This is the last of three plays nominated as the most memorable in San Diego Chargers history. We have also featured: Kellen Winslow’s blocked field goal against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Divisional playoffs and linebacker Dennis Gibson batting down a pass by Pittsburgh's Neil O'Donnell intended for running back Barry Foster on fourth down in the 1994 AFC title game, sealing a trip to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. Please vote for your choice as the Chargers’ most memorable play.
Score: Chargers 48, Broncos 20
Date: December 11, 2006 Site: Qualcomm Stadium.
Running back LaDainian Tomlinson broke Shaun Alexander’s single-season touchdown record of 28 with three touchdowns in a 48-20 win against Denver in a win that clinched an AFC West title. The performance was a coronation of perhaps the greatest player in San Diego Chargers history.
Philip Rivers running to his left, bounced outside and evaded a tackle to reach the end zone. Tomlinson finished the season with 31 total touchdowns, earning league MVP honors.
What took place after Tomlinson crossed the end zone for the record-breaking touchdown showed what the future Hall of Fame running back symbolizes for the franchise. The entire offense rushed to Tomlinson to congratulate him, lifting him on their shoulders and carrying him off the field.
“Once I got over the pylon, my initial thought process was to bring every guy on the offensive unit over to share that moment,” Tomlinson said. “When we’re old and can’t play this game anymore, them are the moments we are going to remember, that we’ll be able to tell our kids, tell our grandchildren. We can talk about something special that we did. We made history today.
“There’s no better feeling than to share it with the group of guys that’s in that locker room.”
Tomlinson finished his career as the franchise’s all-time leader in rushing yards (12,490), yards from scrimmage (16,445) and touchdowns (153). Tomlinson totaled 47 100-yard rushing games while with the Chargers, made five Pro Bowls and twice led the league in rushing yards.
He is No. 5 on the league’s all-time rushing list with 13,684 yards in 11 NFL seasons.
“He is the finest running back to ever wear an NFL uniform,” Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said.
This is the second of three plays nominated as the most memorable in San Diego Chargers team history. We will feature: Kellen Winslow’s blocked field goal against the Miami Dolphins in AFC playoffs; linebacker Dennis Gibson’s batted down pass by Neil O’Donnell on fourth down, sealing a trip to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history; and running back LaDainian Tomlinson breaking Shaun Alexander’s single-season touchdown record of 28 with three touchdowns in a 48-20 win over Denver that clinched an AFC West title. Please vote for your choice as the Chargers’ most memorable play.
Score: Chargers 17, Steelers 13
Date: Jan. 5, 1995 Site: Three Rivers Stadium.
The play has been dubbed by Chargers fans as the “Immaculate Deflection” -- a spin-off of the “Immaculate Reception,” Franco Harris’ shoestring catch that lifted the Pittsburgh Steelers to a win over the Oakland Raiders in the 1972 AFC playoffs.
The Chargers came into the contest as heavy underdogs on the road at Pittsburgh. How confident were the Steelers that they would defeat the Chargers? Pittsburgh players had already hatched a plan for a Super Bowl rap video.
But Chargers defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger put a stop to that with an effective game plan that bottled up Pittsburgh’s potent running game for most of the day.
The Steelers dominated play in the first half, but led only 13-3. Allowed to hang around, the Chargers made a run in the second half. Stan Humphries threw 43-yard touchdown passes to tight end Alfred Pupunu and receiver Tony Martin, giving the Chargers all the scoring they would need.
The Steelers’ final drive began at their own 17-yard line. O’Donnell methodically marched Pittsburgh’s offense on 10 plays down to San Diego’s 3-yard line. With Pittsburgh unable to run the football, O’Donnell had one of his best days as a pro, completing 32 of 54 passes for 349 yards and a touchdown.
But on the crucial play on fourth down, O’Donnell never saw Gibson lurking behind Foster, who jumped in front of the Pittsburgh running back to bat down the pass in the end zone, clinching an improbable victory for the Chargers.
“You could see people crying as they walked out,” Gibson told U-T San Diego. “The emotional letdown was overwhelming.”
More than 70,000 fans showed up at Jack Murphy Stadium to celebrate the win with the team the following day.
