NFL@L.A.: Minnesota Vikings

Raiders rising but can they breathe?

November, 20, 2011
11/20/11
4:08
PM PT
For the first three quarters of their 27-21 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Oakland Raiders looked like the class of the AFC West and a scary good young team that could make enough noise in the playoffs to net the Cincinnatti Bengals two first-round draft choices from the Carson Palmer trade after all.

In the fourth quarter they looked like the same undisciplined, immature Oakland Raiders team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2003.

The Raiders weren't just bad in the fourth quarter Sunday, they seemed hellbent on giving away the game to a Vikings team that has done the same on way too many occasions this season.

First Sebastian Janikowski had a 48-yard field-goal attempt blocked. Then Michael Bush fumbled inside the Raiders 40 yard line just moments after the Oakland defense came up with a key interception in the endzone to thwart a nice drive by the Vikings. In between the Raiders committed an alarming number of penalties.

Some of the dysfunction can be attributed to the scary injury to wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was carted off the field because of a neck injury.

Some of the penalties whistled by the officials were probably due more to the Raiders' reputation for reckless, undisciplined play. They are guilty until presumed innocent far too often for it to be a coincidence, which I assume is why coach Hue Jackson decided to take a heavy fine for the team and criticize the officials after they whistled his team for 12 penalties that cost the Raiders 117 yards during the game.

But way too much of the Raiders problem late in Sunday's game has to do with attitude.

This has been a team on its way up for the better part of two years now. They've played -- as young teams generally do -- with a large chip on their shoulder.

Now all of a sudden they have arrived and they seem to have little idea of how to breathe the air up there.

(Read full post)

NFL@LA Four Corners

October, 14, 2011
10/14/11
1:24
PM PT
Each Friday we will update you on the four NFL teams most likely move to Los Angeles; ranking them in order of the likeliest to call L.A. home within the next few years.

1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (4-1)

Last week: San Diego beat the Denver Broncos 29-24 at Mile High. The Chargers withstood a late rally from Tim Tebow to start the season 4-1 for the first time since 2006. Ryan Mathews had 125 yards on 24 carries, Malcolm Floyd had 100 yards and 1 touchdown on just three catches and Philip Rivers threw for 250 yards and touchdown. San Diego was up 26-10 with seven minutes left in the game before Tebow came in and scored two touchdowns and forced San Diego to sweat out a late two-point conversion attempt and onside kick.

This week: The Chargers have a bye this week, which means they can enjoy their 4-1 record a little longer before getting ready to fly to New York to play the Jets next week.

L.A. Story: Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani conducted a Q&A with fans on the team’s website this week and once again took a shot at AEG, which again confirms what we’ve said all along, that the two sides are negotiating. AEG wants a share of the team at half price and the Chargers want to sell a share of the team at more than full price. Something tells me they’ll meet somewhere closer to market value at some point. Here is what Fabiani had to say: “AEG has been aggressively promoting its project, which it has every right to do. And AEG’s promotional efforts get a lot of attention. That’s just the way it is, and there’s nothing we can do about that. For our part, the Chargers must remain focused on our downtown San Diego options while explaining to our fans that there are many, many impediments in the way of the AEG project. You mentioned perhaps the biggest one of all: AEG wants to buy a significant chunk of a team at a discounted price. That is just not going to happen, at least as far as the Chargers are concerned, and from what I read, not as far as the NFL is concerned either.”

2. OAKLAND RAIDERS (3-2)

Last week: Oakland beat the Houston Texans 25-20 at Reliant Stadium in one of the most emotional wins in Raiders history. The Raiders, who dedicated the game and the rest of the season to owner Al Davis who died 24 hours earlier, found a way to upset Houston in a game that came down to the final play when Raiders safety Michael Huff intercepted Texans quarterback Matt Schaub’s pass in the end zone with no time remaining to clinch the win for Oakland. After the game Raiders coach Hue Jackson got down on his knees and cried as did Davis son, Mark, watching from the owner’s box. There were ten men on the field for the Raiders on the last play but Raiders CEO Amy Trask said, “No, we had eleven.”

This week: The Raiders will play their first game back in Oakland since the death of Davis as they face the Cleveland Browns at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. A tribute to Davis and a moment of silence will precede the game and the Raiders are encouraging fans to get to the stadium early for the moment of silence and stay in their seats for what Trask said there would be a surprise ceremony at halftime.

