Several unexpected backups stepped to the forefront to help the Chargers pass their biggest test of…
Can the backups step up again?
Running back LaDainian Tomlinson sustained a hyperextended left knee, but appears to be in better shape than Rivers. He didn't have a second-half carry against the Colts.
"I'm real concerned," coach Norv Turner said. "We're lucky to have players like Michael Turner and Darren Sproles who can fill for injured starters. But you can only withstand so many hits."
If Rivers can't go, veteran backup Billy Volek would again lead the Chargers. He was at the helm Sunday in rallying the Chargers to their upset over the Colts in an AFC divisional game.
Turner said Rivers' availability could be a game-time decision. That's not good news for a team that is trying to do what no else has done: knock off the 17-0 Patriots.
"We are getting ready to play the best team in the NFL so we need to rally the troops and get everyone as healthy as (they) can be. We want to be at our best."
Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates is hobbling, too, with a sore toe. He dislocated it in the previous win against the Titans and only played Sunday because of what was at stake. His practice time will be compromised this week.
Pro Bowl nose tackle Jamal Williams is nursing a chronic sprained ankle, too. He likely won't practice until later in the week.
So it goes. But the Chargers don't expect the cold-blooded Pats to throw them a pity party. It's simple that no matter what their state, they'll need to be on the top of the game for another road upset.
"My hope is that we haven't played our best game yet," said Turner, who in his first year has the team one win from their second Super Bowl ever. "That's what we're trying to get done this week."
--The Chargers' two defensive stands in the fourth quarter were pretty special Sunday, considering the opposing quarterback. "But nobody blinked," C Nick Hardwick said. "The defense did a great job.
The Chargers didn't have much room for error, leading 28-24 lead with three minutes to play. Quarterback Peyton Manning had the Colts at the Charger 9, getting ready to cap a potential game-winning drive. "He's probably one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, but we like to feel we have a strong defense," linebacker Shaun Phillips said. "And any time you put us on the field, we can't look at the fact it is Peyton Manning throwing the ball or Marvin Harrison catching the ball. We worry about what we do and do it the best we can do."
Linebacker Shawne Merriman said the least said the better.
"Just make a play," Merriman said. "We've been in that situation before."
--QB Philip Rivers had some fun with backup Billy Volek before the game. Later Volek would save Rivers and the Chargers when the starter went down. But it was Rivers down at Volek's hotel room door on Sunday morning.
"I was going to just run in and tackle him," Rivers said. "But I knocked on the door, he kind of opened it and I was like, 'Let's go!' He said, 'You're nuts, get away from me.'"
--Norv Turner said Sunday's win won't be soon forgotten considering the rash of injuries and it being against the world champion Colts. "I told them in the locker room I've been doing this a long time in this league and I've never been around a more gutsy performance by a team," he said. "It's one I'll remember in terms of individuals stepping up and doing the things you talk about and competing. That's a special game."
--LaDainian Tomlinson, who didn't play in the second half, knew Darren Sproles was on the verge of a big play when he caught his screen pass which turned into a 56-yard touchdown. "As he caught the ball my mind goes like a runner," Tomlinson said. "I look at the field and see where the guys are coming from and at that point I didn't see any. And with Sproles' speed, he should be able to go all the way and he did."
--The Chargers' last AFC title game was during the 1994 season when they upset the host Steelers.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--TE Antonio Gates was able to play one week removed from a dislocated big toe. But it was obvious he wasn't 100 percent as he caught but two passes for 28 yards. He should be much better with another week of rehab.
--FB Lorenzo Neal (broken leg) could have probably played Sunday, but the numbers game said otherwise with so many other injuries. Look for Neal to practice for the second straight week and likely play Sunday in New England.
--P Mike Scifres deserved a game ball for getting off punts of 55 and 66 yards in the fourth quarter. That was huge as the Chargers were trying to keep Peyton Manning from taking advantage of a short field.
--LB Shawne Merriman had five tackles but no sacks, Still, on a critical fourth-down play in the fourth quarter with the Colts on the Chargers 7, he was able to blast around the right side and smack Manning in the leg right when he was delivering a pass. Manning was rushed by Merriman's pressure and the pass fell incomplete.
--WR Vincent Jackson continues to have a solid run in the postseason. He had a team-high seven catches for 93 yards and a score. With defenses paying more attention to Chris Chambers, it has presented opportunities for Jackson and he has taken advantage of it.
--Rookie S Eric Weddle continues to blossom. He did cost the Chargers a touchdown off an Antonio Cromartie interception return, but the holding was call was shaky. Weddle did have an interception and five tackles.
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