Welcome to Flashback! As we saw a couple weeks ago, this feature will take a look at the last time the Chargers played their upcoming opponent, what happened that day, and what's changed since then. Today, we'll take a look at a meeting most Charger fans likely will want to forget--November 4, 2007 when San Diego traveled to Minnesota to play the Vikings.
On the surface, everything leading up to this game looked good for San Diego. The Chargers had reeled off 3 straight wins and looked to put their dismal 1-3 start behind them by rolling over the hapless Vikings. Minnesota was just 2-5 and riding a two-game losing streak. Most fans on both sides felt this game had a foregone conclusion--the Chargers were getting things figured out at the right time and the Vikings would simply be their next victim. There was even one article in a Minnesota newspaper that pointed out how terrible the Vikings were at covering tight ends, and wondered how they could even hope to slow All-Everything Antonio Gates. End of story, right?Well, as it happens, things began well enough for the Chargers. On their second possession of the game, Rivers and company were handed some decent field position and a couple nice pass plays to Legedu Naanee later had first and goal at the 1 yard line. The Vikings' run defense was stiff, but after three tries LaDainian Tomlinson found the end zone and the Chargers went up 7-0.
The lead, however, was short-lived. The Vikings ran the ensuing kickoff all the way to the San Diego 39 yard line, and a few Adrian Peterson rushing attempts later the game was 7-7. The rest of the first half involved pretty much nothing happening. After that touchdown, the two teams exchanged nine (9!) punts before the Vikings took over with 2:24 left at their own 20. That's when things got interesting. During the drive, Tavaris Jackson managed to get hurt, again, and left Brooks Bollinger to take over at quarterback. He and Peterson drove the Vikings to the San Diego 39 yard line, where Ryan Longwell attempted a 57 yard field goal. The attempt fell short, and Antonio Cromartie outran the entire Minnesota FG unit and scored a touchdown on the longest play in NFL history--109 yards, a record which can only be tied, and never broken.
The incredible play put the Chargers up 14-7 heading into halftime, but unfortunately that would be the last good thing to happen for the Chargers that day, as things fell apart in the second half. The Vikings took the opening kickoff, and scored when Peterson broke loose for a 64-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 14-14. On the first play of the next drive, Rivers and back-up center Cory Withrow botched the snap, and the Vikings took over at the Charger 20. The Vikings fumbled themselves, however, on the San Diego 3, saving the Chargers from their mistake and allowing the visitors to at least move the ball a little before punting again. This drive saw Rivers break a stretch of 11 consecutive incompletions. Yeah, it was that kind of day.
Everything just sort of went downhill after that. The Vikings scored a touchdown on a 40 yard pass from Bollinger to Sidney Rice, and on a 1-play drive consisting of a 46-yard Peterson run. The Chargers continued to give up big plays on the ground, to both Peterson and Taylor, and managed only a field goal themselves. The final score saw the Chargers on the short end, 35-17.
A look at the numbers illustrates just how thoroughly the Chargers were outplayed. Rivers completed only 19 of 42 passes for 197 yards, no touchdowns, and 1 interception. San Diego as a team had only 42 rushing yards on 20 attempts, good for a whopping 2.1 yards per carry. On the flip side, we know how good the Vikings looked--Peterson rushed for an NFL record 296 yards on 30 attempts, and San Diego allowed Bollinger to complete 7 of 10 passes for 95 yards and a TD, which is pretty good for a backup, especially when you consider four of his 7 completions either converted 3rd downs or scored a touchdown.
The overall game stats were just as ugly. Minnesota gained 528 net yards to the Chargers' 229, and dominated the time of possession 34 minutes to 26. It was, all in all, a perfect storm of suck for San Diego.
So what's changed? Why should hapless Charger fans expect anything different this time around? Well, a lot has changed, actually. For starters, it's exceedingly unlikely Philip will complete less than 50% of his passes and that he'll throw 11 straight incompletions. He's come a long way from the inexperienced youngster he was in the first half of the 2007 campaign. It's also highly unlikely Adrian Peterson will take over the game like he did four years ago. Will he break 100 yards? Probably. Will he break 200? Probably not.
The Vikings could not be more different from the team they were in 2007. They've got a new quarterback, a new head coach, new coordinators, a new offensive line, a new defensive line, new receivers, etc. and so forth. There is almost zero chance that this game will resemble anything close to what happened back then. And that should make Charger fans very, very happy.