Can the Chargers recover by Sunday?

NT Brandon McKinney (Otto Greule Jr./Getty)

There is still talk of the physical nature of the Chargers' game Sunday in Tennessee. Not only is the game memorable for its thrilling nature -- a 14-point, road fourth-quarter deficit erased -- but for its spirited level of play, as well. It was hard-hitting, but was it more than that? Did some of the players go until past the echo of the whistle?

The Chargers claim Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman was a victim of some dirty play and sent in the tape to the league office to prove it.

The Titans didn't like Merriman popping quarterback Vince Young when he didn't have the ball.

And so it went.

But was it dirty?

LaDainian Tomlinson said it was more of a throwback game than anything else.

"I don't know what you classify 'dirty' as," Tomlinson said. "I don't know. I think it was a competitive game. I think sometimes throughout a competitive game things happen. Guys go to extra distance to make a play, make things happen.

"But understand something -- that's the way the game was played a long time ago, when guys like Deacon Jones played. I think sometimes we forget it's football and guys before us played the game harder than the way we play it now.

"There's so many rules; you can't do this, you can't do that. And so when things like (that) happen, people always say, 'Well it was a dirty game, dirty play.' I don't know. It's behind us now. This ain't the only time we're going to get played like that. We're going to have to face it again."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Philip Rivers was horrible through three quarters but then got hot in the fourth and in overtime for the win. His rating was in the 10s for most of the day except in the final 15 minutes and in overtime. In the fourth quarter, he was 11-of-19 for 149 yards and two touchdowns. The key here is his sprained left knee. He's questionable for Sunday.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson got the win with a 16-yard rushing score -- his third career overtime touchdown. Tomlinson finished with his second consecutive 100-yard game and added 27 and a score through the air. Most of his damage came late as the offensive line wore down the Titans' defense.

--TE Antonio Gates played with a bad back most of the game and still managed a team-high six catches for 57 yards and the game-tying one with nine seconds remaining. It's worth watching his back this week, although he is pretty tough.

--WR Chris Chambers continues to blossom in this offense and make key catches. He had a game-saving, first-down grab and finished with four catches for 90 yards. His acquisition continues to look better.

--WR Vincent Jackson continues his late-season push with three catches for 47 yards, including a 29-yarder. Coaches continue to go to him in key situations.

--RG Mike Goff is playing with a banged up ankle and foot and is questionable this week. Goff might go, but his effectiveness might be compromised. Goff is solid on his pull blocks when RB LaDainian Tomlinson runs to the left side.

--C Nick Hardwick had his hands full with Albert Haynesworth but so does every other center. Still, Hardwick's return to the lineup has helped result in the Chargers' three-game winning streak.

--WR Craig Davis got some work in returning punts with Darren Sproles (knee) being down. Davis, a rookie, had a long of 24 and averaged 14.7 yards on three attempts. He also had two catches for two yards.

--RB-PR Darren Sproles (knee) might be down another week. And when he does return, coach Norv Turner said his job as punt returner could go to WR Craig Davis.

--FB Andrew Pinnock had the key block to spring LaDainian Tomlinson on his game-winning carry. Pinnock will move into the starting role with Pro Bowler Lorenzo Neal out for the year with a broken leg.

--DT Jamal Williams was strong in the first half but was down for the second with a sprained ankle. Williams will be questionable this week; this has become a chronic problem. Williams is among the keys to the Chargers' defense.

-CB Antonio Cromartie had another interception, his ninth, which tied a franchise mark set in 1961. Cromartie leads the league in interceptions. He also returned two kicks for 45 yards.

--DE Jacques Cesaire played despite having thumb surgery the previous Monday. He was productive with seven tackles. He has been a solid fill-in for Luis Castillo (ankle).

--OLB Shawne Merriman had two sacks before a sprained knee chased him to the sidelines for the second half. Merriman will not play this week and will likely sit the following game, too.

--ILB Matt Wilhelm had one of his better games of the season in collecting a game-high 10 tackles and an interception. Wilhelm has been solid in the middle.

--DT Brandon McKinney, filling in for Williams (ankle), had six tackles and was active inside.

--DE Igor Olshansky had five tackles but it was the thunderous hit he put on Titans QB Vince Young early in the game that left a mark.

--DE Luis Castillo (ankle) won't go this week but the team will increase his work. He is still shooting for the Dec. 24 game against the Broncos as a return date.

--WR Kassim Osgood was again stellar on special teams. He hustled to down two of Mike Scifres' punts on the 1 and had two tackles, too.

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