He was practically perfect.
Brees continued his remarkable turnaround from last season's
nightmare, throwing a career-high five touchdown passes and setting
team records for pass efficiency in leading the surprising San
Diego Chargers to a 42-14 rout of the hapless Raiders on Sunday.
Brees completed his first eight passes to quiet the thousands of
Raiders fans in the stadium, and finished 22-of-25 for 281 yards
and no interceptions. His 88-percent completion rate and 153.1
passer rating were team records. The highest rating a quarterback
can have is 158.3.
"Drew's on fire," star running back LaDainian Tomlinson said.
"It was fun," Brees said. "It felt like we could run anything
in our base offense and we knew it was going to work. We had that
If Brees had played like this last year, the Chargers wouldn't
have needed to spend a No. 1 pick and $40 million on another
quarterback, Philip Rivers.
Brees is doing his best to keep Rivers on the sideline. And
since this is the last year of his contract, he could present the
front office with a dilemma if he keeps playing well.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer planned to take Brees out in the
final minutes, but said Rivers told him: "Coach, the way he is
playing, let him finish."
The Chargers made Brees the scapegoat for an NFL-worst 4-12
season in 2003, a move that backfired when Rivers, obtained in a
draft-day deal with the New York Giants for Eli Manning and a
handful of picks, missed the first month of training camp in a
contract holdout, allowing Brees to keep his job.
Brees said his motivation is to keep winning games and a
championship, not to prove people wrong.
"I play for this team," he said. "Obviously I love the game
and feel we have something special. I want more than anything for
it to keep going."
Brees said the biggest difference between last season and this
season is experience.
"The game is slowing down. You see things before they happen,"
The Chargers are 5-3 at the season's midpoint and tied for the
AFC West lead with Denver, which lost to Atlanta.
Brees has thrown 14 touchdown passes against just three
interceptions this year, compared to his 15 interceptions and 11
TDs last year. His previous best for touchdown passes in a game was
three, which he did three times.
He hit tight end Antonio Gates with scoring passes of 5 yards
and 1 yard on consecutive drives in the third quarter to give the
Chargers a 42-7 lead. The second scoring pass to Gates came on
fourth down, and the former Kent State basketball star spiked the
ball through the uprights. He normally throws the ball to an
"We all trust Drew," Gates said. "Right now, he's the captain
of the ship. He's making this offense click."
The Raiders (2-6) lost their fifth straight and for the 13th
straight time on the road. Kerry Collins was intercepted twice --
giving him 11 in 5½ games since replacing the injured Rich Gannon --
and the Raiders were held to 22 yards rushing.
"It is real simple -- we are not a good football team," said
cornerback Charles Woodson, who re-injured his hip.
The Raiders have lost 16 of their last 20 games.
"We just got flat embarrassed," defensive lineman Warren Sapp
said. "For some reason, we just can't turn this vibe off."
It was just the second time the Chargers scored more than 40
points in their last 132 games dating to 1996.
Brees' first three TD passes Sunday went 17 yards to tight end
Justin Peelle in the first quarter, and 13 yards to Keenan
McCardell and 23 yards to Tim Dwight in the second. The Chargers
led 28-7 at halftime.
McCardell, obtained two weeks ago from Tampa Bay, said he knew
Brees was a competitor.
"He steps up to challenges. You've got to give him a lot of
credit. He wants to be great," McCardell said.
Tomlinson, slowed the last four games by a strained groin,
scored on a 1-yard dive over the pile for a 14-0 lead in the second
quarter. He finished with 71 yards on 19 carries.
Tyrone Wheatley scored on a 5-yard run in the second quarter and
Collins threw a 13-yard TD pass to Doug Jolley in the fourth for
the Raiders. Collins was 24-of-39 for 263 yards.
^Notes:@ San Diego's previous completion percentage record was 81.8
percent by Rick Neuheisel, the replacement quarterback during the
1987 strike. ... Brees' five TD passes tied him for second-most in
team history, one behind Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, who threw six at
Oakland on Nov. 22, 1981. ... Chargers rookie center Nick Hardwick
sustained a concussion in the second quarter and was replaced by