Chargers 42, Vikings 28

Home for the first time in almost two months, the San Diego Chargers came to Qualcomm to face one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings. It was the Bolts who showed their offense for the first time this season as Doug Flutie was on target all day getting every receiver involved and LaDainian Tomlinson provided his usual reliable self in a 42-28 win.

San Diego took the opening drive down the field quickly. Doug Flutie immediately hit David Boston to get him in the game for a gain of 8. It was followed by an eighteen yard reverse and Flutie went back to Boston for a 28 yard gain on a fly route to put the ball inside the Vikings 10. Flutie then took a bootleg to his left and found a wide open Boston for seven. LaDainian Tomlinson, considered the heart of San Diego touched the ball just once on the drive.

As if they didn't want to win, the Chargers immediately let up a 42 yard kickoff return, giving the Vikings offense prime field position. After a first down penalty on Minnesota, the Vikings were unable to get any yardage and they had to punt.

Tomlinson may have not been in on the first drive of the game, but he took it over on the second drive. Kelvin Garmon pulling left opened up a hole for Tomlinson and he took advantage. He went 73 yards, showing the burst that has made him so explosive. Kassim Osgood had a nice block on the play to help spring LT, and he did the rest, putting the Bolts up 14-0 seven minutes into the game.

The Vikings came back and used all of their backs to wear down the Chargers defense with four plays of ten yards or more to move into the red zone. Moe Williams, Michael Bennett and Jim Kleinsasser all played a big part in putting the ball inside the five. Daunte Culpepper finally found Randy Moss who was lined up behind the line before going into his route for the touchdown, 14- Chargers.

On the third Chargers drive, the team finally mixed it up a little. Tomlinson caught a screen and followed a pulling Garmon downfield, going 22 yards untouched before going out of bounds. Reche Caldwell took a reverse; Flutie hit Justin Peelle, and then hit Boston for the fourth time of the day on a wide receiver screen to set the ball up at the Vikings 27. Cory Raymer almost killed the wide receiver screen play as he missed his block and Flutie's arm was hit as he delivered the ball. Flutie then connected with Tomlinson on third down to move the chains and put the ball inside the gold zone. Courtney VanBuren was flagged twice on the same play, a block downfield cost the team 10 yards. Boston then caught his fifth reception on another wide receiver screen, going 18 yards to give the team a manageable third down. Flutie hit Tim Dwight at the four yard line giving the Chargers first and goal. Flutie then got himself in on the action and took the ball in from three yards out to give him his seventh career rushing touchdown, 21-7 San Diego.

Five straight completions by Culpepper, including a 19 yarder to Moss with Drayton Florence in one-on-one coverage put the Vikings inside Chargers territory. Bennett followed the pass brigade with a 12 yard run. A holding call put the Vikings back to the 36. A Bennett screen for 17 yards brought up third and three at the Chargers 19. Culpepper hit Nate Burleson over Quentin Jammer for the touchdown in the right back corner of the end zone. The play was challenged as Burleson did not have both feet in bounds and the call was upheld as the ball hit Burleson in his fingertips when his left foot was still in bounds, but the question becomes about possession and as one announcer said, "that left foot looked to be up in the air." Vikings down by seven, 21-14. Culpepper was 7-8 for 89 yards on the drive.

A Pass Interference on Denard Walker gave the Chargers a first down they had not business getting as Boston appeared to play it just right. His hand was in the face of Walker's and he showed good effort in trying to get to the ball as Walker was in his way on an out route. Flutie then hit Boston on a third down play leading him just enough in a spot where only Boston could make the play as he had to dive to catch it. Another defensive penalty on third down gave the Chargers life again and the ball on the 32 with 1:45 to go in the half. Flutie took advantage hitting Antonio Gates over the middle for 26 yards and first and goal. Gates followed it up with his first touchdown reception of the season and his career with under a half minute to go in the half.

After the Vikings drove the ball inside the Chargers 20, Bennett rushed the ball from the 19 making one man miss at the line before Jerry Wilson hit him true in the legs and caused a fumble. Zeke Moreno made the recovery at the Chargers four yard line.

Tomlinson took the ensuing handoff 55 yards behind a Lorenzo Neal block taking the ball into Vikings territory. The Bolts could not capitalize and punted for the first time of the day.

With prime field position at their own 43, Flutie hit Reche Caldwell for 12 yards to put the ball inside Vikings territory. Flutie then used his patented jump throw to hit Boston in stride on a crossing route for 10 yards. An unseen play in San Diego was next. Flutie tried to hit Osgood over his shoulder on a fly route and pass interference was called on Walker again, giving the Bolts the ball on the 14. Tomlinson setup first and goal on the one and took it in standing up, Chargers 35-14.

The Chargers again let up on the kickoff as Onterrio Smith returned the ball to the Minnesota 43 and after Terrence Kiel provided a face mask, the Vikings were at midfield. Culpepper hit D'Wayne Bates for 12 and the Vikings were showing life, down by 21 entering the fourth quarter. On the first play of the fourth, Culpepper hit Moe Williams in the flat and made at least three Chargers miss, going 31 yards for the touchdown. Quentin Jammer, Carlos Polk and Wilson all had a chance to tackle Williams. 35-21 Chargers.

Flutie capitalized on a one on battle between Greg Biekert and Gates for a 26 yard gain across the middle of the field. Flutie then hit Dwight on a deep crossing route, hitting him in stride for 32 yards. Since his magic was on fire, the wizard took the rest of the drive in his hands. From 13 yards out, Flutie took the snap and rushed it in for his second touchdown run of the game to put the Chargers back up by 21 with eight minutes to go, 42-21.

The Vikings took the next drive down using the passing game and converting on fourth down and 18 before a pass interference call on Jammer put the ball at the one. Williams then caught a one yard touchdown pass from Culpepper closing to within 14.

The Vikings went for an onside kick and on the initial view the Vikings recovered. The referees called it out of bounds. The play was challenged and Minnesota got the ball at the Chargers 49 after the Willie Offord recovery.

Williams caught a 15 yard screen and a 15 yard roughing the passer call on Donnie Edwards put the ball inside the red zone with four minutes to go. Culpepper scrambled for a first to give Minnesota first and goal with under three minutes to go. Terrence Kiel then intercepted the ball with 2:40 to go. Randy Moss never went out on a route on the play.

The Chargers were able to run out the clock and secure a big victory on their home turf.

Denis Savage can be reached ay safage@cox.net

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