SAN DIEGO (AP) – Maybe this wouldn't be such a good Super Bowl matchup after all.
At least not the way the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers looked on Sunday.
LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers finally took control of a sloppy season opener, with the reigning NFL MVP throwing for one touchdown and rushing for another in a 14-3 win over the defending NFC champion Bears.
It's clear these two teams, each with high expectations, have some work to do.
The Bears, who topped the NFC last year at 13-3 before losing in the Super Bowl to Indianapolis, were nothing short of brutal with four turnovers. Two of them set up the game's only two touchdowns.
The Chargers, an NFL-best 14-2 in 2006 before their playoff pratfall against New England, had two turnovers and allowed three sacks.
Still, Norv Turner came away a winner in his debut as Chargers head coach, raising his overall head coaching record with three teams to 59-82-1.
Tomlinson threw a 17-yard TD pass to All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates with 45 seconds left in the third quarter, then scored on a 7-yard run with 9:09 left to play.
LB Hunter Hillemeyer (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
While Tomlinson tore through Chicago's defense in a shoe commercial that's been airing recently, he didn't fare nearly as well against the real Bears. He was held to 25 yards on 17 carries, the second-lowest total of his seven-year career. His longest gain of the day was 10 yards on the final play of the first half, when the Chargers ran out the clock and went into the locker room trailing 3-0.
Tomlinson did catch seven passes for 51 yards, but the guy who saved the Chargers was Gates, who had 107 yards on nine catches.
The Bears got away with a big one in the third quarter, when the Chargers were poised to punch it in from the 1. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris appeared to be offside as he anticipated the snap and plowed into quarterback Philip Rivers, forcing him to fumble. Mike Brown recovered and, despite the Chargers' protests, the Bears kept the ball. They ended up punting, though.
San Diego got an even bigger break as it was forced to punt. Mike Scifres' kick was high but well in front of Devin Hester, and the ball bounced off the shoulder of Chicago's Brandon McGowan while he was blocking Michael Turner. San Diego's Matt Wilhelm recovered.
Four plays later, Tomlinson took a toss from Rivers, rolled right and hit Gates in the front corner of the end zone for a 7-3 lead. It was Tomlinson's seventh career TD pass.
San Diego got yet another break when Adrian Peterson fumbled, with Clinton Hart recovering.
Tomlinson, held to 12 yards on 14 carries to that point, had consecutive carries of 6 and 7 yards to finish off the ensuing Chargers' drive.
Chargers Outlast Bears 14-3
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