LaDainian Tomlinson took the handoff left and, thanks to a great block from rising star tight-end Antonio Gates, saw an opening outside. Fullback Lorenzo Neal got just enough of safety Marcus Coleman to give Tomlinson a microscopic advantage. And it was all he needed.
With a dip of his shoulder and a powerful push-off, Tomlinson was able to scoot under and away from his obstacle and into the uncommon abyss of a Charger victory. 0 and 16? Not this season.
When the play was over, Tomlinson pumped his fist in the air while the Chargers' sideline went berserk. The season-opening win, after a malignant offseason, must've been sweeter than a syrup-covered sugar-cube. The Chargers, if only for a week, can flip the proverbial bird in the direction of their many doubters.
It is clear the Chargers didn't play a championship caliber football game in Houston, but four take-aways, LaDainian Tomlinson, and solid play by a rejuvenated Drew Brees was enough to get the win.
The special teams, mainly in coverage, were less than solid, yielding a lofty 179 return yards. Rookie Nate Kaeding made his kicks, but could use a little more length on kickoffs. Punter Mike Scifres was solid, but also could've benefitted the team with more distance on his boots, though his hang time was commendable.
The Chargers' first half defense looked like the 2003 defense. Texan screen passes went for big gains, the corners gave receivers Texas sized cushioning, they couldn't stop the run and they got little pressure on quarterback David Carr.
The Chargers allowed 259 net yards and a 17:15 to 12:45 time of possession advantage to the Texans in the first half.
In the locker room at halftime, the Charger defense rolled up their sleeves then proceeded to hold the Texans to 77 net yards and allowed the Charger offense to hold the ball for 18:25 to the Texans 11:35 in the second half. But the key to victory was timely take-aways.
The case could be made that the Chargers got lucky. In a sense they were; they fumbled twice but were able to recover the football both times. But it wasn't luck when linebacker Randall Godfrey knocked the ball out of Dominic Davis' hands on that timely fumble-recovery deep in Charger territory during the fourth quarter.
And it wasn't luck that the Charger offensive line, fielding two rookies, two veterans and a monstrous Samoan, were able to get the job done in crunch time. They weren't perfect on the day, but for their first game as a unit they passed the test, conceding just one sack and doing a decent job in the run game. Perhaps the biggest surprise were the numerous occasions that the line formed a pocket allowing Brees to scan the field. It actually looked like an NFL passing game.
Brees played like he did in his lone rookie season appearance when he relieved Doug Flutie against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2001. He let it fly in Houston. He was decisive, poised, focused, accurate for the most part, and perhaps most importantly, turnover free.
The look-off touchdown pass to wide receiver Eric Parker (yes, he was in-bounds) was perfect and even had some zip on it. As one of Brees' many critics, I must admit that the Drew Brees that was in Houston on Sunday looked like a starting NFL quarterback. A good one.
Antonio Gates has been touted all offseason, and now everybody knows why. Too quick and fast for most safeties and linebackers, and too big for cornerbacks, Gates can create huge matchup problems for defenses. Just ask Texans safety Eric Brown. Gates' work as a blocker also gets high marks. The team could do without his four penalties, but he made up for them with clutch plays.
-Safety Terrence Kiel was in on 10 tackles and had a sack, in which he was awful close to receiving a taunting penalty.
-Linebacker Zeke Moreno had two consecutive stuffs in a goaline situations, but seemingly over-pursued on the next, which left a hole for a Texan touchdown.
-Free agent linebackers Randall Godfrey and Steve Foley were all over the place. Godfrey with several stuffs and Foley with an interception.
-Donnie Edwards was Donnie Edwards. Another solid performance.
-Free Safety-in-a-cornerbacks-body Jerry Wilson missed a few tackles and cost his team 15 yards with a penalty, but also forced a key fumble and notched an interception.
-Wide receivers Reche Caldwell and Eric Parker didn't have huge games, but both proved reliable and made key plays.
One must not be too excited over first Charger victory. Team still has much to prove to gain respect. The road to respect becomes treacherous. One only needs to look into the past to see the New York Jets bring tough test to San Diego.
Upon Further Review- Week 1
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