Published September 14, 2012
| Sports Network
The promotion for the San Diego Chargers' home opener versus the Tennessee Titans is dubbed as "White Hot Sunday."
The Chargers were anything but despite coming away with a season-opening win at Oakland, and could benefit from some added support along the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
"I can't wait to see every fan in all white. It will be so cool to see a full stadium and everyone in white. I love the all-whites," Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips said. "The home opener is always a huge game for us and we'll need our fans big-time that day."
San Diego is aiming for its first 2-0 start since 2006, when it finished with a 14-2 mark, and has won 12 of the past 19 home openers.
While Sunday's game will feature a white-clad crowd, the Chargers will officially retire former linebacker Junior Seau's No. 55 in an emotional pregame ceremony. Seau spent 13 seasons with the Chargers, helping the franchise to its only Super Bowl appearance after the 1994 season, and also played three seasons for Miami and four more for New England before retiring after the 2009 campaign.
The 12-time Pro Bowler committed suicide on May 2.
The Chargers kicked off the season with Monday's 22-14 victory over the AFC West-rival Raiders in which they rushed for just 32 yards. Tennessee was the only team to rush for less in Week 1, gaining only 20 in a 34-13 home loss to New England.
San Diego doesn't have starting running back Ryan Mathews, who is still mending from a broken collarbone and will likely need at least another week. The team used a committee of runners against the Raiders, with Curtis Brinkley collecting a team-high 10 carries for 12 yards. Wide receiver Eddie Royal also had 12 yards on two chances.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked just once, however, and did enough in the win, passing for 231 yards and a touchdown.
It wouldn't be a shocker if the Chargers try to establish the ground attack against a Titans team that struggled to defend the run against the Patriots. Veteran Ronnie Brown could see more action for San Diego this week after having just five yards on five carries on Monday night. He was acquired in the offseason to provide depth behind Mathews.
The Chargers' defense forced four fumbles, recovering one, in Oakland and registered three sacks, two of which by Phillips. Additionally, cornerback Quentin Jammer (thumb) will most likely play Sunday despite his injury.
Tennessee expects second-year quarterback Jake Locker to play as well despite an injury to his non-throwing left shoulder against New England. The athletic Locker, who beat out the more experienced Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job in preseason, threw for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He hit nine different receivers and also ran for 11 yards on two carries.
Locker suffered the injury on a tackle and said he "felt great" in practice this week. Head coach Mike Munchak reiterated those words.
"He's a competitor, wants to play, said he felt a lot better (Wednesday)," Munchak said. "He came out -- again, we kept him limited -- but he participated in all the periods but just in a more limited fashion, threw the ball pretty well when he was in there, so we feel good about his chances to continue and play on Sunday."
The Titans will also welcome back wide receiver Kenny Britt from his one-game suspension for an offseason DUI this week. Britt can spread the field with his playmaking ability and is a big target.
Locker hasn't had much time to work with Britt, but isn't concerned.
"Kenny's a difference-maker," Locker said. "He's big, physical. He's a vertical threat."
If Tennessee struggles to get running back Chris Johnson going on the ground, they do have options in the passing game in Britt and fellow receivers Nate Washington and rookie Kendall Wright. Johnson was held to only four yards on 11 carries last week, but did catch a team-leading six passes for 47 yards.
Either way, the run usually sets up the pass, and if the Titans fail to find success on the ground, they could be 0-2 for the first time since losing six in a row to begin the 2009 campaign.
Chargers lead 24-13-1
Streak: Chargers have won last seven meetings Last Meeting: Chargers 33, Titans 25 (Oct. 31, 2010 at San Diego)
Titans HC Mike Munchak vs. Chargers: 0-0 Chargers HC Norv Turner vs. Titans: 4-4 overall, 4-0 with San Diego Munchak vs. Turner Head-to-Head: First Meeting
Notes: Including a 17-6 loss in San Diego in a 2007 AFC First-Round Playoff, the Titans are 0-7 against the Chargers since the franchise moved to Tennessee, with their most recent win in the series a 27-0 home shutout by the Houston Oilers on Sept. 27, 1992. The Oilers/Titans have lost five straight in San Diego (counting playoffs) since a 17-7 decision at Qualcomm Stadium on Sept. 30, 1990. Tennessee does own a 3-1 all-time advantage over the Chargers in the postseason, however. Turner went 0-2 against the Oilers/Titans while head coach of Washington from 1994-2000 and lost twice more to Tennessee while in charge of Oakland from 2004-05.
