Barlow is a key weapon (Allsport)
The San Diego Chargers face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Qualcomm stadium. The Chargers are tied atop the AFC West with division rivals Denver at 6-3. The 49ers hold a comfortable lead over the NFC West with a record of 7-2. Game time is 1:05 PM PST.
Last Sunday the 49ers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 17-13. Against the highest-scoring offense, in the league, the 49ers held Priest Holmes to 51 yards rushing and tight end Tony Gonzalez to one catch for six yards. Julian Peterson did a masterful job in covering Gonzalez on the day and this week will be keyed on stopping LaDainian Tomlinson. Running backs Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow led the 49ers offense, combining for 106 yards rushing on 24 attempts and two touchdowns. The 49ers did not have to rely too heavily on their talented receiving corps who will be well rested for the game this weekend.
The Chargers lost on Sunday to the St Rams 28-24. The Chargers got two defensive touchdowns, but surrendered 524 total yards in the loss. The Chargers also blew a 10-point lead in the final 3:06 of the game. For the Chargers it was a game of miscues. The offense committed numerous penalties that thwarted drives and the defense could not generate a pass rush or stop the Rams receivers when it counted. Tim Dwight also dropped a potentially game winning touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Tomlinson carried the rock 24 times for 120 yards to go with a touchdown. Tomlinson leads the NFL in rushing with 965 yards, 57 ahead of Kansas City's Priest Holmes.
The Chargers rank 30th out of 32 NFL teams in passing yards permitted per game at 259.3 yards per game. They also have done a poor job in covering running backs out of the backfield. Coming off a loss in which they gave up over 450 yards through the air it would be wise for them to buckle down and play some defense instead of what has looked like a prevent. No amount of heart can compensate for a cornerback who can't cover a wide receiver one-on-one or a pass rush incapable of hurrying a quarterback. The ability to force a fumble is a useful, but it is a poor substitute for preventing passes from being completed in the first place. Their opponents have thus far completed 64.3 percent of their passes, higher than either the 2-7 expansion Houston Texans or the 1-8 Cincinnati Bengals.
The Chargers will have a tough time if they cannot develop a sound passing game. They have relied heavily on the run and they need to prove to the league that they can play with anyone. A win this week would be a solid statement.
5 Keys to a Charger Victory
1. Stop the duel running back attack. Hearst and Barlow are extraordinary backs. They have combined for 994 yards on the season and have 43 catches for 337 yards between them. They have become focal points for this 49er offense.
2. Shadow Jeff Garcia. The third leading rusher for the 49ers is Garcia. He has 204 yards rushing on 42 attempts. A linebacker will need to shadow his movements all day and keep him in the pocket. Garcia is a weapon in all facets of the game.
3. Pressure. It is almost something new. The Chargers started the season with pressure on the quarterback but have not generated any traffic in front of the Qn in weeks. That needs to change for the weak secondary to be successful.
4. Get the tight ends involved. The hope is Josh Norman will be back this week. The Chargers need better production from this group and Norman and Stephen Alexander need to play better. If they get open it could open the door for Curtis Conway and Tim Dwight.
5. Take chances. Much like a college football game, when a team knows they should not win the game they go for it on those fourth and threes in the third quarter. The coaching staff must loosen the reigns and play with a killer instinct. Instead of taking the safe play they must use the talent they have and not let it sit on the bench with the game on the line.