- Aug 18, 2005
The Chargers offense knew as it took the field for the second half Sunday against the New York Giants that what it did on its first drive was going to set the tone for the rest of the game.
Having blown late leads and lost both of the season's first two games and having given away all but one point of an 18-point advantage against the Giants, the Chargers could hardly allow themselves to acknowledge an even deeper prospect – that the drive would perhaps set the tone for the remainder of this season.
Should the Chargers survive a treacherous October schedule and make a march to the playoffs, perhaps one series, perhaps one play, will be looked back on as the point where the 2005 season became viable.
And so it went:
Drew Brees took the first snap of the third quarter and handed off to LaDainian Tomlinson, who stepped left and then handed the ball to a streaking Eric Parker, who ran around right end and then 30 yards downfield to the Giants' 40.
Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi praised the Chargers' game plan and marveled at that play, in particular.
The Chargers on Sunday almost equaled their offensive production in the first two games combined. Their numbers against the Cowboys and Broncos vs. the Giants:
Games 1,2 Game 3
Total yards 504 485
Avg. first down gain 4.7 10.6
Third down conv. 11-26 5-8
Three-and-outs 6* 2**
Plays of 20-plus 4 7
Tomlinson touches 38 27
Tomlinson yards 124 220
Brees comp. pct. 56.9 86.3
Brees sacked 6 times 0 times
*(19 drives) **(10 drives)
"We take the momentum back, take the crowd out of the game at the half, and the first play of the second half, the way they sold the sweep to Tomlinson, we're going to think, sure, that's what they're going to do," Accorsi said the next day. "And they come right back with the reverse for (30) yards. Boy, that really hurt."
A Tomlinson run for 5 yards and a 9-yard pass to Antonio Gates followed. Then came a Brees pitch to Tomlinson, who rolled right, stopped and threw a spiral to Keenan McCardell on the run going into the end zone for a 26-yard scoring play. The Chargers led 28-20 and would go on to a 45-23 victory.
The drive was a perfect representation of the Chargers' offense on Sunday: deceptive, explosive, overpowering.
Whether that is a coming-out for the season remains to be seen, though it was reminiscent of the 2004 offense and it has restored good vibrations.
"Our confidence is back," center Nick Hardwick said. "And that's the key."
Asked this week if the victory was more important for the mere fact it was their first one or for the statement it made, Brees said: "It was probably a little bit of both. We wanted to get a victory. And to do it in that fashion, offensively we felt like every time we touched the ball we needed to get points. We almost did that."
It had been a rough few weeks for the Chargers. They said they were fine, just a few well-executed plays from winning. That may have been true, but they also felt the pressure.
Right tackle Shane Olivea said that against the Giants "you saw guys giving the extra effort."
And certainly, sustained execution was a major distinction between the offense that produced a total of 504 yards through the first two games and the unit that gained 485 in the third game.
The Chargers started quickly against Dallas and Denver but scored a total of 13 points in the second halves of those games. Against the Giants, they took 21 plays to score 21 points on the first three drives of the first half. They also scored touchdowns on their first three drives of the second half, again taking 21 plays.
The offensive line was much stronger. Brees was not sacked; he had been taken down six times in the first two games. Tomlinson did not have a single carry for negative yardage, and his only 1-yard run was for a touchdown. In the first two games, Tomlinson was stopped for 1 yard or less 13 times.
Tomlinson, who was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, was shiftier and stronger against the Giants than he had been against Dallas or Denver. His moves Sunday were reminiscent of his best work, as he consistently popped away from defenders and ran through tackles for 192 rushing yards.
Brees, with many quick throws and more time than he had in the first two games, stayed in the pocket and completed 19 of his 22 passes.
But for all the improvement, there was an underlying reason the offense was finally what it was. The game plan created by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron allowed it to be so.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer does not allow media access to his coaching staff. So Cameron was unavailable to offer insight into what took him so long to open up the offense or why he was ultimately confident in doing so.
The players, however, were ebullient about a game plan that kept the Chargers offense shifting, kept the Giants on their heels and pretty much never stopped.
The Chargers, who mixed in some no-huddle in their first two games, were almost exclusively no-huddle against the Giants. By game's end, Chargers players noticed the fatigue in their opponents.
"They were worn down," Hardwick said. "We could power through them."
Going no-huddle also helped the offense stay focused.
"It creates a rhythm," Brees said. "And when you get positive plays you really start getting in that mode. There's no time to think. It's call the play and react. That's when were at our best, when we have tempo and rhythm. It makes it easier for Cam to call plays. We're getting chunks. You have a lot of confidence with what you're calling, and we have a lot of confidence with whatever is called."