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Chargers Remain Devoted to Going Deep

Vincent Jackson: "We're definitely going to take our shots"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson #83 runs after the catch against the Minnesota Vikings during their NFL Game on September 11, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San DIego, California.

    In its season opener, the San Diego Chargers offense presented a game plan that resembled the most boring ice cream menu ever made.

    Vanilla. Vanilla. Vanilla.

    Short pass to running back Mike Tolbert. Short screen pass to tight end Antonio Gates. Run. Run. Dump pass back to Tolbert.

    On Sunday, the Chargers hope to recapture their usual flavor against the New England Patriots, mixing in more completions in the downfield passing game.

    Facing the Minnesota Vikings' cover 2 defense, designed to limit deep pass plays, quarterback Philip Rivers didn't attempt a pass to a wide receiver until nearly 21 minutes into the game.

    Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson had only two catches on three targets, the lone miss coming on a would-be long touchdown pass that extended just beyond his fingertips.

    "Hopefully we can make some adjustments to cover 2," Jackson said. "It's early in the year, and it's not what we expected. If (the Patriots) do go cover 2 against us, I think we'll be better prepared for it this week. We'll be able to get the ball to our wide receivers ...

    "Every week, we want to put up points. For me specifcally, my role is going to be (the same as) every week: Be dynamic. Move me around. Some short stuff. Some third down stuff. Then of course, the strength of our team. Big receivers on the outside, Gates in the middle, stretching the field. We're definitely going to take our shots."

    And that, really, is nothing new.

    The Chargers completed an AFC-best 14 passes of 40 or more yards last year and, for the second straight season, led the NFL in completitons of 20 yards or more.

    Hence why teams try to limit the Chargers' deep passing game.

    Hence why the Chargers will test the Patriots on whether they can.

    "We try to mix in everything," said Rivers, who is four yards short of 20,000 for his career. "We're not going to eliminate something from our plan, eliminate any area of the field. We've got to be able to work every area and play that game with them."

    The best-case scenario has the Chargers running a balanced attack that keeps the Patriots defense on the field for extended drives.

    The Patriots ran a heavy no-huddle attack in their Monday night game against the Miami Dolphins, using a tight-end heavy scheme -- Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski form a young, athletic duo -- from which Chargers coach Norv Turner said they can just as easily work the run as the pass.

    When the Dolphins offense opened the game with a 12-play, 84-yard drive, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was forced to pull back the reigns.

    When the Dolphins offense stuttered in their second drive, Brady began pushing the offensive tempo, like a basketball team that fast breaks off misses.

    The playcalling itself sometimes centered on starting the no-huddle. In the fourth quarter, BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran a stretch toward the Patriots sideline so Danny Woodhead -- the team's running back of choice for the no-huddle -- could quickly sub out Green-Ellis.

    Brady also turned aggressive with his cadence, catching the defense mid-substitution for too many men on the field.

    To help his defense, Rivers said the Chargers can't afford to get off to a similar start as last week when the offense opened the game with a three-and-out on three of its first four drives. It finished by averaging 9.1 plays in its other seven possessions.

    Everything but the deep ball was clicking.

    Jackson's two catches now tie him for seventh on the team behind Tolbert, the improbable Week 1 leader with nine.

    Jackson laughed this week when asked if he could overtake Tolbert in receptions and said, "I don't know."

    "The way things are going right now," Jackson joked, "I've got my work cut out for me to be in the top three."

    On Sunday, things could go differently.