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You knew it’d be a crazy beginning

ON THE NFL

There are certain things we know and, it turns out, certain things we thought we knew.

For example, the picks here for the Super Bowl were Dallas and San Diego.

Yet, only three weeks into the NFL regular season, the prediction looks like it might be half right at best.

The Chargers, coming off a 14-2 season, have dropped two straight, with road losses at New England and Green Bay, and have been outscored before halftime by a league-high 30 points. Among players, the sense-of-urgency needle is pointing somewhere between desperate and apocalyptic.

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“I’m concerned, because it’s easy to continue in a downward spiral if we let it,” running back LaDainian Tomlinson told reporters this week. “But I think I know this team, and everyone is disappointed in the way we’ve started.”

The Chargers (1-2) play host to Kansas City (1-2) on Sunday, and are looking to protect their nine-game home winning streak, second only to the 10-game run of the Indianapolis Colts.

If San Diego loses, it will be another surprise. But there have been a lot of unexpected developments in the league so far, and the season hasn’t even reached the quarter-pole.

A look at some of the things we might have thought, and things we now know:

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We thought it was almost impossible to make the playoffs after an 0-3 start.

We now know it’s even harder than that. Since 1970, only five teams have done it: the 1981 Jets, ’82 Buccaneers, ’92 Chargers, ’95 Lions, and ’98 Bills.

We thought Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin was a defensive coach.

We now know he’s also got the right offensive pieces in place. The undefeated Steelers have seen big improvements in virtually every offensive category since last season, among them a jump from 22.1 to 32.3 points per game.

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We thought Joey Porter would have something to say about Miami stumbling to an 0-3 start.

We now know he does. He has guaranteed a victory over the Raiders.

We thought football was a complex game.

We now know Kansas City’s Larry Johnson doesn’t think so. He says it’s checkers, not chess, and coaches make it out as more complicated than it should be.

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We thought it was just receivers who wore gloves for a better grip on the football.

We now know at least one quarterback wears them, too. Carolina’s David Carr, who’s expected to start in place of injured Jake Delhomme on Sunday, uses them on both hands, something he first tried in a game last season.

We thought things couldn’t get much worse for the 0-3 Saints, with their embarrassing performance on Monday Night Football.

We now know it can get worse -- a lot worse. Take a peek at Deuce McAllister’s MRI exam.

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We thought McAllister was tough with the football.

We now know he’s even tougher without it. Did you see him gritting out that walk to the locker room on a torn anterior cruciate ligament?

We thought Brett Favre had a hard time playing under the Teflon dome in Minneapolis, losing nine of his first 11 starts there.

We now know that’s ancient history. His Packers are 3-1 there over the last four years, with Favre completing 67% of his passes for 10 touchdowns, just two interceptions, and a lofty rating of 108.9.

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We thought it was time for Rex Grossman to take a seat.

We now know the Bears did too.

We thought it was time for Kurt Warner to call it a career.

We now know he still has something left.

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We thought the Colts would take a big step backward when left tackle Tarik Glenn abruptly retired.

We now know rookie Tony Ugoh can step backward (and forward) and protect Peyton Manning’s blind side just fine.

We thought the Raiders had a hard time winning at home.

We now know it’s even worse on the road, where they’ve lost 12 straight. That’s three times longer than the league’s next-closest road losing streak.

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We thought the league’s most unflattering nickname was “Pillsbury Throwboy,” for Jared Lorenzen, the Giants’ 285-pound backup quarterback.

We now know “Doorknob” has that beat. That’s what friends call Baltimore cornerback Samari Rolle, because of the permanent knot on top of his head.

We thought Atlanta Coach Bobby Petrino wanted to keep his punishment of DeAngelo Hall “in house,” after the cornerback lost his cool against Carolina, was penalized three times for 67 yards on one drive, and had a screaming meltdown on the sideline.

We now know Hall heard open house. He promptly informed reporters he was fined $100,000 and wouldn’t be starting Sunday against the Texans.

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We thought a fine of $500,000 for cheating might make Bill Belichick wince.

We now know that’s just pricey bulletin-board material. The Patriots clearly are using Spygate as motivation to prove they can win whether or not they’re stealing signals.

We thought Michael Vick was a dope.

We now know he’s been smoking it too.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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Running on empty

Before they performed on the same field last year in a game at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, there was a big buildup to the meeting of top NFL running backs -- the Chargers’ LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Kansas City’s Larry Johnson. This year? Not so much. The Chargers play host to the Chiefs on Sunday, and both backs are averaging fewer than three yards per carry -- Tomlinson 2.3; Johnson 2.8 -- and neither has a 100-yard game. A look at how Tomlinson and Johnson fared in their three games facing each other as starters:

*--* Johnson Tomlinson Carries/Rushing yards 79/347 54/312 Catches/Receiving yards 9/86 10/95 Total yards 433 407 Touchdowns 4 4 *--*

Note: Last year in San Diego, the Chargers won, 20-9, with Tomlinson rushing for 199 yards in 25 carries and Johnson gaining 84 yards in 19 carries.

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Source: STATS LLC.


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