L.A. Story: The chances of the Raiders returning to Los Angeles were remote with Davis as the owner. He did not want to give up his controlling interest in the Raiders and since that controlling interest consists of only a 46 percent ownership stake in the team he was also in no position to sell a 30 percent stake which is what both Los Angeles stadium groups are looking for. He also didn’t want the Raiders to share the L.A. market and stadium with another team. Remember, he walked away from a new stadium at Hollywood Park in 1995 when the league wanted him to agree to share the stadium with a second team in the future. Now the question is will Carol and Mark Davis be willing to sell the team to one of the two Los Angeles groups looking to build a new stadium in L.A. since the Raiders have been unable to get a new stadium built since moving back to Oakland and their only hope now for a new stadium is sharing one with the 49ers in Santa Clara. That is, of course, if they can ever get the funding for it.

3. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (1-4)

Last week: Minnesota won its first game of the season 34-10 by beating the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Vikings, who had squandered a 20-0 third quarter lead and a 17-0 third quarter lead this season and been outscored 67-6 after halftime finally got a lead big enough that they could keep. The Vikings went up 28-0 in the first quarter and never looked back despite only kicking two field goals the rest of the game.

This week: The Vikings try to make it two in a row this week as they travel to Chicago to play the Bears. Minnesota will try to snap a three-game skid against the Bears and if the Vikings are to be successful they will need a better performance from Donovan McNabb whose completion percentage (56.8) and yards per attempt (6.43) rank 27th in the league.

L.A. Story: The Vikings moved down the list this week after a Ramsey County panel on Tuesday decided not to call a countywide referendum next year on a proposed half-cent sales tax hike to help build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium in Arden Hills. The decision eliminated an obstacle that team officials said would have delayed the project and added to its cost. The Vikings, however, are still not out of the water yet. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said that the Vikings, who have offered $407 million towards the project, would probably need to raise that figure to $500 million to make the stadium a reality. Even then, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune points out, “there is still no state funding plan, no clear political roadmap to getting the needed 102 votes at the State Capitol and continued doubts about the sprawling suburban site the Vikings have chosen for a 65,000-seat stadium.”

4. ST. LOUIS RAMS (0-4)

Last week: St. Louis had a bye last week, which was probably good news for the winless Rams.

This week: The Rams will play the Green Bay Packers this Sunday at Lambeau Field in a game that could get ugly real fast. While Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers looks to lead the undefeated Packers to an eighth straight win at Lambeau Field, the winless Rams, who own the league's worst road record over the past four seasons, are just looking to stop the bleeding. Don’t expect that to happen this week.

L.A. Story: Last week we had former Los Angeles Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood saying he would like to see the Rams come back home to Los Angeles where they rightfully belong while he was on a book tour and this week TMZ caught up with Eric Dickerson at L.A. Live who said, “The ideal situation would be for the Rams to come back to L.A. That’s what I would like to see. I would like to see them come back here and become the Los Angeles Rams.”

NFL@LA mailbag

October, 14, 2011
10/14/11
10:32
AM PT
Welcome back to the NFL@LA mailbag where I’ll be answering all your NFL in Los Angeles questions. You can send me a question in the comments section below, on Twitter or you can find me on Facebook. We’re pretty flexible around here. And remember if you didn’t get your question answered or want to discuss anything further we will have an NFL@LA chat on Friday at 1 p.m.

You have pointed out that the Jaguars stadium lease make them unlikely candidates to move to LA. Can you provide some more details on what makes that arrangement so prohibitive for a move out of Northeast Florida? Are there any potential loopholes there?
-- Sean Lawton


Well, first of all, Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said he has no plans to sell the team or move the team. All the other teams that are rumored to move have owners that would either sell the team or move the team if they don’t get a new stadium. Jacksonville is always brought up presumably because it’s, well, Jacksonville. The Jaguars' lease to play at EverBank Field runs through the 2029 season, and if the Jaguars wanted to leave before then, they would be required to prove they had lost money in three consecutive seasons or convince a local judge that the city was failing to properly maintain the stadium. The odds of any NFL team losing money in any year, let alone three consecutive years, or a judge allowing the local NFL team to leave town are remote. Of course, leases can usually be broken for a negotiated price, but it seems the penalty would be too steep considering the other candidates available.