@eric_d_williams Because that 1 play exorcised years of frustration, embarrassment, and grief only a Super Bowl deprived city could feel.— Ron Richards (@roninSD) July 3, 2014
This is the first of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in San Diego Chargers team history. In the next three days, we’ll feature: Kellen Winslow’s blocked field goal against the Miami Dolphins in the 1982 AFC divisional playoffs; linebacker Dennis Gibson’s batted-down pass by Neil O’Donnell intended for running back Barry Foster on fourth down, sealing a trip to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history in 1995; and running back LaDainian Tomlinson breaking Shaun Alexander’s single-season touchdown record of 28 with three touchdowns in a 48-20 win over Denver that clinched an AFC West title in 2006. Please vote for your choice as the Chargers’ most memorable play.
Score: Chargers 41, Dolphins 38
Date: Jan. 2, 1982 Site: Orange Bowl
The AFC divisional round matchup between San Diego and Miami was the signature game for Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow. Dealing with dehydration, cramping in his legs and a pinched nerve, Winslow blocked Uwe von Schamann’s 43-yard attempt at a winning field goal with 38 seconds left in regulation. That allowed the Chargers to win the game in overtime on a Rolf Benirschke field goal.
Winslow finished with 13 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown. Physically drained, Winslow was helped off the field by two teammates after the game, which was played in hot and humid conditions in Miami that lasted nearly five hours.
However, San Diego linebacker Louie Kelcher stripped running back Andra Franklin of the ball on a run up the middle, recovering at his team’s 18-yard line.
With new life, Dan Fouts marched the Chargers 82 yards, tying the game at 38-all with a 9-yard pass to rookie running back James Brooks.
Miami quarterback Don Strock gave his team a chance to win the game in regulation, driving the Dolphins to San Diego’s 25-yard line with four seconds left.
Not usually a part of San Diego’s field goal block unit, a weary Winslow took the field because of his imposing, 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame. The Chargers' defensive line got some penetration, and Winslow leaped, tipping the ball with an extended right hand.
“It was the biggest thrill of my life,” Winslow said. “I felt like I scored three touchdowns.”
The Chargers failed to advance to the Super Bowl the next week, losing to Cincinnati 27-7 in the AFC Championship Game played in minus-50-degree temperatures.
@eric_d_williams Winslows multiple plays against Miami and what they meant to the team at that time = far more memorable— Jim (@67Waves) July 3, 2014
Reich said he believes the most important quality a NFL offense can possess is toughness. Several players for San Diego showed mental and physical toughness last season, with Ryan Mathews (ankle), Nick Hardwick (neck), Eddie Royal (toe), Jeromey Clary (clavicle), Chad Rinehart (toe), King Dunlap (head) and D.J. Fluker (knee) all playing with nagging injuries during the season.
“You’ve just got to be mentally and physically tough,” Reich said. “It’s a long season. It’s a tough game. So I think at the end of the day you need that physical and mental toughness to sustain and work hard every day, because really where you end up being successful is a consistent effort at getting better every day.”
Reich said that Mathews still will handle the lion’s share of the workload offensively running the football. Reich went on to say he likes the overall versatility of the running back group, which is important with all of the checks Philip Rivers makes in the passing game.
“Ryan is the pounder,” Reich said. “That guy as a running back; he’s as tough a guy that I’ve been around. He’s just physically and mentally tough. I love the way he practices. I love the way he plays on game day. He’s going to be the primary workhorse. He’s our guy.”
Asked about Keenan Allen improving in his second year, Reich said the Cal product will have to learn how to consistently get open against double teams, similar to teammate Antonio Gates.
“I’m sure he’ll get doubled,” Reich said. “But the big challenge for him will be, it doesn’t matter if you get doubled. You still have to win. We still expect to throw you the ball.
“Yeah, other guys will be open. But when you’re the guy, one of the things you learn as a quarterback is you just gain so much confidence in a player, that sometimes it doesn’t even matter when he’s doubled. And I’m sure Keenan will have to face that a little more [double teams] this year.”
Prisco says that Weddle is a playmaker who often is ranked too low on lists of the league's top 100 players.
"He has the ability to play strong and free safety," an anonymous NFL general manager told Prisco. "He has very good ball skills that allow him to be a legitimate playmaker in the league."
Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com has Rivers (No. 34) and Antonio Gates (No. 66) on the list, but no Weddle.
