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Chargers Hope to Avoid Home Letdown

September 17, 2006|From the Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Home was where the heartburn was for the San Diego Chargers last year.

If anyone still wonders why the Chargers missed the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 seasons, all they have to do is look at San Diego's .500 home record.

As riveting as their wins were at Indianapolis, New England, Washington and the New York Jets, the Chargers were idle in January because they couldn't beat the Cowboys, Steelers and Dolphins in San Diego. They'd already been eliminated when they slogged through the finale against Denver, losing both the game and quarterback Drew Brees to a shoulder injury.

So it's hardly surprising that Coach Marty Schottenheimer preached the importance of defending their own turf in advance of today's home opener against the Tennessee Titans.

"I've always said that that is one of the two elements that has to take place if you want to win the division and be in the playoffs," Schottenheimer said.

Even a 5-3 road record wasn't enough to keep the Chargers from slumping to third in the AFC West.

Believing they had reached elite status after winning the AFC West at 12-4 in 2004, the Chargers surrendered late leads at home last year to the Cowboys and Steelers.

On Dec. 11, perhaps looking ahead a week to their game at Indy, they severely damaged their playoff hopes by losing to Miami.

"We didn't do a good enough job last year," center Nick Hardwick said. "It's definitely a point of emphasis. We went to the East Coast a couple of times and won big games out there and came back here and just had letdowns. We just need to play at a consistent level this year."

Guard Kris Dielman said teams have to take advantage of the comforts of home.

"You've got to win at home, man, no question," Dielman said. "All I know is that's just not acceptable. You can't be .500 at home."

The Chargers will try to avoid a letdown after their dominating 27-0 win at Oakland on Monday night. LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 131 yards and one touchdown, and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman had three of San Diego's nine sacks. That helped ease in Philip Rivers, who made his first NFL start.

Rivers threw only 11 passes, completing eight for 108 yards and one touchdown.

"I would expect us to throw it more than 11 times this week," said Rivers, who got the No. 1 job when Brees signed with New Orleans.

"But you know what? You never know. We may throw it seven. It just depends on how the game goes. You never put a number on things, but I would have expected going into that game to throw it 25 times."

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