Chargers offense. In the end, however, the Chargers defense was correct about Grossman and Benson. The Bolts easily won the game 14-3.

Rivers smack talk makes being a fan so much more fun!