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`Soft' Chargers take on Chiefs

December 17, 2006|From the Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — As insults go, the San Diego Chargers consider it among the worst.

Eight weeks ago, after the Kansas City Chiefs held off the mistake-prone Chargers, 30-27, at Arrowhead Stadium, rookie defensive end Tamba Hali called San Diego "a finesse team."

Even with the Chargers winning seven straight games since then to clinch the AFC West title, and with all the touchdowns he's scored in the meantime, that statement has stuck with LaDainian Tomlinson.

So while mourning the death of owner Lamar Hunt, the Chiefs will have a bunch of irate Chargers to deal with during tonight's game at Qualcomm Stadium, which will showcase the NFL's top running backs, Tomlinson and Larry Johnson.

"What sticks out in my mind is them calling us soft the last game," Tomlinson said. "Obviously as a player, when somebody calls you soft, you don't like it too much. Finesse team or whatever you want, we're not a soft team. We're not a finesse team.

"Obviously they beat us and that was our last loss. But then again, they said we were soft. So we'll see."

Both teams still have business to take care of.

The Chargers (11-2) have the inside track to home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Plus, Tomlinson can add to his already prolific accomplishments. A week after setting the NFL's single-season touchdown record with 29, he needs to scoot into the end zone just once to break Paul Hornung's season scoring record of 176 points set with Green Bay in 1960. Tomlinson has 174 points.

While trying to remain in the wild-card chase, the Chiefs (7-6) also will be playing for the memory of Hunt, who died of complications from cancer Wednesday night at age 74.

While the Chargers are bent out of shape about Hali's comments, the Chiefs aren't really concerned about the extra motivation they might give the Chargers.

"Yeah, it was said and we have their back," middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell said. "Like I said, I have no trouble covering their back and making sure I back up whatever he said. Nothing's going to work against us but us. They could put it on a billboard on one of their highways if that motivates them. This is football. We'll do our talking on the field and let it be what it's going to be."

Said defensive end Jared Allen: "They're a great team. They're definitely beatable. We beat them once this year. Every team is beatable. That's all we're going to do. We're going to go down there to play the Chargers. They're trying to make them out to be some superhero team because they're 11-2. But guess what? Everybody's got to go down eventually. We're just going down to try to get a win."

On Oct. 22, the Chargers had three first-quarter turnovers -- Tomlinson's fumble and a fumble and interception by Philip Rivers -- that helped the Chiefs take a 20-3 lead. San Diego rallied to tie it at 27 late in the game, but the Chiefs won on Lawrence Tynes' 53-yard field goal with 27 seconds left.

Because the Chargers fell behind so quickly, Tomlinson carried just 15 times for 66 yards. It was the last time he was held to just one touchdown, which came on a pass from Rivers. Tomlinson also threw the first of his two touchdown passes this season, to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna.

Rivers threw 43 passes, completing 25 for 266 yards and two scores.

Thus the finesse label.

San Diego tackle Shane Olivea has another term for the Chargers' offense: "productive."

"I mean, not many teams can say that they average 33 points a game. This is still the National Football League. To go out there, week in and week out, to put up five touchdowns, basically, on average, is pretty impressive," Olivea said.

Coach Marty Schottenheimer's offenses throughout the years have been called conservative and boring, but never finesse.

"I don't think I've ever had that reference made to any team that I've coached," said Schottenheimer, who coached the Chiefs from 1989 to '98. "You know, that's the great thing about America -- you can say anything you want. But my father once told me, 'If you're ever given an opportunity to say nothing, you should take advantage of it.' "

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