The San Diego Chargers (5-8) return home from a 34-24 win in Pittsburgh and host the NFC South’s Carolina Panthers (4-9), led by former Chargers’ defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, on Sunday, Dec. 16 at Qualcomm Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. PST.
If enough tickets are sold to lift the local television blackout, FOX5 San Diego will televise the game locally with Sam Rosen calling the play-by-play, Heath Evans offering analysis and Jill Savage reporting from the sidelines.
The Chargers will face Carolina after picking up their fifth win of the season in impressive fashion last Sunday, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-24, at Heinz Field.
u 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.
u Scifres, who ranks fourth in the NFL in gross punting average (48.8), landed five of his seven punts inside the 20-yard line and didn’t allow the Steelers a single return the entire afternoon.
u Wells and Haslam started at right and left tackle, respectively, as injuries sidelined starters
u Bird, who just re-signed on Nov. 28 when injuries left the team’s linebacking corps thin, recorded his first-career interception to set up a touchdown that gave the Bolts a 34-10 lead.
The Panthers come to San Diego with a dangerous offense that is 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 he 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.
Defensively, the Panthers run 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 Nov. 18.
Chargers tight end
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. Pro scout Don Warren attended San Diego State.
Familiar Faces, cont.
Panthers defensive end Antwan Applewhite played for the Chargers from 2008-10, attended SDSU and is from Harbor City, Calif. Defensive tackle Nate Chandler attended Mira Mesa High School in San Diego and later attended UCLA. 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
Other Panthers with ties to Southern California include center Jeff Beyers (USC), quarterback Jimmy Clausen (Westlake Village), cornerback James Dockery (UCLA), defensive tackle Sione Fua (Encino), wide receiver David Gettis (Los Angeles) center Ryan Kalil (USC & Corona), cornerback Nate Ness (Gardena), wide receiver Steve Smith (Los Angeles), guard Zack Williams (Pasadena) and tight end Nelson Rosario (UCLA & Oceanside).
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.
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