If Farmers Field is built in Downtown Los Angeles, How will the tailgating situation turn out with the lack of parking in Downtown? I read that the number of the parking lots in use now around LA Live will be further reduced by a number of construction projects (hotels, condos, etc.) that will take place in the future.
-- jamills21


Great question and it’s honestly the biggest problem AEG and Farmers Field must tackle along with finding ample parking, especially if they play weeknight games. AEG officials have said there will be room for tailgating and that there will be 32,000 parking spaces within a 15-minute walk of Farmers Field. The problem with that parking number is that it is good on weekends but many of those spaces would be occupied on a Monday or Thursday night for a game. And while there may be tailgating areas around Farmers Field it wouldn’t be like the ample room you’d find at the Rose Bowl or the projected stadium in the City of Industry which is being built in the center of 600 wide open acres.

(Read full post)

It's almost mailbag time again

October, 12, 2011
10/12/11
4:50
PM PT
The last edition of the NFL@LA mailbag went well. We covered the possibility of the Vikings coming to Los Angeles, UCLA and the Los Angeles Galaxy playing at Farmers Field and if the City of Industry site would serve Farmer John hot dogs.

Well, it's that time again. We'll be doing anything mailbag on Thursday so send your NFL@LA questions in the comments section below or through my Twitter or Facebook accounts and I will answer them here on the blog. I will also again be hosting a live chat Friday at 1 p.m. if I miss any questions or if you want to discuss anything further, so stop by and join the discussion.

NFL@LA Four Corners

October, 7, 2011
10/07/11
7:35
PM PT
Each Friday we will update you on the four NFL teams most likely to move to Los Angeles; ranking them in order of the likeliest to call L.A. home within the next few years.

1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (3-1)

Last week: San Diego beat the Miami Dolphins 26-16 at Qualcomm Stadium. It is only the second time since 2002 that the Chargers have started the season 3-1 and they have done it by defeating three winless teams. After so many years of starting the season slowly, however, the Chargers will take their fast start anyway they can get it. “The only thing faster would be 4-0,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “It's a little faster than it has been around here. It's usually a flip of 3-1.”

This week: The Chargers finally face a team that has won a game, although the 1-3 Denver Broncos aren’t exactly a juggernaut. San Diego will travel to Denver Sunday afternoon for an AFC West game and a win would give the Chargers a three-game winning streak and a 4-1 start to the season for the first time since 2006. Rivers, who had thrown six interceptions through the first three games of the season, finally went a game without throwing a pick but the team is still 16th in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, scoring eight touchdowns on 17 trips inside the 20-yard line.

L.A. Story: Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani is still pushing for the public to largely finance a football stadium in downtown San Diego, which would also serve as an extension to the San Diego Convention Center but after having the idea criticized by politicians and convention center officials, all involved the parties have “clammed up.” San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, convention center spokesman Steve Johnson, Sanders’ stadium point man, Fred Maas, spokesman for San Diego’s hoteliers, Mike McDowell, and Fabiani all declined to speak to the San Diego Union-Tribune about the project this week. “It’s time to have the discussion, but nobody wants to convene the discussion,” Tom Lemmon , business manager for the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, told the Tribune.

(Read full post)

It's almost mailbag time

October, 4, 2011
10/04/11
4:47
PM PT
The first edition of the NFL@LA mailbag went well. We covered the possibility of the Rams coming back to Los Angeles, USC playing at Farmers Field and if the NFL would realign divisions if a team relocated to Los Angeles.

Well, it's that time again. We'll be doing anything mailbag on Thursday so send your NFL@LA questions in the comments section below or through my Twitter or Facebook accounts and I will answer them here on the blog. I will also again be hosting a live chat Friday at 1 p.m. if I miss any questions or if you want to discuss anything further, so stop by and join the discussion.

From the Four Corners

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
7:37
AM PT
Each Friday we will update you on the four NFL teams most likely move to Los Angeles; ranking them in order of the likeliest to call L.A. home within the next few years.

1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (2-1)

" Last week: San Diego beat the Kansas City Chiefs 20-17 at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chiefs had lost their first two games by a combined score of 89-10 and had been outscored 74-14 in their last two games in San Diego but the Chargers simply couldn’t put the winless Chiefs away. It wasn’t until Chargers safety Eric Weddle intercepted Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel at midfield with 55 seconds left that they clinched the win and only their second 2-1 start since 2006.

