- Aug 18, 2005
SAN DIEGO ---- It was a Rebel's yell that made the Chargers' game Sunday night such an emotional affair. And New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, the former University of Mississippi star, was heard loud and clear with a career night at Qualcomm Stadium.
But Manning didn't get his first career road victory. The Chargers had the last laugh, rolling to a 45-23 victory before 65,373 and a national TV audience.
LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another, Drew Brees tossed two scoring passes and Keenan McCardell had two touchdown receptions to help the Chargers collect their most points since 1993.
As well as their first victory of 2005.
"We needed this victory, and to go out and score 45 as an offense, that is what we wanted to do,'' said Brees, who was 19-of-22 passing for 191 yards. "We had gone 0-2 and a lot of people were doubting our confidence, and to come out and have a win like this is just what we needed.''
Same goes for getting the ball to Tomlinson. After being restricted to 38 carries the first two games, the Chargers' star running back had 192 yards on 21 rushes, six receptions for 28 yards, and the touchdown pass.
"They worked me today,'' said Tomlinson, who had a 62-yard rush. "I'm happy with that. Any time I am sore, I am happy.''
Nothing brought as much joy to Tomlinson as his 26-yard, third-quarter toss to Keenan McCardell, although Tomlinson wondered if he put too much air under it.
"I thought I threw it too far,'' Tomlinson said of his second career touchdown pass. "I guess the old man still got some legs.''
The young man, Manning, showed off his arm.
It was Manning's first visit as a player since he informed the Chargers 17 months ago he didn't want to be in San Diego, prompting the team to trade him to the Giants on draft day. That gave Sunday's affair a bit of a playoff feel, with the fans revved to let Manning have it.
"It was an electrifying event out there,'' Tomlinson said.
To his credit, Manning played a stellar game, passing for a career-high 352 yards and two touchdowns while completing 24-of-41 passes. But what he couldn't do was play defense.
The versatile Chargers' offense had too much firepower for the Giants (2-1).
"We believed that they just couldn't stop us,'' Brees said.
After letting a 21-3 second-quarter cushion dwindle into a 21-20 halftime lead, the Chargers built it back to 35-20 on two third-quarter touchdown receptions, by McCardell and Antonio Gates.
But early on, it was obvious this would be a shootout.
The Chargers' backers had yet to go hoarse when Manning calmly marched the Giants 75 yards on the game's opening drive. But Manning's men stalled at the Chargers' 5-yard line, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin called for a Jay Feely 22-yard field goal instead of risking a fourth-and-1 play.
Energized by the defense keeping the Giants from the end zone, the offense countered with a score of its own.
In a series marked by Tomlinson's first reception of the season, he capped it with a 1-yard touchdown run around the left side.
The Bolts' lead grew to 14-3 early in the second quarter, with Brees hooking up with McCardell from 15 yards. McCardell was in single coverage with linebacker Reggie Torbor, and Brees threw it behind both players. McCardell stopped to make the catch as Torbor kept going.
Tomlinson collected his second touchdown, this one from 3 yards, for a 21-3 edge.
But Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer got beat by Plaxico Burress on a 5-yard fade route in the end zone ---- after allowing a 44-yard reception by Tim Carter ---- as the Giants pulled within 21-10.
Thanks to a Tomlinson fumble, the Giants sliced the deficit to 21-17, two minutes before the half. Manning squeezed a 4-yard touchdown pass between defensive backs Drayton Florence and Bhawoh Jue to David Tyree.
Feely tacked on another field goal in the half's closing seconds, a 40-yard effort that made it 21-20.
But the Chargers busted out their first victory of the season. It came at the right time, with a trip to New England and a visit by the Pittsburgh Steelers on deck.
"This thing is a lot bigger than Eli and the Giants; it's all about us right now,'' linebacker Steve Foley said. "This win means everything in the world to us.''
Even if their world never will include Manning.