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Archive for Sunday, October 30, 2005

Chargers already facing must-win game

Chiefs’ opponent today has been plagued by mistakes late in losses

October 30, 2005

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— A year ago, the San Diego Chargers were just starting an eight-game winning streak that would carry them to the AFC West title.

Look at them now. Reality seemingly has caught up with the Bolts, who are talking about playing a must-win game even though they're heading into the season's midpoint.

"There's definitely a sense of urgency because we understand the situation we're in," quarterback Drew Brees said going into today's home game against the Kansas City Chiefs. "Hey, it's 3-4, and we cannot afford to go out and blow another opportunity like we have."

The Chargers have lost as many games this year as they did all of last season, when they were 12-4, and it's because they have been unable to seal the deal in the fourth quarter.

The Chargers lost, 20-17, Sunday at Philadelphia after making two huge mistakes.

Quintin Mikell blew between a rookie and a veteran to block Nate Kaeding's field-goal attempt, and Matt Ware returned it 65 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:25 left. San Diego wide receiver Reche Caldwell fumbled at the Philadelphia 19 with 1:34 left.

The Chargers also blew fourth-quarter leads against Dallas in their home homer, Sept. 18 at Denver and Oct. 10 at home against Pittsburgh.

"This is a similar situation as when we were sitting at 0-2 and 2-3," Brees said. "It's as close to a must-win situation as you can get, and I think we responded well on those occasions, so this is no different."

When the Chargers were 0-2, they beat the New York Giants, 45-23. When they were 2-3, they won at Oakland, 27-14.

The problem is, the Chargers are playing a tougher schedule this year. In their last four games they've played three of the four teams that reached the conference championship games last season. They routed New England, then lost to the Steelers and Eagles.

San Diego has played only one team with a losing record - Oakland - and its opponents are a combined 26-18.

Kansas City (4-2) has won two straight. And the Chiefs are well-rested. Because of Hurricane Wilma, Kansas City's game last weekend at Miami was moved up two days to Friday night. The Chiefs won, 30-20, then took the weekend off.

Plus, some of the Chiefs still are steamed about losing, 24-17, to the Chargers here in the 2004 regular-season finale - even though San Diego rested its top players for the playoffs.

"Last year, we went out there and played what I thought was our worst game all year," coach Dick Vermeil said. "That still hangs in my memory. I just don't anticipate our team being in that same frame of mind or playing like that again."

Said Chiefs left guard Brian Waters: "I'm glad this time we're going out there with more to fight for, because last year when we went out there it was just a complete embarrassment."

This game will feature three good running backs and two tough run defenses.

LaDainian Tomlinson will try to bounce back from being held to a career-low seven yards rushing at Philadelphia. Additionally, Tomlinson failed to score for the first time in 19 games. A week earlier, he had tied Lenny Moore's NFL record of scoring a touchdown in 18 straight games.

In Kansas City's win at Miami, Larry Johnson rushed for 93 yards and Priest Holmes for 90.

Holmes, who scored twice against the Dolphins, said Johnson would be the best running back on the field today.

"I'll never go with myself, and I think that LaDainian's been doing a great job," Holmes said. "But Larry's someone who is really fun to watch just in terms of his size and height, he's over 6-2 and outweighs both LT and I even though he's just as fast as us. It's just a matter of strength and ability and stock that's on the rise."

The Chargers have the No. 2 defense against run, allowing just 76 yards a game.

"They're definitely a team that is very stout defensively," Holmes said. "In terms of doing things right, I think our offensive line has the mindset that they have the strength to push them off the ball. Especially running against the 3-4, it gives us the ability to get on the perimeter hopefully against their linebackers."

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