SAN DIEGO (AP) -- One after another, the San Diego Chargers'
newcomers ran off the field with mementos for their trophy cases.
Rookie LaDainian Tomlinson kept the two balls he carried in for
touchdowns in San Diego's 30-3 win Sunday over the Washington
Tim Dwight held onto the ball he carried 84 yards for a TD on a
punt return. Cornerbacks Ryan McNeil and Alex Molden, newcomers to
a secondary that was beaten for 33 touchdowns last year, each
intercepted Jeff George.
These sure aren't the same ol' Chargers.
It was the first game of the post-Ryan Leaf era, and the
Chargers didn't look anything like the team that was an
embarrassing 1-15 in 2000. They needed just one afternoon to get
their first win of the season, not three months like last year.
"When they all play hard, you have a chance," said general
manager John Butler, who tore apart the roster after he was hired
in early January.
It was Butler who traded the first pick in April's draft to
Atlanta, which took Michael Vick. The Chargers ended up with Dwight
and the fifth pick, which they used on Tomlinson.
Despite missing most of training camp in a contract holdout,
Tomlinson ran for 113 yards on 36 carries and scored on runs of 3
and 1 yards. He was San Diego's first 100-yard rusher in 17 games.
Tomlinson's performance helped Norv Turner, the Chargers'
offensive coordinator, exact revenge on the Redskins, who fired him
as head coach with three games left to play last season.
"I knew my job was to come in and run the football," Tomlinson
said. "I knew Norv was going to give it to me and give me the
opportunity. I knew I had to step up to the challenge whether I was
ready or not. I made myself ready before camp."
Quarterback Doug Flutie, who at 38 finally doesn't have to look
over his shoulder, had an average day in his Chargers debut. He
completed 10 of 18 passes for 129 yards, with no touchdowns and two
The Redskins had just 161 yards total offense, and Stephen
Davis, one of 19 running backs who rushed for more yards last year
than the entire Chargers team, was held to 35 yards on 14 carries.
He fumbled three times, losing one.
"We're going to stay humble," Seau said. "We're the 1-15
Chargers until we prove otherwise."
Still, it's a vast change from last year, when the Chargers went
0-11 before winning their first game.
San Diego might have had a shutout if not for two turnovers deep
in its own territory. A lost fumble by Tomlinson was negated when
Harrison recovered a fumble by Davis at the Chargers 5. But wideout
Curtis Conway fumbled after a catch two plays later, setting up
Brett Conway's kick.
The Redskins' new coach, Marty Schottenheimer, returned from a
two-year hiatus to take over a team that badly underachieved last
year, going 8-8 when it thought it could reach the Super Bowl.
The Skins started 2001 much the way they finished last year.
They fumbled seven times, recovering five, and finished with four
George lost a fumble to go with his two interceptions, and he
was 8-of-18 for 66 yards before Tony Banks replaced him in the
Schottenheimer wouldn't say who will start the Redskins' home
opener against Arizona next Sunday. George refused to speak to
"This is Jeff George's team and it's going to stay that way
until someone tells me otherwise," said Banks, who's been with the
Skins only three weeks, since Dallas cut him.
San Diego, which led the NFL with 50 turnovers last year, also
had four turnovers.
Dwight needed just one block to spring him on his 84-yard return
of Bryan Barker's punt.
Tomlinson scored on a 3-yard run in the second quarter that made
it 17-0. He also scored on a 1-yard run with 4:16 left in the game.
Richey, shaky in the exhibition season, had field goals of 21,
48 and 32 yards. He replaced Carney, whose 52-yard field goal with
just more than two minutes left gave San Diego its only win last
year, 17-16 over Kansas City on Nov. 26.
Tomlinson's 36 carries were the most by a Chargers rookie
and tied for third-highest in team history. ... Skins rookie CB
Fred Smoot, who beat out 19-year veteran Darrell Green, had his
first interception. ... Chargers TE Freddie Jones got debris in his
eyes from on-field fireworks that were shot off during
introductions and had to be helped to the bench so the trainers
could clean it out. ... San Diego won for the first time in seven
games against Washington. ... The last Chargers punt return TD was
by Eric Metcalf against Denver on Nov. 30, 1997.