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Week 10 vs. IND
Though Darren Sproles did not play an offensive down, he certainly made his mark on this game. Sproles took the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. Later in the 1st quarter on a short Hunter Smith punt from deep in the Colts zone, Sproles returned the ball 45 yards for another touchdown, putting the Chargers up 17-0 with six minutes still remaining. He went virtually untouched on both long runs.
Week 12 vs. BAL
Rushing: 2 / 1 / 0
Sproles got a few carries at the end of the game, but was predominantly used as a returner.
Week 15 vs. DET
Rushing: 25 / 122 / 2
Receiving: 1 / 13 / 0 on 1 targets
Sproles got the biggest opportunity of his career to make an impact, and he was simply outstanding. Granted, it was against a porous Detroit defense, but Sproles did everything the Chargers could have hoped for. He converted short yardage runs, he ran with speed and power, and he ran right through and around tacklers despite the Lions knowing he was coming on just about every play. Perhaps most importantly, Sproles showed the Chargers that he can carry the load. With Michael Turner nursing a shoulder injury, Sproles carried the ball an astounding 24 times in the second half. The diminutive backup essentially proved that he can be a capable backup to LaDainian Tomlinson in his own right. That may not mean much for the remainder of 2007, but if Turner leaves the team as a free agent as expected, Sproles is poised to move into a very crucial position fantasy-wise --- as the top backup to the top running back in football, Tomlinson.
As if Sproles' numbers weren't impressive enough, they could have been even better. Shane Olivea was whistled for being illegally downfield on a 56 yard touchdown pass to Sproles off a screen. The amazing part of it was that Olivea wasn't even a part of the play, as Sproles had already flown right past him on his way to the end zone. He showed a terrific ability to shake defenders in open space, and a surprising ability to shed tacklers who had a hand on him. He was also very receptive to being hit, and didn't shy away from contact --- instead, running up the middle head first almost every time, almost to a fault.
Week 16 vs. DEN
Rushing: 6 / 17 / 0
Receiving: 4 / 7 / 0 on 6 targets
Despite Tomlinson and Turner's combined workload (29 touches between them), Sproles managed to secure a role of his own, with ten offensive touches. While he wasn't nearly as productive as he was a week ago against the Lions, it let us know that Norv Turner isn't going to hesitate to use him in certain situations going forward.
Week 17 vs. OAK
Rushing: 2 / 20 / 0
Receiving: 2 / -3 / 0 on 2 targets
Sproles has seen an increase in workload over the past couple of weeks, but Michael Turner looked extremely effective running the football in this game and has likely fully reclaimed his role as the top backup to LaDainian Tomlinson. On the plus side, Sproles did once again demonstrate his big-play capabilities by returning the opening kickoff to start the second half 61 yards before being forced out of bounds by PK Sebastian Janikowski.
Week 19 vs. IND
Rushing: 1 / 1 / 0
Receiving: 1 / 56 / 1 on 2 targets
Despite just two offensive touches, Sproles managed to turn in one of the biggest plays of the entire afternoon. With the Chargers trailing 17-14 late in the third quarter and LaDainian Tomlinson on the bench for the entire second half, Sproles took a screen from Philip Rivers up the left side for a seemingly innocuous gain. But after getting to the edge, Sproles took off like a missile on a straight line for the end zone and scored a 56 yard touchdown. The play seemed to mean as much to the San Diego psyche as it did on the scoreboard. Despite their star being out of commission, San Diego had once again found a way to get back into the game.
Week 20 vs. NE
Rushing: 3 / 34 / 0
Despite the absence of starter LaDainian Tomlinson, Sproles didn't see a greatly increased workload. He had just five offensive touches, though one of those touches resulted in a nice 26 yard burst up the middle for San Diego's longest offensive play of the game.
While no one knows what is in store for the off-season, it is highly likely that primary backup Michael Turner has played his last game as a Charger. He'll likely receive a contract offer to compete for the starting tailback job for someone this off-season, likely making Sproles the new primary backup to Tomlinson. This is important for purposes of handcuffing the two next season, as Tomlinson showed in these playoffs that he's not superhuman after all and may need more extended rests in 2008.