Norv Turner opened his post-game comments stating the defense set the tone of the game. He felt it was the reason Chargers beat the New York Jets 48-29 Monday night at Qualcomm Stadium.
“When (the Jets) have an interception for a touchdown and kickoff return to the 5-yard line, and those are their only points of the half
— we only gave up 80 yards in the first half (84 actually) — well, we got back to the way we play,” Turner said.
Then somebody reminded Turner that second-year wide receiver Buster Davis — coming off an unproductive rookie year — kept two early scoring drives alive for a 10-7 lead with three third-down catches over the middle that totaled 43 yards.
“I’m glad you reminded me of that,” Turner said. “That is something that set the tone for the game. He’s a talented young player, but he’s had unfortunate injuries. It was a big lift he gave us. I think he’s going to be an exciting player for us. Sometimes it takes young guys a little longer. He’s doing that, and he stepped up big tonight.”
So which one set the tone, Norv? The defense or Buster?
It’s not that Turner was confused; it’s just that he had a choice this week, unlike those two season-opening losses to Carolina and Denver when the Chargers’ defense gave up big yardage and dramatic winning touchdowns.
The Chargers’ defense wasn’t dominating against the Jets — it gave up
308 total yards. But it forced three turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
If the Chargers can hold their opponents without a scoring drive in the first half, the offense can build big leads as it did against the Jets.
The Chargers have scored 110 points in their first three games. Only the 1981 Bolts, with Hall-of-Famers Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow and Charlie Joiner and Chuck Muncie, a running back with Hall-of-Fame talent wiped out by drug problems, have scored more in their first three games.
You can gripe about the big plays the Jets put together or their long kick returns — and plenty of you will — but that’s football, especially in this era of parity. Turner said a focus this week will be fixing those problems before Sunday’s game at the Oakland Raiders.
But the offense doesn’t need to be fixed. It just needs to get healthy.
It’s put up 110 points without full production from running back LaDainian Tomlinson, a future Hall-of-Famer, and tight end Antoino Gates, a Hall-of-Famer at the pace he’s producing, fully healthy.
One reason is quarterback Philip River, now in his fifth NFL season and third as a starter, is playing at the highest level of his career.
“They doubled our outside receivers and every one doubles Gatesy,”
Turner said. “When they do that, (Davis) ends up in can single coverage. Philip has done a great job of moving in the pocket, which he’s done in each game to buy a little extra time. He was getting the ball to (Davis).”
Hey, maybe it was actually Rivers who set the tone.
— TOM SHANAHAN