" This week: The Chargers get to face another winless team at Qualcomm (both of their wins have come at home against the winless Minnesota Vikings and Chiefs) when they play the Miami Dolphins on Sunday and try to move to 3-1 for only the second time since 2002. Miami’s 30th ranked defense may be exactly what Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers needs to break out of the funk he’s been in. Rivers has thrown six interceptions through the first three games of the season; the most interceptions he has thrown during any three-game stretch in his career.

" L.A. Story: Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani sounded as excited as AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke about California Gov. Jerry Brown signing SB 292 and AB 900 on Tuesday, two bills that will expedite legal challenges to big-ticket statewide projects such as stadiums and arenas. Fabiani is hoping the bill will expedite challenges to his proposed Chargers stadium and convention center expansion in downtown San Diego. Although expediting legal challenges is the least of Fabiani’s worries. First he has to get politicians, citizens, hoteliers and the convention center behind his plan to scrap the current convention center expansion and get behind a dual stadium/convention center project and find a way to finance it. I guess, once he get past those hurdles and an environmental impact report he can get excited about expediting legal challenges.

(Read full post)

We've got mail: NFL@L.A. mailbag

September, 29, 2011
9/29/11
1:43
PM PT
Welcome to the first installment of the NFL@LA Mailbag where I’ll be answering your NFL in Los Angeles questions every Thursday. You can send me a question in the comments section below, on Twitter or you can find me on Facebook. We’re pretty flexible around here. And remember if you didn’t get your question answered or want to discuss anything further we will have our first installment of the NFL@LA Chat on Friday at 1 p.m.

OK, now let’s get to this week’s questions.

What are the chances of getting the Rams back in LA?
-- simonoff


I’ve been saying for the past year that the St. Louis Rams make the most sense to be the second team to move to Los Angeles. The Rams can get out of their lease agreement with the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission after the 2014 season if the Edward Jones Dome doesn't rank in the top quarter of NFL stadiums, which it won’t since it’s already one of the league’s older facilities. St. Louis is still paying off the original construction debt on the dome so it’s highly unlikely the city will build the Rams a new stadium or be able to repair the dome to make it a top-tier NFL stadium. So, I think if Farmers Field is under construction by 2013 and, for example, the Sand Diego Chargers were to move to Los Angeles, it would make sense for the Rams to be the second tenant to move into the stadium. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is a longtime friend and business partner of fellow Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, and AEG's Tim Leiweke has admitted to having conversations with the Rams.

Having the Chargers and the Rams relocate to Los Angeles could be the most ideal scenario for the league, as well, as it would bring one AFC West team and one NFC West team to Los Angeles, so that the geography of the current divisions still work and each of the conference's television broadcasters (currently CBS and FOX) would get a team in the country's second-biggest media market.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Chargers 20, Chiefs 17

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
5:51
PM PT
SAN DIEGO -- A look at a game that was much closer in the end that it should have been.

What it means: The Chargers need to learn the create separation between themselves and their opponents. They dominated this game, but the Chiefs came back in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs had an opportunity to try to tie the score with a field goal in the final minute before San Diego safety Eric Weddle sealed it with an interception off a poor decision by Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel. San Diego is now 2-1. The Chiefs fell to 0-3.

Tomorrow’s talker: There could be some hope for the Chiefs. They played much better in the second half offensively. The Chiefs didn’t convert a first down in the first half. It was the first time that has happened in the NFL since December 2009, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Yet, Todd Haley’s team did not lay down Sunday. That has to be encouraging.

Trending: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown two interceptions in all three games this season. He has never thrown three interceptions in a game. His highest season interception total is 15. Rivers is playing well, but he has been far from perfect.

Mathews’ maturation: San Diego running back Ryan Mathews is a much better player in his second season than he was last year. He had 98 yards rushing and added 51 yards receiving. He is running with a lot of confidence.

What’s next: The Chargers host winless Miami on Sunday. Barring a meltdown, the Chargers should emerge from the first quarter of the season with a 3-1 record. That would help quiet the worry over slow starts under Norv Turner. The Chiefs go back home, looking for their first win when they host former star defensive end Jared Allen and the Minnesota Vikings. It will be the first time Allen has played against the Chiefs since they traded him in 2008.

