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Scouting Report: Chargers vs. Panthers
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The San Diego Chargers aim for their second consecutive victory on Sunday when they return to Qualcomm Stadium to host the Carolina Panthers. The Chargers look for their first win against the NFC South this season, as they enter the game 0-3 with losses to the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A Look Back At Last Week
The Chargers snapped a four game losing streak in resounding fashion, recording their first ever regular season victory in Pittsburgh with a 34-24 win over the Steelers. Philip Rivers threw for three touchdowns and 200 yards, while Danario Alexander continued his strong play by catching a pair of TDs. On defense, Quentin Jammer recovered a fumble in the end zone for the unit’s seventh touchdown of the season, tying the Chicago Bears for most by a defense in the NFL.
What to Watch For…
On Offense for the Chargers
The 34 points scored against Pittsburgh was the most ever in the Steel City for a Bolts team, and was made possible due to a number of unsung heroes who figure to play a key role this week against the Panthers . Micheal Spurlock played in his first game since being re-claimed by the Chargers on Nov. 29 and caught all seven passes thrown his direction, including five third-down catches that went for first downs. Meanwhile, Reggie Wells and Kevin Haslam started at right and left tackle, and the Chargers’ offensive line allowed only one sack in 42 pass opportunities. Wells had just re-signed with the Chargers on Dec. 5 after having been released earlier in the season, while Haslam, who started the season on the practice squad, made his first career start at left tackle.
On Offense for the Panthers
The Panthers boast a dangerous offense led by dual-threat quarterback Cam Newton, the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft after winning a national championship and the Heisman Trophy as a junior at Auburn. Newton went to the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2011 and this season has accounted for nearly 4,000 yards of total offense and 23 touchdowns. As a passer, Newton has completed 227 of 390 for 3,220 yards with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. As a runner, he’s carried the ball 104 times for 640 yards, including a career-long 72-yard touchdown run last Sunday that gave the Panthers a 23-0 lead over the Atlanta Falcons. Newton’s top receiving target, wide receiver Steve Smith, comes into Sunday’s game just one yard shy of his seventh-career 1,000-yard season, while tight end Greg Olsen leads the Panthers with seven touchdowns on 54 catches for 691 yards. Wide receiver Brandon LaFell’s 17.0-yard receiving average (34-577-4) leads the team.
On Defense for the Chargers
The Chargers rank ninth in the NFL in total defense (335.5 yards per game) and they’re fourth against the run (92.5). The Chargers have held six of their 13 opponents this season to less than 75 yards on the ground, including holding Pittsburgh to just 69 yards on 17 carries last Sunday at Heinz Field. Corey Liuget has a sack in each of the last three games. He leads San Diego’s D-line in sacks (5), tackles (47), tackles for loss (10) and passes defensed (9). Liuget’s nine passes defensed are second in the NFL among defensive linemen behind only Houston’s J.J. Watt’s 15. Kendall Reyes, a rookie defensive end and the team’s second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, leads the defensive line with 12 quarterback pressures.
On Defense for the Panthers
The Panthers operate a 4-3 front, and ends Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson lead the unit with nine and 8.5 sacks, respectively. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, a rookie and the team’s first-round pick from Boston College, leads the NFL with 130 tackles. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Haruki Nakamura lead Carolina’s defense with two interceptions apiece, while both of Munnerlyn’s have gone for touchdowns, including a 74-yarder against Tampa Bay on Nov. 18.
The Chargers and Panthers have met just four times and Carolina leads the series, 3-1. They haven’t met since a 26-24 win by Carolina in San Diego in the 2008 season opener. The Bolts lone win in the series was a 17-6 decision in Charlotte in 2004.
By the Numbers
For the year, the Chargers rank 27th in total offense (319.9 yards per game), 19th in passing (225.0 ypg), 27th in rushing (94.9 ypg) and 18th in points (22.5). The Panthers rank 16th in total offense (353.7 ypg), 17th in passing (234.6 ypg), 11th in rushing (119.1 ypg) and 23rd in points (20.4)
Defensively, the Bolts rank ninth in total defense (335.5 ypg), 22nd in passing (242.9 ypg), fourth in rushing (92.5 ypg) and 16th in points allowed (21.6). Carolina ranks 15th in total defense (348.8 ypg), 12th in passing (227.2 ypg), 21st in rushing (121.6 ypg) and 21st in points allowed (24.0).
Milestones on the Horizon
Norv Turner will coach his 100th-career game for the Chargers (playoffs included) on Sunday when the Chargers host Carolina. Last Sunday, Turner led the Chargers to their first-ever regular-season win in Pittsburgh and he received a game ball in the locker room from team president Dean Spanos after the game. Turner improved his all-time record as Chargers head coach to 57-42.
