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Wednesday, September 14, 2005 | San Diego succumbed to the Cowboys, 28-24, in a Week 1 thriller. There were plenty of highlights and low points in a shootout that came down to the wire.
Report Card. The Chargers failed to pass their first test of the season. They did not flunk the exam, barely squeaking out a D from frowning fans filing out of Qualcomm. To accurately summarize this performance, a new grade is needed. Today’s letter is ‘P’ as in a botched punt, third-down penalties, pressure in the pocket and a pair of picks. These were the pitfalls that led to a potentially pivotal loss.
Shank You Very Much. Mike Scifres did not get a kick out of his season opener. An 18-yard punt off the side of his foot in the fourth quarter allowed the Cowboys to begin their game-winning drive on the Chargers’ 44-yard line. Scifres’ first punt of the day went 45 yards and pinned the visitors on the 20-yard line. Nine plays and 80 yards later, Dallas had scored its first touchdown of the season tying the game at 7-7. However, the punter who took the field twice can shoulder a small portion of the blame.
Flag Day. San Diego was called for nine penalties and paid the price for its disobedience. Immediately after Scrifres’ shank, the defense had stopped Dallas on a third-and-16, but a holding penalty on Quentin Jammer kept the drive alive. It was Jammer’s second penalty on a third-down play in the fourth quarter. A critical penalty on third and long in the third quarter also led to a touchdown. Luis Castillo was not using his head when he smacked Bledsoe on the helmet with his right hand. The rookie lineman quickly learned that behavior is an automatic flag in this league.
Ballroom Blitz. The Chargers sent defenders from all sides and sacked Bledsoe four times. Dallas had a similar game plan while debuting a new 3-4 alignment. The Cowboys managed to lasso Brees just twice, but harassed him all afternoon and forced two interceptions. Terence Newman set up the Cowboys’ first touchdown by picking off a pass on the Chargers’ 34. Aaron Glenn sealed San Diego’s fate with an interception in the end zone in the final seconds of the game.
Four and No Score. An amazing 33-yard catch by Eric Parker on fourth-and-14 from the Dallas 40 gave the Chargers first-and-victory to go with 1:30 on the clock. Three incomplete passes and an interception followed, leaving one to ponder why LaDainian Tomlinson never touched the ball with the game on the line. Considering the amount of time remaining and Brees was without his primary red-zone target, the suspended Antonio Gates, getting the ball into L.T.’s hands should have been a priority.
Noteworthy Items. L.T. hit pay dirt for the 13th consecutive game in the first quarter, which put him in a tie with John Riggins and George Rogers for the NFL record … Keenan McCardell was unstoppable posting nine catches for 123 yards and two TDs. He is now tied with Chargers Hall of Fame coach James Lofton for 14th on the all-time reception list … Darren Sproles is lightning in a bottle. He brought the sellout crowd to its feet with a pair of 49-yard kickoff returns that led to San Diego’s 10 points in the second half.
Kevin Aron is a freelance writer in San Diego and outright sports junkie. Kevin has worked in college sports information, sports agent offices and, most recently, as managing editor of DIRECTVSPORTS.com for nearly five years.