L.A. keeps eye on Vikings' stadium fight

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
11:16
AM PT

AP Photo/Jim Mone
The groups competing to bring the NFL back to L.A. are keeping a close watch as the Minnesota Vikings’ ownership fights for new stadium funding.

The Minnesota Vikings don’t need to be told how far along Los Angeles is in building a new football stadium. Their ownership group receives personal updates from AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke whenever there is something new to report, which has been more often than not in recent weeks.

Last week Leiweke, who was the vice president of the Minnesota Timberwolves for four years and the team’s first employee in 1988, informed them the California Senate passed a bill to expedite legal challenges against Farmers Field, AEG’s proposed $1.2 billion downtown football stadium. The ruling could help the project begin construction as early as June 1.

“We’ve followed the situation in Los Angeles through the NFL and we know Tim Leiweke, who is a former sports executive in Minneapolis,” said Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development. “We’ve been in contact with Tim and he provides us with updates but our focus is on getting a new stadium in Minnesota. That’s our plan A and we don’t have a plan B.”

The Vikings have also been contacted by Ed Roski’s Majestic Reality Co. which has permits in place to begin construction on a football stadium on a 600-acre lot in the City of Industry.

“It’s no secret that the Vikings have been approached by other communities that have said, ‘When your lease expires and if you don’t get your deal done, we’d like to talk to you about an opportunity in our community,” Bagley said. “Our owners are aware of that but we still have time left on our lease.”

The Vikings don’t have much time left on their lease at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. In fact, if they don’t get a new stadium deal in place and extend their lease through the duration of construction by the end of the season, they will be the only team in the NFL without a lease and a stadium to call home.

There has always been a feeling among ownership and fans that the Vikings would eventually get a new stadium built in Minnesota. The Minnesota Twins got a new $545 million home in Target Field last year and the University of Minnesota football team got a new $289 million home in TCF Bank Stadium two years ago, both using significant public funding, both moving out of the 30-year-old Metrodome.

The problem in Minnesota, as is the case across the country right now during the recession, is there is little support for tax increases or public funding for sports complexes, especially one benefitting a team Forbes valued at $796 million this month. That the Vikings are asking the public to pay for a significant portion of their new stadium after a 0-2 start this season and a 6-10 record last season certainly doesn’t help.

There is now a growing concern within Vikings ownership that their proposed plan to build a $1.1 billion stadium in Ramsey County could be in jeopardy.

Last May, the Vikings and Ramsey County reached an agreement on a partnership in which the Vikings would contribute $407 million and Ramsey County would contribute another $350 million toward a new stadium through a county-wide sales tax increase. Another $300 million would come from the state.

AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt
The Vikings had been seeking a new stadium for years before last season's roof collapse at the Metrodome.


Even though the Vikings now say they’re willing to increase their contribution -- which Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton told reporters could reach $500 million -- to cover any cost overruns, in addition to paying $20 million a year in operational costs and capital improvements, they may not be able to get the $650 million they had hoped for from Ramsey County and the state.

Some legislators are now pushing for a referendum to be held in Ramsey County to decide on the half-percent sales tax increase that would fund the county’s contribution, a move that could prove a significant obstacle.

(Read full post)

Rivers can't keep up with Brady

September, 18, 2011
9/18/11
8:16
PM PT
Philip RiversAP Photo/Stephan SavoiaSan Diego quaterback Philip Rivers was out-played by New England quarterback Tom Brady in a loss on Sunday.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- I have written several times this year that Philip Rivers is the best player in the NFL who doesn’t own a Super Bowl ring.

Sunday, he showed he may not be quite ready to shed that complimentary, yet potentially haunting title.

The fact that the San Diego Chargers traveled three time zones and lost to the New England Patriots in Week 2 of the NFL season doesn’t mean a whole lot. The Chargers’ season is not shot. They are still the favorite to emerge from the AFC West. However, Sunday’s defeat was a reminder to San Diego, which can get well quickly with back-to-back home games against Kansas City and Miami in the next two weeks, there is one thing missing from its quest to be the best:

Tom Brady.

