Chargers Prepare Their Return To Primetime

Monday night will be the Bolts return to primetime television for the first time in front of a national audience since their season opening debacle against the Kansas City Chiefs. This divisional tilt will also feature the Chargers first look at the Denver Broncos on the season and a true test for a somewhat suspect secondary.

The same could be said for the opposition’s pass defense with both Philip Rivers and Broncos signal caller Kyle Orton ranked one and two respectively in the league in passing yardage. Denver and San Diego each rely heavily on their passing attacks to move the chains, but they have both also shown the ability to utilize their ground games at points throughout the year when necessary.

For the Broncos, that just so happened to be last week when they toppled the division leading Kansas City Chiefs in a first half rout before icing the game away by bleeding the clock in the second thirty minute session. The running game has and always will be the most effective way to accumulate time of possession and keep the ball away from your opponents’ offense. Denver showed that their rushing attack led by Knowshon Moreno (which has been adequate at best throughout much of the year)is capable of success in certain situations.

In San Diego’s case, the Bolts have struggled through some injuries in their backfield for rookie runner Ryan Mathews, but still managed to produce when needed. Mike Tolbert has been a large reason for their success as the 5’9” 243lbs. bowling ball on legs rolled through the Jacksonville Jaguars and Arizona Cardinals in blowout wins earlier in the season. Tolbert also saw double-digit carries in week 8 against the Tennessee Titans including some crucial totes near the game’s conclusion to ice away the contest.

Until week 9’s victory over the Houston Texans, Tolbert had rushed for a touchdown in five straight games as well. His value in short yardage situations cannot be overstated as this team had struggled in those down and distance scenarios before his emergence this year.

Although the ground game is a nice afterthought, there’s no getting around the fact that Monday’s match-up will likely be a shootout between two of the league’s most productive quarterbacks in 2010. Denver ranks dead last in the league in running the ball and while the Bolts are a bit more respectable at 16th, they can’t pretend to be a ground and pound squad by any means.

Judging by the career day that Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was able to put up in defeat against Denver last weekend, the Bolts could be slinging the ball around the yard a great deal when the Broncos visit Qualcomm Stadium.

That may be all well and good in the two primary phases of the game, but the third phase is where the Chargers have been burned most frequently in 2010. The bye week allowed the Bolts some valuable time to refocus their energy on that often overlooked area of the game by working particularly hard on protecting and covering punts. Head Coach Norv Turner spoke on that topic saying: "We've had major emphasis in those areas. That cannot be understated. I also think we've made progress in terms of personnel and their understanding of what we're trying to do on special teams."

Hopefully that added emphasis by the Bolts coaching staff over the bye helps this team to zero in on their special teams deficiencies with the Broncos bringing an awfully dangerous return man in Eddie Royal with them for Monday night’s affair.

Divisional games are magnified immensely in terms of importance down the stretch for postseason implications and San Diego is in a dog fight for the AFC West crown. Getting the win on this first leg of their two meetings with Denver would get the team rolling with a third straight victory and start the talk of yet another late season push to the playoffs.

Now it’s your turn. Which quarterback will have the bigger game on Monday, Rivers or Orton? Is it important for the Bolts to stick with the running game even if it is unsuccessful in stretches or can they abandon the ground attack and go strictly through the air to beat Denver? Do you think the bye week will cure what ailed the Bolts special teams units over the first half of the season? Who wins and why when the Broncos come to Qualcomm for this primetime throwdown? Please give your thoughts below!

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November 19, 2010

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