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Archive for Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Calm Brees sparks Chargers

San Diego opens with 5-1 mark

October 15, 2002

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— The San Diego Chargers still can't believe they got away with their latest win.

Then again, they've got a calm, cool quarterback in Drew Brees, which is the main reason why they're atop the AFC West and sharing the NFL's best record with four other teams.

The Chargers (5-1) were alternately shaking their heads and smiling Monday, a day after they survived five turnovers and a blocked punt to beat division rival Kansas City 35-34.

The victory makes Sunday's road game against the hated Raiders even bigger than normal, because Oakland (4-1) is one-half game behind San Diego after losing for the first time Sunday, to the previously winless St. Louis Rams.

The Chargers beat the Chiefs because Brees, with no timeouts left, led them 71 yards for the winning score, a 2-yard pass to rookie Reche Caldwell with 14 seconds left.

"When you look at Drew, there are certain qualities about him that really don't have anything to do with even playing football," coach Marty Schottenheimer said Monday. "There's this kind of demeanor he has. At the half I walked up to him before we got ready to go and I said, 'You OK?' And he looked at me and he said, 'I'm fine.' and then he smiles at me.

"You've heard me reference some of these young players, you look them in the eyes and you see the back of their head. Did you see him in the fourth quarter as we're driving? I mean, that's a quality that no coach coaches him to be that way. It's just the way he is."

Brees was intercepted once in the first half and again early in the third quarter. Even with the miscues, the Chargers never got further than 10 points behind. Once they held onto the ball, they scored TDs on their last four possessions, three in the fourth quarter.

The Chargers' winning drive started with 2:24 to play.

"I like those situations because I feel like I can get in a rhythm, get in a groove and you're just so focused on the moment and what's going on, what you need to do," said Brees, who finished with 319 yards and two touchdown passes. Plus, I was just glad I had a chance to redeem myself after I felt like I didn't play such a great second and third quarter. It was good to be able to have a chance to win the game."

Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, forced from the game after aggravating his sprained left ankle, watched the finish on a TV in the locker room.

"Normally you wait for the next week for redemption. Well, the guys wanted to do it in two minutes. It was pretty nice to see," Seau said.

Schottenheimer said the Chargers will enjoy this win a little longer than normal.

"I told the players, I've never been a mountain climber, but it has to be like climbing the Himalayas in the middle of winter. You just keep wondering, 'When is this going to stop?'

"You have to be very, very fortunate to win a game when you turn it over that many times, plus the blocked punt," Schottenheimer said.

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