In a mere sixty minutes the San Diego Chargers accomplished what took them over two and one-half months to accomplish last year, they captured their first win of the season, a decisive 30-3 win over the Washington Redskins.
Proving to be one of the most lopsided games of opening day, the Chargers exploded early, as Tim Dwight returned the first punt 84-yards, giving San Diego a 7-0 lead, 3:19 into the first period. The return lifted Dwight, who was acquired in a pre-draft trade with Atlanta, into a tie for the sixth-longest punt return in team history.
It also marked the Chargers' first punt return for a touchdown since Eric Metcalf returned one 83 yards against Denver on November 30, 1997.
"The punt return was great, that was so nice to see," said San Diego head coach Mike Riley. "We've been preaching about how we can make that a weapon. It set the stage early."
San Diego increased their first quarter lead as Wade Richey connected on his first of three field goals, this one from 21-yards out, giving the Charger a 10-0 advantage.
Washington, under new head coach Marty Shottenheimer and new quarterback Jeff George, were never able to mount a serious threat, limited to just 161 total offensive yards. Their lone score coming with only 36 seconds remaining in the third quarter on a Brett Conway 40-yard field goal.
George, who was replaced by Tony Banks in the third quarter, connected on 8-of-18 passes for 66 yards and two interceptions.
The Chargers broke the scoring open in the second quarter, as LaDanian Tomlinson, who missed most of the preseason due to a contract dispute, ran in from three-yards out for his first ever NFL touchdown. The score capped off a six-play, 45-yard drive.
Tomlinson finished with a very impressive 113 yards on 36 carries, scoring two touchdowns. He became San Diego's first 100-yard rusher in 17 games.
Richey found the range from 48-yards out with less than a minute remaining in the first half and the Chargers took a commanding 20-0 lead into the locker room at the end of the second quarter.
"It was one of those games where it seemed like every part got to contribute and make plays," said Riley. "I just think that we played very smart and very hard. The combination of the two really won the game."
Following the Redskins' 40-yard field goal, San Diego struck again, capping off an 11 play 45-yard drive with Richey's final field goal of the game, a 32-yarder with 10:38 left to play.
Doug Flutie, the Chargers' biggest off season acquisition, fared mediocre in his debut, finishing with 10 of 18 passes for 129 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
"There was a lot of room for improvement," Flutie told reporters afterward. "We made some mistakes. We made more than a couple of them. It's exciting to me because I didn't think I had a particularly good game and we could have done a lot of things better, but we ended up with 30 points on the board and won decisively. It gets me excited about this season."
Tomlinson rounded out the Charger scoring with a 1-yard run with 4:16 remaining, giving San Diego a 30-3 lead.
The win marked the first Charger victory on opening day since 1999 when they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 34-7. Ironically the 27-point margin of victory also marked the Chargers largest since, you guessed it, the 34-7 win over the Bengals.
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