BY THE NUMBERS
Offensive Team Rankings
Tennessee: 23rd overall (284.0 ypg), 31st rushing (20.0 ypg), 15th passing (264.0 ypg), 29th scoring (13.0 ppg)
San Diego: 27th overall (258.0 ypg), 29th rushing (32.0 ypg), 21st passing (226.0 ypg), 18th scoring (22.0 ppg)
Defensive Team Rankings
Tennessee: 24th overall (390.0 ypg), 30th rushing (162.0 ypg), 13th passing (228.0 ypg), 27th scoring (34.0 ppg)
San Diego: 12th overall (321.0 ypg), 6th rushing (45.0 ypg), 21st passing (276.0 ypg), 5th scoring (14.0 ppg)
Tennessee: -2 (0 takeaways, 2 giveaways) San Diego: +1 (1 takeaways, 0 giveaways)
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (offense)
Tennessee: 0.0 percent (2 possessions, 0 TD, 2 FG) -- tied 28th overall San Diego: 20.0 percent (5 possessions, 1 TD, 4 FG) -- 27th overall
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (defense)
Tennessee: 50.0 percent (4 possessions, 2 TD, 2 FG) -- tied 11th overall San Diego: 50.0 percent (2 possessions, 1 TD, 1 FG) -- tied 11th overall
WHEN THE TITANS HAVE THE BALL
Expect Locker (229 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) to be under center Sunday, since the Titans made the bold move to name him the starter in preseason. His throwing motion could have an effect due to the soreness, and Locker said he was unsure if he would wear any protection underneath his pads. Hasselbeck is a nice security blanket just in case, though, and took some snaps during this week's practice. Even in this pass-happy NFL, it's a real plus to have a productive running game, and the Titans didn't against the Patriots. Johnson (4 rushing yards last week) has to have a better game this week or the Titans could suffer tremendously. Locker leads the team in rushing yards with 11 after one week. Another area of concern is the health of Washington (2 catches, 1 TD), who led the team in receiving a year ago and suffered a leg contusion on the same play Locker was injured. He should be ready to go, but if not the Titans have Britt back. He tore both his ACL and MCL last September and has been working to get back, but can really help the offense if he's not rusty. On the offensive line, right guard Leroy Harris (knee) hopes to see action this week and tackle Michael Roos made his 113th straight start in the opener.
If the Chargers play run defense like they did against the Raiders, Johnson will be in for a long afternoon. The Chargers held Darren McFadden to 32 yards on 15 carries, but can't let Johnson's four yards on 11 carries against New England fool them. They run a 3-4 system and have been susceptible to the run in the past, and need nose tackle Antonio Garay (ankle) healthy enough to play after he sat out the opener. Phillips (2 tackles, 2 sacks) needs another big game as well and knows that Tennessee is rolling out a hobbled Locker under center. A good hit on the shoulder could knock the young signal-caller out of the game. Phillips needs 3 1/2 sacks to tie Lee Williams for third-most in team history. Veteran inside linebacker Takeo Spikes (5 tackles) made his 200th career start in Oakland, but is a liability in pass coverage at his advanced age and either the rookie Wright or tight end Jared Cook may be able take advantage for Tennessee. Defensive back Marcus Gilchrist (3 tackles) will most likely be the nickel back with Shareece Wright nursing a sprained ankle. Strong safety and offseason pickup Atari Bigby (8 tackles) impressed in his San Diego debut by tying linebacker Donald Butler (8 tackles) for the team lead in stops last week.
WHEN THE CHARGERS HAVE THE BALL
Chargers undrafted rookie free agent Mike Harris played well at left tackle against the Raiders and earned a game ball from Turner afterward. Harris is filling in for injured starter Jared Gaither, who is nursing a back issue and a timetable for his return is unknown. Rivers (231 passing yards, 1 TD) said he has total confidence in Harris protecting his backside and said there "was not an issue on one single play in the game." Rivers, who is 484 passing yards shy of 25,000 in his career, may have been exaggerating, since the San Diego ground game suffered to the tune of just 32 yards. When Mathews is ready to return the Chargers should be in good shape, but for now it's up to Turner's passing scheme to get the job done. Malcolm Floyd (4 receptions, 66 yards, TD) was one of eight different Chargers to catch passes last week and Brown (5 rushing yards) caught five balls for 26 yards. Wideout Robert Meachem, who came over from New Orleans, made his Chargers debut and hauled in two passes, one of which helped set up a first-quarter field goal with a game-long 46-yard gain on a 3rd-and-8. Tight end Antonio Gates (4 receptions) needs three more catches to become the fifth tight end and the 59th player overall in NFL history with 600 for his career. He also is six touchdown catches shy of matching Lance Alworth's team record of 81.
One can't blame the Titans for failing to contain New England's high-powered offense led by Tom Brady. The Patriots racked up 390 yards of offense and Ridley recorded 125 yards and a score on 21 carries. Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers (11 tackles) led the team in stops and newcomer Kamerion Wimbley (4 tackles) recorded his first sack in a Tennessee uniform. The defensive end came over from Oakland and is very familiar with the Chargers, having had a career-high four sacks against them last November. The Titans can't be too worried about San Diego's run game, but Rivers is one of the best passing quarterbacks in the league and can accrue 300 yards in two quarters if his game is on point. That will leave the Titans' secondary with plenty of game film to study. Safety Robert Johnson (5 tackles) made his first NFL start last week and was a fifth-round pick in 2010, but middle linebacker Colin McCarthy (3 tackles) sustained an ankle injury in the opener and is expected to miss Sunday's game. Tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (knee) should make his 2012 debut this week, however.
Rivers protected the football and was safe himself in getting the Chargers off to a good start in Week 1. Duplicating that same effort will be a challenge with a hungry Tennessee squad coming into Qualcomm Stadium, though. Rivers does have an advantage statistically, as he is 5-0 against Tennessee as a starter with a passer rating of 96.9 for his career. It will be an emotional afternoon in San Diego with the retiring of Seau's jersey number and the defense, led first-year coordinator John Pagano, will try to set a tone similar to the one its fallen brethren did during his playing days. The Titans look to spoil the moment and will have a solid shot if Chris Johnson can find enough space to make things happen. He was bottled up and corked in the season opener, however, and San Diego has studied plenty of game film to see how it can be done once again.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Chargers 31, Titans 17