4:15 PM ET, December 16, 2007
SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, CA
With a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback last week, the San Diego Chargers took a step closer to their second straight AFC West title.
The Detroit Lions, meanwhile, continued to fall further out of the NFC wild-card race following a fourth-quarter collapse their last time out.
The Chargers look to win the West for the third time in the last four years when they host the slumping Lions, who are trying to avoid losing their sixth in a row.
Last Sunday, San Diego (8-5) was down 17-3 midway through the fourth in Tennessee before storming back to tie the game at 17 on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates with nine seconds left. Then, with 7:29 remaining in overtime, LaDainian Tomlinson scored on a 16-yard run to give the Chargers a 23-17 victory.
"To come in here and get a win is really, really big for our guys," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "And then the way we did it, I think the key for our football team today was we fought hard."
San Diego has won a season high-tying three straight and seven of nine overall after opening 1-3. The Chargers can wrap up the division if they beat the Lions (6-7) after Denver lost 31-13 at Houston Thursday night.
San Diego will be without one of its defensive leaders for this game, though, as All-Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman sprained a ligament in his left knee against the Titans. Merriman had two sacks early in the game before getting knocked out in the second quarter.
"I'm not going to speculate, but it could be a couple of weeks," Turner said.
Rivers was also knocked out in the second quarter before returning after halftime wearing a knee brace. He went through half of practice Thursday, increasing the chances he'll play in this game.
"That's the plan, but it's not Sunday," Rivers said. "We don't have to know right now."
Rivers had just 37 yards passing and two interceptions through three quarters before finishing with 228 yards and two touchdowns. On the final drive of regulation that set up the tying score, Rivers moved the Chargers 80 yards in 2:15.
Tomlinson rushed for 146 yards and one score and also caught a TD pass last Sunday. The reigning league MVP has rushed for 323 yards and three touchdowns on 49 attempts in his last two games, and needs just five yards to join Eric Dickerson as the only running backs to rush for at least 1,200 yards in each of his first seven seasons.
In his only game against Detroit on Dec. 7, 2003, Tomlinson rushed for 88 yards on 25 carries and also caught nine passes for a career-high 148 yards with two TDs in a 14-7 victory -- San Diego's fifth straight in the series dating to 1981.
Detroit is in the midst of a five-game skid after falling 28-27 at home to Dallas last Sunday.
The Lions opened this season winning six of their first eight games and seemed poised to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, but that appears highly unlikely now.
Detroit is one game back of Minnesota for the NFC's final wild-card spot, and because of tiebreaker scenarios, is also behind three other teams with 6-7 records.
"The last five weeks have been awfully tough," Lions center Dominic Raiola said. "Our backs are really against the wall now, and we've got no one to blame but ourselves."
Last Sunday's loss was especially disappointing as Detroit led 27-14 after three quarters before Tony Romo and the Cowboys came charging back. Dallas scored the game's final points on a 16-yard TD pass with 18 seconds left in the fourth.
"You lay your life on the line out there. You play your heart out, and when you lose, especially in that manner it's like you got your heart ripped out of your chest," said Jon Kitna, who was 22-of-36 for 248 yards. "Of course guys are down, and they'll probably be down for a few days."
Kitna said the Lions would win 10 games before this season began.
Detroit's defensive play has been a factor in the skid, as it has allowed an average of 430.7 yards and 35.7 points in its last three games. The Lions have the second-worst defense in the league (371.2), and third-worst scoring defense (26.1).
Kitna has made seven career starts against the Chargers, throwing for 1,235 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In his last game against San Diego on Nov. 23, 2003, he threw for 243 yards and four TDs to lead Cincinnati to a 34-27 victory.
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Lions will try to stop LT and force Rivers to beat them
While the Lions are coming off a last-minute loss, which forces them to run the table to have a chance at the postseason the Chargers have put more distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC West with an overtime road victory. The Chargers came from behind in a dramatic effort on Sunday that gave them their fourth win in the past five contests. The Lions are reeling from their fifth loss in a row and are trying to avoid a total collapse in the second half of the season. This should be an excellent matchup between two clubs that can put lots of points on the board, but are moving in opposite directions.
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Los Angeles Chargers
|Avg Points Allowed||27.9||18.9|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||DET|
|Rush Yds Allowed||DET|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Los Angeles leads 2-0|
|Dec 7, 2003||DET 7, LAC 14|