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Chargers midway champs

By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 3, 2002

If you had to name a Super Bowl champion at the midway point, the trophy probably should go to the Chargers. Granted, the Packers also have a 6-1 record, but the Chargers have shown more muscle on both sides of the ball.

The Chargers have ruled the AFC with second-year quarterback Drew Brees, who is in his first season as a starter. He has been poised and played his best in clutch situations, completing 24-of-36 for 290 yards and a passer rating of 109.7 in tied games.

The Chargers' biggest challengers in the AFC the rest of the season will be the Broncos (6-2), Dolphins (5-2), Steelers (4-3) and possibly the Raiders (4-3). Also, don't count out the Bills (5-3).

* * *

TRIVIA QUESTION: Who is the only regular starting quarterback not to have thrown an interception this season?

A REAL SCARE: Seahawks receiver Darrell Jackson's seizure after the Dallas game scared coach Mike Holmgren. During the seizure at a hospital, Jackson reportedly broke free from seven restraining straps and briefly wrestled with doctors.

"I had never seen anything like that, ever, in my life," Holmgren said.

Said Jackson, the former UF and Tampa Catholic High standout who will be out at least a week: "That is one of my biggest phobias, being suffocated or being tied down, and it just came out of me that way."

DID YOU KNOW?: The Bills offensive linemen say they're not going to shave until the team loses again. The Bills have won three straight.

BIG-HIT VICK: Falcons quarterback Michael Vick is playing above expectations. Saints safety Sammy Knight has some advice for the second-year player.

Slide.

"I really believe Michael Vick will have a hard time finishing the season," Knight said. "He's the kind of guy who takes head-on hits. He's running so fast, he's going to take some serious pops."

HITTING HIM WHERE IT REALLY HURTS: Seahawks quarterback Trent Dilfer's torn Achilles' tendon cost him more than his season. Dilfer won't reach an incentive clause that would have paid him an extra $10-million if he had played 75 percent of the team's offensive plays with a passer rating of at least 85 and if the 2-5 Seahawks won 10 games.

... OR YOUR MONEY BACK: It started after Sunday's loss to the Titans when Bengals coach Dick LeBeau guaranteed his team will win today against the Texans. Now some players have echoed the promise.

Said receiver Chad Johnson: "We're going to come back next week, and I assure you a win. Guarantee we win next week."

Countered Texans defensive tackle Gary Walker: "I don't even know (Johnson). Obviously, if he's going to come out and make statements like that, he needs to show up on film a little more."

CATCH OF THE WEEK: The Jaguars signed receiver Kevin Lockett on Saturday, two days after he was released by the Redskins.

Lockett, a second-round draft pick by Kansas City in 1997, caught 11 passes and two touchdowns in seven games this year with Washington.

Lockett should give the Jaguars a boost. Bobby Shaw and Patrick Johnson -- the receivers Jacksonville signed to replace Keenan McCardell -- have combined for 27 catches, and Pro Bowl player Jimmy Smith is well below his normal pace with 33.

NFL IRONMAN: Quarterback Brett Favre was upgraded to probable for the Packers' game against the Dolphins on Monday night, which would increase his record to 165 consecutive starts. Favre is recovering from a sprained lateral collateral ligament in his left knee.

STAT OF THE WEEK: This could be the weekend the Raiders end their three-game losing skid, though they are playing a formidable team in the 49ers. San Francisco has lost 12 straight road games against teams with winning records.

It may not matter for the Raiders, who have lost three straight since their 4-0 start. Only two teams (2000 Ravens and 1979 Rams) have reached the Super Bowl after losing three straight during the regular season.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN: The Cardinals-Rams game is a reminder of how easily things could have turned out differently for coaches Dave McGinnis and Mike Martz.

Three years ago, McGinnis was leaning toward taking the Bears coaching job and had lined up Martz as his offensive coordinator. McGinnis then heard about a Chicago radio report that erroneously said he had accepted the position, which angered him enough to turn down the Bears' offer, leaving Martz out.

"I was gone," Martz said. "That's how close it was."

CALIFORNIA DREAMING: Now that the NFL is considering giving Los Angeles a Super Bowl, possibly in 2008, the race is on to see which gets to L.A. first, a team or a Super Bowl. A modern-day version of the tortoise and the hare.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Right now I don't look anything like a first-round pick. I look more like a nobody." -- Titans first-round draft pick Albert Haynesworth ripping himself.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK II: "Not on my watch, they're not going to do that. If they're going to do that, there's going to be a problem." -- Jets coach Herman Edwards when asked if he worried about his 2-5 team quitting on him.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Vick, who has a streak of 135 passes without a pick.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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