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Chargers have made great strides



Published: Sat, January 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



In a September loss to the Jets, San Diego didn't look like a playoff team.

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Standing on the sideline last Sunday, San Diego Chargers linebacker Donnie Edwards felt himself having an out-of-body experience.

The Chargers had just scored against Kansas City and the disco song "San Diego Super Chargers" from the Air Coryell era was playing on the PA.

"For a split moment, I took myself out of reality. I thought, 'Oh, my God, this is me 20 years ago sitting in the stands watching Dan Fouts throwing the ball to Charlie Joiner,"' said Edwards, who grew up in a working-class suburb of San Diego.

"So that feeling is here again, in my eyes. I hope we can continue and get to our ultimate goal, which is the Super Bowl."

Yes, the Bolts are back in the playoffs, having ended one of their characteristic long postseason droughts -- the latest was eight seasons -- and will play host the wild-card New York Jets in prime time on what could be a very wet Saturday night.

First-timers

Pro Bowlers Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, who powered a high-scoring, exciting offense, will be making their playoff debuts. Edwards will play in just the second postseason game in his nine-year career, the first having come seven seasons ago with the Chiefs.

Tackle Roman Oben and wide receiver Keenan McCardell will play on the same field where they helped Tampa Bay win the Super Bowl two years ago.

Coach Marty Schottenheimer, who helped turn the Chargers from a 4-12 laughingstock into AFC West champions at 12-4, will be looking to do something about that 5-11 postseason record of his.

And the bandwagon has never been fuller.

"I think it's awesome. Everyone is really on a high," Edwards said. "It's been a long time since we gave the Chargers fans something to have pride in and be excited for. I know a lot of guys who have been sitting on their Chargers hat and not really wearing it."

Early season debacle

Back on Sept. 19, the Chargers looked anything like a playoff team when they lost 34-28 to the Jets. Curtis Martin ran for 119 yards and scored on the Jets' first two possessions. Brees had two interceptions, lost a fumble and sustained a concussion.

"That game feels like it was five seasons ago," said Brees, who finished the season with 27 TD passes and just seven interceptions. "I think we've come so far. At that time in the season, we hadn't really found ourselves, and now we have."

The Jets started 5-0 and then went 5-6 the rest of the way, in part because quarterback Chad Pennington missed three games with a rotator cuff injury and hasn't thrown well since returning.

The Jets allowed St. Louis' Marc Bulger to pass for 450 yards in a 32-29 overtime loss on Sunday. Defensive end John Abraham has missed four games with a sprained knee and is listed as probable for Saturday.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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