Which will break out: L.T. or Denver's dismal run defense? Print
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Thursday, 04 October 2007 14:13
NFL Headline News

 DENVER (AP) -John Lynch and LaDainian Tomlinson have been looking at their own struggling teams and shaking their heads.
This week they're gazing at each other's and doing the exact same thing.
The Denver Broncos' star safety can't fathom how the San Diego Chargers (1-3) are struggling so much with 19 starters back, including Tomlinson, the reigning NFL MVP, from a team that went 14-2 last year.
``I think they are just a little off as a team thus far. But we understand and respect personnelwise what a great team this is, and understand how desperate they are and how they feel they need a win,'' Lynch said.
``But we're kind of in the same situation ourselves.''
Tomlinson watches film and wonders how in the world the Broncos (2-2) could be so soft against the run with all the pounds they added up front in the offseason, their speed at linebacker, and their sensational secondary featuring perennial Pro Bowlers Champ Bailey, Dre' Bly and Lynch.
The Broncos (2-2) have the league's best passing defense, but they're allowing 181 yards per game on the ground, second worst in the league.
L.T. insists he's not licking his chops.
``Gaining experience over the years, I look at that and say people play us different,'' Tomlinson said. ``And that's to be quite honest with you. I mean, a team can be giving up 200 yards a game, six yards a carry, but for some reason when they play the San Diego Chargers they play a lot different than they did in the past. I really don't pay attention to it.''
The Broncos sure are focusing on their run defense.
They've juggled their entire new front four, last week deactivating tackles Sam Adams and Amon Gordon at Indianapolis and using rookies Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder in the middle. So far, they haven't switched new middle linebacker D.J. Williams with strongside linebacker Nate Webster, but that could be in the offing, too, if things don't turn around soon.
``Well, we just haven't progressed to the point that we were hoping to,'' Denver's new defensive boss Jim Bates said, blaming that on a mix of so many rookies and young players. ``And we've just got to continue to grind, continue to work, work hard on the practice field and improve and we've got to make some adjustments.''
The Broncos insist they've made progress, but that hasn't translated into stuffing tailbacks yet.
``We've been close, but just not been clicking all the way,'' Lynch said. ``In the NFL that will get you beat. So you're going to see two teams that really need a win. It should be a great game.''
Last year, L.T. ran roughshod over the Broncos, gaining 208 yards on 48 carries and scoring six times in two wins against Denver. He also caught four passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.
So, this trip to Denver is like a trip to the spa, right? Go to the Rockies and cure what ails you?
Not so fast, Tomlinson said.
``It's definitely a new season, and they definitely have a new team,'' he said. ``So they're probably going to play us differently. So I don't think you really try to focus in on what you did to them last year.''
Tomlinson finally cracked triple digits in a game last week at Kansas City by rushing for 132 yards and one touchdown. But he carried only six times in the second half for 16 yards, and the Chargers lost their third straight for the first time since 2003.
Last year, the Chargers erased a 17-point third-quarter deficit to win at Denver. But historically, they haven't fared well in the Mile High City, where they're 6-30 since 1971. They haven't won back-to-back games in Denver since 1967-68.
``It may be the crowd, it may be the atmosphere, or whatever. I don't know what it is. The altitude. Something. But it definitely gives them an edge,'' Tomlinson said.
The run game isn't the only problem in San Diego. Quarterback Philip Rivers has committed nine turnovers to go with just five touchdown passes.
Although Denver quarterback Jay Cutler has thrown a touchdown pass in each of his nine starts - the longest streak in the NFL since Mark Rypien did it in his first 11 for Washington in 1988-89 - the Broncos have their own issues on offense.
No. 1 receiver Javon Walker (hurt) is hurt, and top tailback Travis Henry, the league's leading rusher with 433 yards, injured his right knee and right ankle last week. The Broncos might have to go with an undrafted rookie in the backfield Sunday.
That's not as bad as it sounds. Selvin Young leads the league in yards per rush at 9.2 with 15 carries for 138 yards.
Young, who sprung quarterback Vince Young on the winning touchdown that clinched Texas' national championship two years ago, said he's hopeful of earning more carries regardless of whether Henry is healthy or hurt. He just doesn't put a lot of stock in his whopping yards-per-carry average.
``No, one thing I learned from college, from my old head coach, Mack Brown, was stuff like that happens in the beginning, you don't put too much into it,'' he said. ``It could be a mirage.''
And that's what both teams are hoping their fitful start to this season is.
AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson in San Diego contributed to this report.

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