As long as Brady is quarterbacking the New England Patriots, the San Diego Chargers can’t be considered an AFC favorite to play in February. The Chargers can’t stop Brady on defense and Rivers can’t keep up with Brady on offense. Until those facts change, the Chargers will be a level behind the Patriots.

Sunday’s game proved that once again.

The Chargers were not blown out. They had their chances. They failed when it counted. Brady didn’t.

Rivers, who took over San Diego’s offense in 2006, is now 0-5 in head-to-head matchups against Brady. The only time Rivers has beaten New England was in 2008 when Brady was out with a torn ACL.

Rivers was good Sunday, as he usually is. But he wasn’t flawless. He threw two interceptions, both in key situations. In all, the Chargers had four turnovers, including a killer fumble by running back Mike Tolbert in New England territory with San Diego attempting to take the lead.

New England? It didn’t have any turnovers.

Miscues have long killed the Chargers, who have played the role of the lesser team in this rivalry for a solid half decade. San Diego coach Norv Turner has preached the importance of eliminating key turnovers early in the season, where the Chargers stumble most. It was another sloppy effort that has caused the Chargers to fall to 7-9 in September under Turner. The Chargers haven’t started 2-0 in five seasons under Turner.

Watching the film of this game will burn the Chargers. They made it into New England territory on all eight of their possessions. Yet, they scored just three times. San Diego punted the ball once. Turner will have to find a way to stop the mistakes.

Bill Belichick has no such concerns. Brady doesn’t seem to make mistakes. He surely capitalizes on them.

While Rivers was forced to ruminate on his two picks (he also lost a fumble late in the game on a sack), Brady took advantage of San Diego’s offensive miscues.

When San Diego couldn’t punch the ball in from inches on fourth down in the second quarter (the Chargers were primed to take a 14-10 lead), Brady engineered his offense on a 10-play, 99-yard touchdown drive to give the Patriots a 10-point lead.

Shortly after, when Vince Wilfork intercepted Rivers, Brady jumped off the bench to hit Deion Branch for two short passes on two plays to spark a field goal and give New England a 13-point lead at the half. Moments earlier, it was Rivers who seemed poised to lead his team to a crucial field goal. He failed. Brady pounced.

When Tolbert fumbled at the New England 39, Brady smelled blood. His team was up by six with just over 10 minutes to play. The Chargers’ defense was actually starting to have their way with Brady. The Patriots were stopped in their first two series of the second half after scoring on all four of their first-half possessions.

Brady put an end to San Diego’s momentum by leading his team on a four-play, 61-yard touchdown drive to convert the Tolbert mistake into a 14-point lead. After San Diego struck quickly to pull within seven, Brady led the Patriots on an 80-yard touchdown drive to seal the win.

In the end, Rivers just couldn’t keep up with Brady.

Rivers, who led San Diego on 10-of-12 third-down conversions, threw for 378 yards on 29-of-40 passing with two touchdown passes, highlighted by connecting with receiver Vincent Jackson 10 times for 172 yards. But Brady was better as he also unleashed 40 passes. He completed 31 for 423 yards. He threw three touchdown passes.

Rivers’ defensive teammates didn’t do him any favors. After keeping Donovan McNabb to 39 yards passing last week and holding Minnesota to 26 yards of offense in the second half of a comeback win, the San Diego defense simply couldn’t harass Brady enough. Brady completed a team-record 23 passes for first downs.

“You never knew what the call was,” San Diego pass-rusher Antwan Barnes said. “I didn’t know what it was.”

When Brady had to be stopped, he wasn’t. When Rivers had to be perfect, he wasn’t.

That’s the difference between these two quarterbacks right now, other than the three Super Bowl rings in Brady’s possession.

“We lost a game and the guys hate to lose. but we know this season is a 20-week deal, at least that is what the goal is to make it a 20-week deal and we are only in two weeks,” Rivers said.

Rivers is right. This loss wasn’t the end of the season for the San Diego Chargers. Still, it has to be in the back of their heads. If the Chargers are going to finally get a chance to play in the Super Bowl, they must get past Brady at some point.

They simply weren’t ready to do it Sunday.

