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Running, Catching, Throwing, Tomlinson Overwhelms Giants

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Sep 26, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/26/sports/football/26giants.html" target="_blank">The New York Times</a>

    <img src="http://bolttalk.com/images/tomlinson06.jpg" alt="LT" />

    SAN DIEGO, Sept. 25 - Had Eli Manning not interfered at all with the 2004 National Football League draft, had he just smiled when he was picked and boarded the first plane west to San Diego, he and the Chargers might actually have made a great team.

    A major reason Manning did not want to join the Chargers was that he simply did not believe they were good enough. He did not want to hand off to LaDainian Tomlinson. He did not want to throw to Antonio Gates. He did not want to entrust leads to that mishmash defense.

    And so, on the night that Manning played his best game as a professional, he had to have asked himself if he had picked the better side. The Giants lost to the Chargers, 45-23, on Sunday night not because they have Manning, but because they did not have enough to go along with him.

    San Diego got back at Manning in the most aggressive way, thoroughly embarrassing his chosen defense. The Chargers scored touchdowns on their first three drives of the game and their first three drives of the second half. Tomlinson rushed for three touchdowns, passed for another, caught six passes and ran for 192 yards, showing Manning what kind of backfield they could have made.

    The Chargers clawed the Giants without getting too many hands on Manning. Despite all the derogatory chants and cheers, Manning looked as if he felt at home. He completed 24 of 41 passes for 352 yards, and still the Giants were barely competitive in the second half. After every San Diego touchdown, the Qualcomm Stadium's speakers blared the song "We Got More Bounce in California."

    Maybe this place would not have been so bad.

    "I got about what I expected," Manning said. "Hopefully, we can put all this - the Chargers and every thing that happened - in the past."

    Perhaps Manning should have wanted to play at Qualcomm after all. By halftime, he had thrown for 206 yards, a career high. He threw under pressure, on the run, in the face of intense noise. The last time Manning was in this sort of environment, he was in college, playing in the Southeastern Conference. He seemed to savor it. Ordering teammates at the line of scrimmage, he flapped his arms wildly, looking much like his older brother, Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning.

    With the city of San Diego focused on Manning's right arm, no one gave much thought to Tomlinson's. But it was Tomlinson, the Chargers' tailback, who made one of the most impressive passes of the night, taking a sweep and tossing a 26-yard touchdown to Keenan McCardell to cap the first drive of the second half. Tomlinson, already abusing the Giants as a runner and receiver, demoralized them as a passer.

    Perhaps Manning's most significant memory of his trip to San Diego came with 3 minutes 39 seconds left in the first half, when he took a late hit from Chargers linebacker Ben Leber after lofting a 5-yard fade that Plaxico Burress caught in the back right corner of the end zone.

    At the time Manning let go of that pass, the Giants were down, 21-3. The Chargers' defense had started to hit him and their crowd had appeared to rattle him.

    But that one throw showed that Manning, in his second year in the N.F.L., could take San Diego's toughest shot and still deliver. After that touchdown and extra point, the Giants scored the next 10 points to narrow their deficit to 21-20 at halftime.

    Suddenly, fans stopped banging Manning dolls against the walls. The public-address announcer stopped reminding the bloodthirsty crowd: "Eli Manning at quarterback." And the scoreboard stopped flashing "Eli Stats," which included hits, hurries and sacks.

    The Giants' defense put Manning in the biggest hole of all. San Diego quarterback Drew Brees under-threw receivers three times in the first half, but all three throws led to touchdowns. Eric Parker juggled a ball that was thrown behind him and corralled it for a critical first down. McCardell caught a pass thrown behind him in the end zone. And McCardell went over Will Peterson for a 27-yard reception.

    "I was disappointed with everything we did defensively," Giants Coach Tom Coughlin said. "We couldn't stop them."

    Many expected San Diego's defense to be inspired the most by Manning's presence, but it was the offense that seemed compelled to upstage him. The Chargers, who lost the first two games of the season, in part because they did not consistently get the ball to Tomlinson, changed their game plan drastically. On the first drive, San Diego ran eight plays, six to Tomlinson, culminating in his 1-yard touchdown run.

    Although the Chargers and the Giants each have high-profile tailbacks - Tomlinson and Tiki Barber - the matchup of tight ends was perhaps more intriguing. Through three quarters, San Diego's Gates had 91 yards receiving and a touchdown. The Giants' Jeremy Shockey had 101 yards receiving, including a 32-yard catch-and-run on the second offensive play of the game and a leaping 30-yard grab late in the second quarter that helped set up a touchdown.

    Manning needed Shockey because his best receiver, Burress, was not in the starting lineup. The Giants said that they were punishing Burress for being late to meetings twice this week.

    "I don't think he should have gone that far," Burress said of Coughlin. "I figured I'd get fined, but I didn't think I'd miss the whole first quarter."

    Had Manning been surveying the scene when the Giants' bus rolled into Qualcomm Stadium, he would have seen vendors selling T-shirts and hundreds of signs, some more creative than others, disparaging him. One asked, "Hey Eli, Will Your Daddy Let You Play Today?"

    San Diego went after Manning. Manning went after San Diego. Oddly enough, they made a pretty sweet match.

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