DENVER — Anderson is awfully good, but, hey, the revolutionary thing about that offense is Dan Fouts. It's not the Power I or Anderson or Tim Spencer or the return of Kellen Winslow. All those things make a contribution, but the catalyst is Dan.
--Denver linebacker Tom Jackson
Don't look for any snowballs from Bronco fans, or any surprises from the Charger offense today at Mile High Stadium.
The unsportsmanlike conduct by the Denver fan who fired a snowball at holder Matt Cavanaugh as the San Francisco 49ers were attempting a field goal Monday night drew cries of protest from newspaper and TV critics and embarrassed citizens. Even if there's another blizzard today, the Chargers should be safe.
While the fans concern themselves with their image, the Denver defense is concerned with Dan Fouts, Gary Anderson, Lionel James and what seems to be a cast of thousands in today's AFC West game.
The Broncos (7-3), who have a one-game lead over Seattle and the Raiders and a two-game lead over the Chargers, will try to atone for a 30-10 loss to San Diego two weeks ago.
The San Diego attack has taken wing in the last two weeks, and Denver linebacker Tom Jackson reasons that the Chargers will continue with the things they've been doing, such as that new-fangled Power I and the option pitchout from one halfback to another.
"If it's not broke, don't fix it--that's the way I expect they look at their offense right now," Jackson said. "I would look for them to keep doing the things they've been doing."
In a mild sort of way, he took issue with Raider defensive back Lester Hayes, who said Anderson has become the best halfback in football, and also with Charger receivers coach Al Saunders, who said the team is revolutionizing pro football offense again.
"Anderson is awfully good," Jackson said, "but, hey, the revolutionary thing about that offense is Dan Fouts. It's not the Power I or Anderson or Tim Spencer or the return of Kellen Winslow. All those things make a contribution, but the catalyst is Dan.
"He's feeling better every week now, and they're really starting to roll. Fouts is as dangerous as any guy who has ever been in this league. It's no secret, but if you control him, you control their offense."
He's right about Fouts, needless to say. The San Diego quarterback threw for 436 yards last week against the Raiders, giving him an NFL record of six games in which he has surpassed 400 yards.
Fouts is the No. 1-ranked quarterback in the league this year (154 of 258 for 2,201 yards, 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions) with a rating of 94.5 under the NFL's complex rating system.
Making life considerably easier is the play of Anderson, who is getting visibly better by the week, and James, who is on a course that would shatter Terry Metcalf's record for all-purpose yards. James has 1,615 yards and could crack Metcalf's decade-old record of 2,462 if he averages 141.4 over the final six games. He had 345 last Sunday, second best total in pro football history.
The Chargers, who will be attempting to sweep Denver for the first time since 1982, have the No. 1-ranked offense in the NFL (399.4 yards a game) and the No. 1 pass offense (300.5).
How to stop Air Coryell?
Denver Coach Dan Reeves considered the question this week.
"The problems they pose are always the same," he said. "The thing we did poorly in our game two weeks ago was to leave our defense on the field too long (the Chargers maintained possession 10 minutes longer than Denver.)
"What we need to do is to move the ball ourselves so we keep it away from them. It's a struggle to contain them, and we know no team is going to completely control them. They have so many weapons and they have an awful lot of confidence right now."
One thing the Chargers may not have is the psychological advantage, according to Denver quarterback John Elway.
"We may have an edge because that last game is fresh in our memory," he said. "They gave us our toughest defeat of the year. They know it's tough to play here, and they know they have to win to stay in the hunt."
As Reeves correctly noted, only two AFC West teams have beaten division rivals on the road this year. Seattle won at San Diego and Denver at Kansas City, so the task facing the Chargers is no simple one.
Snowballs or no snowballs.