WR Vincent Jackson (Jeff Gross/Getty)
The Chargers head to Denver Sunday, hoping to avoid a repeat of last season. The black cloud of a slow start is hanging on the Chargers head for the second straight season.
In losing their season opener to the visiting Carolina Panthers, the Chargers did more than fall to 0-1. They brought back memories of last season, when the team stumbled from the gate 1-3.
"We won the first game last year then lost three," said Philip Rivers, who was solid in the opener with three touchdown passes and a 125.1 rating.
But Rivers said it's not the time to panic, despite heading to Denver, where the Chargers have lost six of their last eight -- but two in a row.
"It's one game of the season," Rivers stressed. "The loss hurts -- I'm not diminishing how a loss feels. But if we let it drag into this week and we'll be 0-2. We've got to regroup. We're going into Denver and a division opponent. I'm not saying that it's not a big deal. It is."
LaDainian Tomlinson said surviving last year's early toe-stubbing will pay dividends this year.
"It does help us some, but it was last year and we have a new team with a few different faces that are playing right now, so obviously it is a little different," said Tomlinson, who rushed for 97 yards in the opener. "The guys that have been here. It does help them with knowing how to battle back in tough situations."
Rivers agrees after the team shrugged off losing three of their first four to reach last season's AFC Championship Game.
"We went through so much adversity and highs and lows that we're prepared to handle whatever faces us this year," Rivers said. "It just so happens that in Week 1 you lose again at the buzzer. You hope it never happens, but it did."
The Chargers will have Shawne Merriman for the trip. The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker said his left knee, which has two torn ligaments, held up. Although he had trouble keeping his knee brace in place.
"It feels pretty good," said Merriman, who didn't have a sack while recording two tackles and two quarterback hits. "It's sore, but for the most it's OK."
Defensive end Luis Castillo said Merriman's decision to play had an impact.
"We are extremely proud of Shawne," he said. "I did see him get to the quarterback on multiple occasions so I know he went out there and gave it everything he had. As a teammate, what else can you ask for? Of course he made a difference."
Linebacker Shaun Phillips, who plays opposite Merriman, reminded everyone it's early.
"Good thing it's a marathon and not a sprint," he said. "We'll be OK. We got a good Denver opponent coming up and we know it's going to be tough to win over there in Mile High. But we are going to be ready to play."
Tomlinson said this season is going to offer one challenge after another.
"This is a perfect example of how hard it's going to be for us this season, not taking anything for granted," he said. "Teams are going to play us tough."