Melissa Mecija of ABC Channel 10 news in San Diego reports that the bar employee Chargers outside linebacker Thomas Keiser attacked at a Gaslamp bar last December filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages for lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
Judson Richards and Jordan Beane of 1360 Xtra Sports AM radio interview Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich in this audio link.
Ricky Henne and Jordan Beane of Chargers.com talks with Chargers defensive tackle Sean Lissemore in this video.
According to Football Outsiders, the Chargers averaged 4.6 yards per carry in one-back sets and 2.9 yards per carry in two-back sets.
Sando then divided the quarterbacks into "tiers" based on how league people view them. Sando received completed surveys from 15 personnel people (eight general managers, two former GMs, four pro personnel evaluators and a top executive) and 11 coaches (seven coordinators, two head coaches and two position groups) grading all 32 projected starting quarterbacks. Using those numbers, Sando averaged the results for each quarterback in the league, ranking them within the various tiers.
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was the top-rated quarterback among a group of 10 quarterbacks in the second tier. Rivers received seven Tier 1 votes, 18 Tier 2 votes and one Tier 3 vote for an average of 1.77.
You could quibble with Luck being rated ahead of Rivers based on past performance, but overall I believe Rivers is where he should be at No. 6.
Here is what Sando has to say on Rivers:
Quite a few analysts said they would ideally put Rivers and Roethlisberger in the 1.5 range -- better than the typical Tier 2 player, but not as dynamic as the Tier 1 quarterbacks. Eighteen of the 26 voters placed Rivers in the second tier. The same was true for Roethlisberger.
"Rivers can't run, but he can throw and he's smart," a defensive coordinator said. "He is definitely a two to me -- a real good quarterback."
Another defensive coordinator put Rivers in his first tier with Brees, Brady, Rodgers and Peyton Manning. He also described what separated the top-tier QBs from the rest in his mind. "A one to me is a guy that -- he is going to get 300 on you every game and you kind of know it," that coordinator said. "He's a guy you are going to have to manage, you're going to have to try to disguise and do different things against because he has seen everything. Those guys see everything. The twos are guys you can get. Like Eli, you can get him on some things and can disguise some things on him. But [the twos] still run their offense, they have control of it."
What’s new? Well, the San Diego Chargers added running back Donald Brown! Isn’t that enough? The Chargers didn’t make many changes in the offseason, as the former Indianapolis Colts running back was pretty much the only fantasy-relevant addition, but barely. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt bolted for Tennessee, with Frank Reich promoted to the job, but the organization expects a seamless transition. So what’s new in San Diego? The Padres might be the worst offensive team in baseball history. The Chargers won’t be, but not because of any changes.
Something to prove:
Rosenthal writes that Green will benefit from the possible increase in the use of the no-huddle by new offensive coordinator Frank Reich, and says Green already is one of the best players in the NFL at his position.
Showing he does not lack for confidence, Brandon Flowers tells the NFL Network that he’s the best cornerback in football in this video.
Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego writes about the recruitment of Flowers by San Diego players.
In this ESPN Insider piece , ESPN NFL handicapper Dave Tuley says the Chargers are one of the best value picks, with the team’s odds of winning the Super Bowl going up from 30-1 to 40-1.
Gil Brandt of NFL.com ranks Ben Roethlisberger No. 1 among the quarterbacks in the 2004 draft class. Philip Rivers comes in at No. 3.
I talked with ESPN’s Robert Flores in his Football Today podcast to preview the Chargers’ upcoming season in this audio link .
I also joined Judson Richards of Xtra 1360 AM radio to talk Chargers in this audio link.
Ricky Henne of Chargers.com writes that second-year pro Jahleel Addae was invited to speak as part of a panel at this year’s rookie symposium.
A couple things need to happen for San Diego to improve in this category. The Chargers need to get better production on first and second down, putting their opponent in more third-and-medium and third-and-long situations.
Secondly, San Diego has to develop a more consistent pass rush on third down, making it easier for a young secondary to make game-changing plays in the back end. San Diego had just 10 sacks on third down in 2013, second-worst in the NFL.
A healthy Dwight Freeney should go a long way to improving San Diego’s pass rush in obvious passing situations. Freeney is the only player on San Diego’s roster with a double-digit sack season to his credit in the NFL.
