Charger Notebook : Anderson Springs to Life After Benching

Times Staff Writer

The new Gary Anderson is no accident.

The new Anderson has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the last two games. Not coincidentally, the Chargers (2-2) have won both those games.

But two weeks ago, the old Gary Anderson was sitting in Charger Coach Al Saunders' office wondering why he had been benched in the second half of the Chargers' 34-3 loss to the Broncos.

Saunders and Anderson watched the film of Anderson's failure to gain more than 16 yards in 9 carries.

"Gary felt like he had to make the big play all the time," Saunders said. "What he needed to do was go with his feelings as a runner. He has great instincts. A back has to run instinctively, which Gary is now doing."

The Chargers also have made it easier for Anderson by not asking him to block much or run the ball on short-yardage situations.

"Gary hasn't been getting beat up," Saunders said Monday. "And he's playing the game in a relaxed way."

"I think he (Anderson) is having the time of his life," Jerry Rhome, Charger offensive coordinator, said.

The last Charger running back to gain 100 yards three weeks in a row was Don Woods in 1974.

The Chargers have upgraded outside linebacker Billy Ray Smith from doubtful to questionable for Sunday's home game against Denver.

Smith's calf injury continues to heal slowly. But the Chargers are now saying there's a 50-50 chance he will play against the Broncos.

Listed as questionable are center Don Macek (shoulder), defensive lineman Karl Wilson (knee) and linebacker David Brandon (hamstring).

Almost lost in the shuffle of the Chargers' late winning touchdown in Kansas City Sunday were two third-down conversions and one on fourth down in the 61-yard, 13-play final drive.

On third and 18 from the Charger 31, Babe Laufenberg completed a pass over the middle to Lionel James for 19 yards.

On fourth and 6 from the Chief 33, Laufenberg scrambled and fired a 14-yard completion to Anthony Miller.

Then, with 1:16 to play, Curtis Adams swept left end for 1 yard to the Chief 10 on third and 1.

"You gotta have guys that rise up and make the plays at the right time," Rhome said. "We did."

After four weeks:

--The Chargers are the only team in the league that hasn't lost a fumble. Moreover, they have now gone 6 consecutive games without losing 1.

--The Chargers have converted 4 of 6 fourth-down attempts.

--The Chargers have gained fewer yards than their opponents in each game.

--The Chargers have been penalized 9 more times than their opponents for 70 more yards.

Saunders said he has no answer for the fact that his team has been outscored, 61-12, in the second and third quarters this year.

Charger Notes

The Chargers have sold 49,000 tickets for Sunday's game. The team expects the final sale to be 55,000, which means the blackout rule will be in effect. Which means no local television.. . . For three consecutive weeks, the Chargers have gained more yards rushing than the previous game. "That will be hard to maintain," offensive coordinator Jerry Rhome said.

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