The 2011 NFL season that almost wasn’t because of the lockout is now upon us. As eager fans packed Qualcomm stadium on opening day for the contest between the Chargers and Vikings the atmosphere was electric. The day was bittersweet because not only were we celebrating the beginning of the new football season, but we were also remembering the tragic events of 9/11 as a nation.
The Vikings won the coin toss and elected to receive. San Diego fans were stunned when the Vikings’ WR Percy Harvin took the opening kickoff, 103 yards to the house to open the game 7-0. The atmosphere was palpable as Chargers fans were once again reminded of last year’s special teams woes. To add insult to injury, the Chargers Pro Bowl placekicker Nate Kaeding was lost for the season to a torn ACL after he attempted to tackle the elusive Harvin.
Was this what the rest of the season was going to look like for the Chargers? The notoriously slow starting team had spent the entire preseason focusing on getting out to a fast start during this campaign, something that hadn’t happen in the last few years.Despite the rough beginning for the Chargers, they used the time wisely in the first quarter as they drove the ball down the field. The Chargers responded with a touchdown of their own when Rivers threw a short pass to RB Mike Tolbert. Pressed into action because of the injury to Kaeding, the extra point by punter Mike Scifres was good, tying the game 7-7. By halftime the Chargers went into the locker room trailing 17-7.
After their halftime adjustments, the Chargers dominated the Vikings by scoring 17 unanswered points in the second half. They tied the game up in the third quarter when Scifres kicked a 40-yard goal, his first field goal since college days.
Rivers had completed 33 out of 48 passes for 335 yards during the game, but he also was intercepted twice, which threatened the Chargers’ chances for a victory. However, Rivers once again proved his great athleticism and ability as an all-time QB to beat the clock and pass for the winning TD. With 5:01 left in the fourth quarter, Rivers scrambled to find Tolbert for a 19-yard touchdown pass, upping the Chargers to a 24-17 advantage.
No doubt that this game started off crazy. It worried many spectators whether the Chargers would fall into the same hole as in 2010 because of special teams. The Chargers are still facing problems concerning Kaeding and his season-ending knee injury, forcing Scifres to play the rest of the game in his place. But as of Wednesday, news is that the Chargers have signed veteran kicker Nick Novak from the Jets to replace Kaeding for the season. Tolbert alarmed the team with an injury scare when he limped off the field, but he is not expected to miss any playing time.
The Chargers won the contest, but it clearly was not an easy victory. They persevered and came together as team despite their early setback. It was an exhilarating and some times nerve-racking game for devoted Chargers fans.
Now the main concern is are the Chargers strong enough to face the New England Patriots next weekend and leave with another win? This last week the Patriots with Tom Brady in command surgically dismantled the Miami Dolphins defense to a final score of 38-24. Brady threw a record setting 517-yrd, 4- TD in the season opener for the Pats, making him a major threat to the Chargers’ record. Bolts will need to put pressure with an effective rush on Brady to get him out of his rhythm.
The Chargers bring back last years number one rated defense with the addition of some veteran players like Spikes and Travis LaBoy shoring up their line-backing core, which will undoubtedly be a tougher challenge for Brady. This early matchup between two of the top teams from the AFC could very well be a preview of the championship game. With quarterbacks like Brady and Rivers at the helm, this game plans to be a high scoring affair and would expect to be a high scoring game and quite possibly a case of last team with the ball winning.