Playoff Viewer's Guide: Simms getting a second look

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Bolts out of the blue, all right.

CBS's Phil Simms was present for the only 11-10 outcome in NFL history Nov. 16, when the San Diego Chargers began flipping around their fizzling season, even though they lost. He will be in attendance Sunday when they and the Steelers reunite at Heinz Field, this time for this AFC divisional playoff. He is surprised, and he isn't.

"I thought it was probably the first game where they started to turn the corner a little bit," Simms said of that Chargers-Steelers contest eight weeks ago. "They played well at times that day. Just interested to see the adjustments both teams make. And I'm anxious to see with my own eyes how far San Diego has come in the past five weeks of the season."

Winners of five consecutive games to advance here, the Chargers are playing a stout brand of defense last seen from San Diego in the AFC championship loss to New England last year, he opined.

"They have changed their defense," Simms added, referring to Ron Rivera replacing the fired Ted Cottrell as defensive coordinator in late October. "Their pressure defense has changed their whole football game. And what they're doing with what I think is one of the most talented teams in the NFL, it gets [their offense] back on the field. There's a lot of talent. We used to talk about them standing on the sidelines, watching their defense getting pushed around the field.

"I probably wrote the Chargers off, no exaggeration, at least five times [this season]. ... I've fallen into that trap many times. How could you not? They were fortunate that the [AFC West] Division wasn't that strong. They took advantage of that. ... You better have the coaches first who know how to put them in a position to at least have a chance to show their physical abilities. That is what the Chargers have done here, and it's really been the difference in what they do."

Simms and Jim Nantz will handle the CBS broadcast starting at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

Playoff programing

Today

1 p.m. NFL Network: "Playbook" with ex-Ravens coach Brian Billick breaking down Dick LeBeau's defense (re-played noon Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday).

2 p.m. NFL Network: Rebroadcast of that Week 11 Chargers at Steelers.

6 and 11 p.m. Showtime: "Inside the NFL."

Tomorrow

7:30 a.m. ESPN: "NFL Matchup," where, among other topics, ex-Steelers fullback Merril Hoge will show how San Diego rushed through the Steelers' offensive line in Week 11.

11 a.m. ESPN: "Sunday NFL Countdown" with Mike Ditka.

4:30 p.m. CBS: Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf bring you Ravens-Titans.

8 p.m. Fox: NFC divisional playoff.

Sunday

9 a.m. NFL Network: "NFL Gameday Morning."

11 a.m. ESPN: "Sunday NFL Countdown" with a story about the Steelers' linebacker lineage, including interviews with Jack Ham, Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd.

1 p.m. Fox: NFC Divisional playoff.

4 p.m. CBS: "NFL Today" with ex-Steelers coach Bill Cowher, followed by Chargers-Steelers telecast.



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