The Chargers are charged with slowing Chris Johnson, the blazing running back who makes defenders miss with regularity. He’s not only attempting to put the Titans in the playoff hunt, but he’s running for Eric Dickerson’s single-season mark of 2,105 rushing yards. Johnson is 375 yards shy of Dickerson, and knowing how poorly the Chargers stop the run, he’ll try to put a healthy dent in that deficit Friday.
“He’s one of a kind, obviously,” San Diego linebacker Shaun Phillips said. “There are not too many running backs in the NFL running 4.2s and 4.3s like he is. He’s a special player. He’s definitely one of those gifted guys, and again, it’s a challenge that we’re looking forward to. We play this game for a challenge. If it was easy, if we had Harry Hatchet out there running the ball, it really wouldn’t be any fun. The fun part is going against the best. He’s supposed to be the best, and we want to get out there and get our opportunity to go against the best.”
—The Chargers will be going for a franchise-record 7-1 mark on the road on Friday. Why the success away from San Diego this year?
“I think over time when you have the same group of guys here, you develop a mentality, a toughness and an ability to go on the road and play well,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “The best thing we’ve done is just focus. Our trips have been the same for the most part every trip. The schedule is the same, the routine is the same, and guys approach them as we should, as a business trip. We go and take care of business.”
—Coach Norv Turner knows the Chargers have quite a challenge in Tennessee in trying to win their 10th straight game.
“We’ve been there,” he said. “It’s a tough place to play. They’re very good there. They have a guy who is trying to set a record for 2,000 yards or set a record for most yards. Their quarterback is playing awfully well, and they’ve always been a very, very good defense. They’re explosive in the running game, and Vince Young is playing at a higher level. They look very good on tape.”
Chargers interior offensive linemen, with No. 3 center Dennis Norman, vs. Titans defensive front — The Chargers are thin inside, with Norman the third man up after injuries to Nick Hardwick and Scott Mruczkowski. And next to Norman is RG Louis Vasquez, who has been playing well but is still a rookie. The Titans counter with Tony Brown, the team’s leader with five sacks, and Jovan Haye. The blocking in the middle can be a key with Philip Rivers usually electing to step up and out of harm’s way when throwing the deep ball instead of rolling out in either direction. The pocket staying strong in the middle is crucial for the Chargers’ long passing game.
Chargers underneath passing game, with TE Antonio Gates, vs. Titans linebackers, missing Keith Bulluck and David Thornton this week — Gates has been on a roll, breaking out spin moves after catches and running like a wide receiver instead of someone his size. And with the Chargers stretching defenses deep, Gates is getting some nice passing lanes. The Titans will counter with a unit missing Bulluck and Thornton for the first time after they went down with injuries.