Turner (116) ranks 32nd in NFL history for career wins. Turner needs one win to tie Dennis Green (117) for 31st and two to tie George Allen (118) for 30th. Former Chargers coach Sid Gillman is 29th with 123 wins.
Philip Rivers has thrown for 3,169 yards and needs just 331 over the final three games to become the first Chargers quarterback ever with five-straight seasons of 3,500- or-more passing yards.
Malcom Floyd (3,902 receiving yards) needs 53 yards to crack the team’s career Top 10 list. LaDainian Tomlinson, who recorded 3,955 receiving yards during his career in San Diego is 10th all-time.
Ryan Mathews (2,454 career rushing yards) is ninth on the Chargers’ all-time rushing list. He needs 66 yards to pass Dick Post (1967-70) for eighth. Mathews (560 career carries) carried the ball 25 times last Sunday in Pittsburgh to pass Gary Anderson (548) for 10th place on the team’s career rushing attempts list. Mathews will likely climb into seventh this weekend as No. 9 Dick Post (568), No. 8 Mike Garrett (572) and No. 7 Keith Lincoln (573) are all within reach.
Mathews has 14 career rushing touchdowns. He is just three scores shy of moving into the Top 10. Currently the Top 10 is rounded out by Hank Bauer (1977-82), Rod Bernstine (1987-92), Dick Post (1967-70) and Clarence Williams (1977-81), who each scored 17 rushing touchdowns during their Chargers’ careers.
Antonio Gates (80 career touchdown catches), needs one more to tie Lance Alworth’s team record of 81.
Gates has 634 career catches and needs 29 more to pass Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome (662) for the fourth-most catches by a tight end in NFL history. Gates (8,231 career yards) currently ranks fourth all-time in receiving yards by a tight end.
Shaun Phillips has 67 career sacks, tying him with Gary “Big Hands” Johnson for second in team history. With his next sack, Phillips will break that tie. Phillips leads the team this season with seven sacks, 15 pressures and nine quarterback hits.
Quentin Jammer (20) is tied with Chuck Allen (1961-68) for 10th on the team’s all-time interceptions list. With one more, Jammer will tie Woodrow Lowe (1976-86), Bob Howard (1967-74) and Leslie “Speedy” Duncan (1964-69) for seventh.
Eric Weddle (15) needs four interceptions to crack the Top 10.
Nick Novak (42 career field goals) is tied with Steve Christie (2001-03) for sixth on the team’s all-time field goals list. George Blair (1961-64) is next up on the list, ranking fifth with 50 career field goals.
Antoine Cason (245 int. return yards) needs 64 to crack the team’s career Top 10 list.
The Chargers need three regular-season victories to reach 400 all-time. The Chargers’ all-time regular-season record is 397-393-11.
Chargers tight end Dante Rosario was a fifth-round pick of the Panthers in 2007 and he played in Carolina through the 2010 season.
Secondary coach Ron Meeks was the defensive coordinator in Carolina from 2009-10 and defensive backfield coach in 2011.
Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera was the inside linebackers coach for the Chargers from 2007-08 and the team’s defensive coordinator from 2008-10.
Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski served as the Chargers’ tight ends coach from 2005-06 then again coached the tight ends and served as the assistant head coach from 2009-10.
Offensive quality control coach Scott Turner is the son of Chargers head coach Norv Turner.
Secondary/pass defense coordinator Steve Wilks was a defensive backs coach for the Chargers from 2009- 11.
Director of College Scouting Don Gregory was a scout for the Chargers from 1995-99.
College scout Jeff Beathard is a former Chargers scout and he’s the son of former Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard.
Panthers defensive end Antwan Applewhite played for the Chargers from 2008- 10, attended SDSU and is from Harbor City, Calif.
Fullback Mike Tolbert played for the Chargers from 2008-11.
Defensive tackle Andre Neblett is from Rahway, New Jersey, the same hometown as Chargers defensive tackle Antonio Garay.
FOX Sports (Fox 5 San Diego) – Sam Rosen(play-by-play), Heath Evans (analyst) , Jill Savage (sideline reporter)
Rock 105.3 FM, XTRA Sports 1360 (San Diego) and AM 570 KLAC (Los Angeles & Orange County) – Josh Lewin (play-by-play), Hank Bauer (analyst), Mike Costa (sideline reporter)
Spanish Radio –XHFG 107.3 (San Diego) and KWKW 1330 AM (Los Angeles) – Jorge Villanueva (play-by-play), Dante Lazcano (analyst) Read