Sunday, September 25, 2005

Tomlinson, Chargers Pick Apart Giants

In a game billed as a grudge match between Eli Manning and San Diego, the Giants (2-1) defense laid an egg in a 45-23 blowout loss to the Chargers (1-2).

After Manning led the Giants on an impressive 75-yard opening drive, it stalled at the San Diego five when coach Tom Coughlin didn't go for a fourth and inches, leading to a Jay Feeley 22-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. It was the only time they led all night.

The Giants couldn't stop the San Diego offense. They scored touchdowns on their first three drives, resulting in 21 unanswered points.

On the Chargers' first possession, they marched down the field in eight plays needing 4:05 to go ahead 7-3 when LaDainian Tomlinson scored from one yard out. It was just the beginning of a nightmarish game, which saw Tomlinson destroy Big Blue for 246 total yards and four TDs. Tomlinson, who rushed for 192 on the ground ripped apart a Giant defense that had given up 103 total rushing yards the first two weeks against Arizona and New Orleans.

After a Jeff Feagles punt, the Bolts went 85 yards in seven plays, finishing it on a Drew Brees 15-yard TD pass to Keenan McCardell to go up 14-3 1:12 into the second quarter.

It got worse on the Chargers next possession. Just 3:33 later, Tomlinson rushed for a three-yard score making it 21-3.

The Giants finally got back into the game when Manning led them to back-to-back TDs in a span of 2:24. With his team in need of a spark, the second-year QB gave it to them on a nine-play drive that lasted 6:01. He completed a five-yard TD pass to Plaxico Burress to cut it to 21-10 with 4:24 left in the first half. Burress, who was late for a team meeting, didn't start the first two possessions of the game.

After a rare fumble by Tomlinson at his own 34, Manning took only two plays to get in the end zone, finding David Tyree for a four-yard score to make it 21-17 at the two minute warning.

After a San Diego three-and-out, the Giants got even closer when Manning orchestrated an eight play 58-yard drive that ended with Feely's second field goal of the night from 40 yards with 15 seconds left in the half. But 21-20 was as close as they got.

When San Diego got the ball first in the second half, they immediately zipped down the field, needing four plays to cover a startling 70 yards in 1:52. It was the Giants inability to pressure Brees, cover or tackle Chargers that was a theme all game. Adding insult to injury, Tomlinson completed a 26-yard TD pass to McCardell for a 28-20 lead.

When Brees hit Antonio Gates for a 14-yard score with over 3:00 remaining in the third for a 35-20 cushion, the rout was on.

Brees missed only three passing attempts, going 19-of-22 for 191 yards and two TDs. Gates finished with six catches for 92 yards and a score while McCardell had four receptions for 80 yards and two TDs.

On a last ditch effort to get back in the game, Manning led them on a gutsy 16-play drive covering 59 yards which included a 12-yard scamper for a first down and a clutch 18-yard third down completion on the run to Tyree keeping the drive alive. Booed all night in a hostile environment, Manning threw for a career high 352 yards and two scores. Feely's 28-yard field goal made it 35-23 with 12:22 left.

It wouldn't matter when like a broken record, Tomlinson scored again from five yards out for his third rushing TD of the game 3:07 later for a 42-23 lead, putting the game out of reach.

Nate Kaeding added a 44-yard field goal with four minutes left in the game for a 45-23 final.

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