SAN DIEGO (AP) -LaDainian Tomlinson has never been about excuses, just brutal honesty.
So in the wake of yet another bewildering loss, Tomlinson put the San Diego Chargers' plight in perspective as only he seems capable of doing.
``Make no mistake about it: This is a critical time for our football team,'' Tomlinson said Monday, a day after a 17-10 loss at Miami dropped the Chargers to 2-3. ``These next (games) before the bye are very critical for us. To me, this is going to determine what type of team we're going to be this year.''
A popular preseason pick to make it the Super Bowl, the Chargers have been wildly inconsistent in Norv Turner's second year as head coach, just as they were in Turner's first.
San Diego also was 2-3 at this point last year, eventually pulling out of the funk to make it all the way to the AFC championship game.
As much as the Chargers like to refer to their turnaround of 2007, Tomlinson knows the danger in going to the well one time too many.
do it, but you know that it's obviously different,'' Tomlinson said. ``At this time last year it wasn't New England, Buffalo and the Saints on the schedule the next three weeks. It's a different year and for us we've just got to find a way to put it together.''
First up is a Sunday night home game against the Patriots, who eliminated the Chargers from the playoffs the last two seasons. This time it'll be Matt Cassel, not Tom Brady, leading New England.
After that the Chargers travel to Buffalo, then head to London to play the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees, who was allowed to leave as a free agent after playing his first five seasons with San Diego.
No one seems to have any answers other than the obvious one offered up by Turner, who's 71-90-1 as an NFL head coach, that the Chargers have to do a better job in a lot of areas and play with more consistency.
A week earlier, the Chargers rallied from a 15-0 halftime deficit to beat the Oakland Raiders 28-18. They trailed the Dolphins 17-3 at halftime. While keeping the Dolphins scoreless in the second half, the Chargers' supposedly explosive offense couldn't fire.
The key play was when the Dolphins stuffed Tomlinson on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
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It was the kind of play that often ends up with Tomlinson flying over the pile into the end zone.
``I think they did a good job of really understanding what we like to do in that situation. To me it seemed like they really knew exactly where we were going and they just attacked that side of the line of scrimmage,'' Tomlinson said.
``Obviously guys were there in the hole. I wanted to jump but I kind of got hit before I could gather myself and jump, which kind of knocked me sideways,'' he added. ``At that point somebody hit me; I can't remember who, and it just went downhill from there.''
Tomlinson didn't want to say that the Chargers were predictable.
``It's not about the playcalling sometimes, it's about saying, 'You know what, I know you know what we're going to do, but we don't care. We're going to hit you in the mouth and we're going to be better than you.' That's football. Sometimes I think we try to make it more complicated than what it is. Football is really a simple game. Either you're going to hit the guy opposite of you in the mouth or he's going to hit you in the mouth. It's going to be one way.''
The Chargers were the ones who got popped in the chops, by a Dolphins team that with two wins has doubled its victory total from last year.
Tomlinson, the two-time defending NFL rushing champion, was held to 35 yards.
big toe, Tomlinson said he doesn't plan to take time off.
``If I take a week off I've got to take three weeks off,'' he said. ``It's not a one-week injury. You can't get better in one week. There's no such thing. Nobody can. If you're injured you're injured. One week is not going to help. if you're going to take one week off, you might as well take three weeks off.''
Besides, he wouldn't want to miss a date with the Patriots. Tomlinson missed most of the AFC title game with a sprained left knee. The Patriots won, 21-12.
``It's very critical, crucial, whatever you want to call it. To me, it's definitely a must-win for us,'' Tomlinson said.

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