At last! A flashback to a win! This one, like our other NFC North reviews, goes back to the stories 2007 season. Here, we're going to look at Norv's very first game as the Chargers' head coach, the season (and home) opener against the Chicago Bears.
Both the Bears and Chargers were coming off somewhat disappointing seasons--San Diego because they had compiled the NFL's best record in 2006 and then promptly blew their playoff opener, and Chicago because they had somehow made it to the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman starting at quarterback, and then blew it to the Indianapolis Colts, giving Peyton Manning his only Super Bowl Ring.
The Chargers were lucky enough to get to play the Bears before they benched Grossman in favor of Kyle Orton, and boy did he deliver. Grossman completed just 12 of 23 passing attempts for 145 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception, while taking three sacks and fumbling once. On the other side, things were a little better offensively (though not by much) for the Chargers. Rivers was almost identical to Grossman, except with a few more yards and a higher completion %: he completed 22 of 31 passes for 190 yards, no TDs, and one INT, took three sacks and fumbled once.The big difference in the game, though, was LaDainian Tomlinson. While only getting 25 rushing yards on 17 carries, LT threw for a touchdown to Antonio Gates--the much loved halfback pass that would never be seen again after this play. That play gave the Chargers their first score--and lead--of the game, putting them up 7-3 in the third quarter. Tomlinson would also score on the ground, finding the end zone in the fourth quarter to give San Diego a two score lead at 14-3, and essentially ice the game.
There were a few notable moments in the game. The Chargers shut out Devin Hester--he had several fair catches and zero returns. Nate Kaeding had a field goal blocked in the first quarter. My favorite moment in the game, though, had to be the events that lead to the Rivers "fumble". With 8:13 left in the 3rd quarter, San Diego had 2nd and goal at the Chicago 1 yard line. In a run-heavy formation, a Tommie Harris jumped across the line about a half second before the snap and blew up the snap between Nick Hardwick and Rivers, resulting in a "fumble" that the Bears recovered. Replays confirmed that Harris clearly jumped before the ball was snapped. The problem was that no referee was actually watching the line of scrimmage at the time, and so none saw the obvious offsides. Rivers and coach Turner spent about five minutes screaming at the head official and pointing to the large replay monitor, but to no avail. They were pretty mad. It was amusing to watch, though infuriating at the time.
All in all, it was a sloppy game by both offenses, but the Chargers made fewer mistakes than the Bears and came out with the win. It would be the lone highlight of the first month of 2007, as San Diego would go on to lose their next three games. The Bears would go on to have an injury-riddled season and finish 7-9, with Rex Grossman getting benched in favor of Kyle Orton.
Things are a bit different now--Tommie Harris plays for the Chargers, and Jay Cutler quarterbacks the Bears. Pretty much every measure available shows that Chicago is a superior team, and they'll be playing at home against an injury-plagued Charger team with an iffy quarterback. Well, at least it's football.