Cordarro Law totaled 14 sacks with Calgary in the CFL last season, and rookie Jeremiah Attaochu had double-digit sacks in his last three years at Georgia Tech. However, rushing against CFL and college offensive linemen is much different than playing against elite-level talent in the NFL, so Freeney must set the table for the rest of San Diego’s pass-rush unit.
Along with getting better on third down, the Chargers must improve in the red zone defensively. A point of emphasis for San Diego head coach Mike McCoy this offseason, the Chargers' defense finished No. 27 in red zone efficiency last season at 62.2 percent -- the percentage of time the team allowed a touchdown inside the 20-yard line. Two years ago, the Chargers were last in the league in red zone efficiency at 70 percent.
In this ESPN Insider piece, Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus breaks down the NFL’s most efficient passer on every type of route. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was rated No. 1 on in-breaking routes.
Kyle Posey writing for Bolts from the Blue believes Flowers is a significant upgrade at cornerback for the Chargers.
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports calls Flowers San Diego’s most overrated player. He believes Ladarius Green is the team’s most underrated player.
Mike Tanier of Sports On Earth believes the Chargers have a top 10 receiving group.
Eric Weddle talks with Akbar Gbajabiamila of the NFL Network about his love of R&B music in this video.
Jason Munz of the Hattiesburg American talks to Cordarro Law about his effort to make San Diego’s roster.
Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated looks at how the invention of the arthroscope saved careers in the NFL.
Copying the Seattle Seahawks -- who won a Super Bowl going with tall, man-to-man cornerbacks and letting them operate behind a great pass rush -- the Chiefs want corners who are 6-foot or taller. Flowers is 5-foot-9. Even though he is coming off a Pro Bowl season, Flowers became expendable because of his $9.75 million salary and not being at the Chiefs' new height mandate.
Watching the cornerback market this offseason has been fascinating. The Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars head the list of teams trying to get taller at the position as NFL head coaches adjust to how the game is changing on offense. Wide receivers coming out of college are taller. More teams are incorporating pass-catching tight ends. A tall receiver or a tight end going against a short corner is a tough matchup. Adjustments needed to be made.
Let's study a few of these bold moves.
Only three starters can be written in pen defensively: safety Eric Weddle, middle linebacker Donald Butler and defensive lineman Corey Liuget. You could add a fourth, Melvin Ingram, because of the way he changes San Diego's defense when he's healthy.
But that leaves seven to eight starting jobs up for grabs, according to Pagano, who talked about his defense in a conversation with Darren Smith of The Mighty 1090 AM radio. You can listen to the conversation here.
Pagano confirmed that Virginia Tech product receiver Eddie Royal was helpful in recruiting his former college teammate cornerback Brandon Flowers to San Diego.
However, Pagano also said that what the organization had to offer, including quarterback Philip Rivers and a winning environment, helped Flowers make a decision to sign with the Chargers.
“I think you have to sell it,” Pagano said. “Everybody says it comes down to money at the professional level. But at the end of the day it's about somebody being excited about their job, and happy about where they want to be, where they want to play and what gives them the best opportunity to win.
“You look at the San Diego Chargers right now, the first thing you see when you walk into that building is Philip Rivers. And when you have a guy like that, you have an opportunity to win a lot of football games. And to me that was very important to him.”
Pagano said Flowers will be used in a number of positions on the field.
“We're going to use him inside, outside, on top, on bottom -- we're going to use him wherever we can,” Pagano said. “He's going to do a lot of things for us. He's going to come in and compete with those guys. We've gotten a lot faster defensively. And those are two things -- the athleticism and the speed defensively -- coaches cannot coach.”
Asked about the nose tackle position, Pagano indicated that Sean Lissemore is the starter, but that he's not as concerned with that position because the Chargers will play base defense about 30 to 35 percent of the time.
Kwame Geathers and Ryan Carrethers are slotted in behind Lissemore heading into training camp.
“Sean Lissemore is our guy right now,” Pagano said. “He can play inside and outside. And then you have two young players who are big, strong, powerful players and can do a lot of different things. So I think the biggest thing is all three of them had a great offseason, and that's going to help us tremendously.
“The big thing that everybody has to understand is that we were in sub defense -- and that's either five defensive backs or six defensive backs that puts you into an even front -- and we were probably in that roughly 65 to 70 percent of the time. So 30 percent of the time we are in base defense.”