Moving on: San Diego Chargers

September, 12, 2011
9/12/11
12:59
PM PT
Here are some areas the San Diego Chargers need to focus on after a 24-17 home victory against Minnesota:

Recap: The Chargers went out of their early-season character and saved a game that was spinning out of control. This game reminded me of the Chargers’ loss at Oakland last October. The only thing different was the Chargers won this game. In the past, the Chargers were famous for controlling games but still losing early in the season. Sunday, the Chargers overcame early mistakes and ended up winning. It wasn’t easy, though. The Chargers had to outscore the Vikings 17-0 in the second half to pull this one out. But, in the end, San Diego was brilliant in the second half and avoided a major headache. Could you imagine the reaction in San Diego on Monday morning if the Chargers lost to Minnesota heading into next week’s game at New England?

Biggest area to fix: I’d like to see the Chargers finish more drives. They moved the ball, but they often stalled deep in Minnesota territory. There were three series where the Chargers’ offense looked great, but they didn’t get any points out of it. Leaving points on the field won’t work in New England.

Biggest area to build on: There’s a lot for the Chargers to be proud of, but I’m hat tipping the defensive effort in the second half Sunday. While the offense got in gear in the half, the San Diego defense stifled Minnesota. The Vikings had 26 yards of offense in the half and the Chargers made one play after another. This defense can be special.

What to watch for: All the Chargers need to do is to play well at New England. Of course, they will play to win. But if the Chargers compete and stay in this game, it will be another sign that they are ready to be a force in the early part of the season. With home games against Kansas City and Miami on the docket after this game, the Chargers could be in fine shape if they continue to play well.

Final Word: AFC West

September, 9, 2011
9/09/11
11:39
AM PT
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 1:

Can Raiders keep streak alive? The Raiders were the kings of intra-division games last season when they went 6-0 in the AFC West. The problem was, Oakland went 2-8 outside of the division and finished in third place in the AFC West. Still, the Raiders open Monday night’s game at Denver -- the back end of an ESPN "Monday Night Foobtall" doubleheader -- with a seven-game divisional winning streak, dating to a 2009 win at Denver. It is the longest current division winning streak in the NFL.

[+] EnlargeHue Jackson
Kirby Lee/US PresswireCoach Hue Jackson and the Raiders will be looking to extend an NFL-best division winning streak.
McNabb likes to bombs away against Chargers: In 2009, when new Minnesota quarterback Donovon McNabb last faced San Diego as a member of the Eagles, he threw 55 passes. In his previous meeting against San Diego, in 2005, McNabb unleashed 54 passes. It was his highest pass total of both seasons. It's doubtful McNabb, 34, will throw that many passes in his first game as a Viking. But the Chargers will be prepared for him to throw at will.

59-14 not on John Fox: A lot has been made this week of Oakland’s 59-14 win at Denver last year. Forty-five point road wins aren’t every-season occurrences. New Denver coach John Fox has dealt with a lot of questions about it, but, ironically, that day was a good day for Fox in a mostly miserable 2010. On Oct. 24, Fox’s Carolina Panthers beat San Francisco for their first win of the season after five straight losses. The Panthers won one more game.

Keep an eye on Merriman: There is excitement in Buffalo about former San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman. He's healthy and has looked good this summer. The Bills are hoping Merriman, 27, will resemble the player who had a total of 39.5 sacks in his first three NFL seasons and not the player who had four sacks in his past three season combined. Regardless of his past three years, which were marred by major injuries, the Chiefs will be aware of Merriman. They’ve seen him at his best. Merriman has six sacks in nine career games against the Chiefs. He had three sacks in a game against the Chiefs in 2007 and two sacks in a game against the Chiefs during his rookie season.

Bad Raiders’ streaks: A Raiders win wouldn’t just extend their division winning streak, it would end some nasty streaks as well. The Raiders haven’t won in Week 1 since 2002 against Seattle. It's the longest current Week 1 losing skid in the NFL. The Raiders also have lost 11 straight prime-time games.

Three things: Chargers-Vikings

September, 8, 2011
9/08/11
11:58
AM PT
The following are three keys things for the San Diego Chargers against the visiting Minnesota Vikings on Sunday:

1.Hold onto the ball: Ball security was a point of emphasis during the Chargers’ training camp. Coach Norv Turner believes the team’s inability to secure the ball has directly contributed to San Diego’s slow starts in recent seasons.

2. Stop the run: The Vikings can stay in the game if Adrian Peterson takes over. He ran for an NFL record 296 yards in 2007 when he last met the Chargers. San Diego must keep Peterson’s big runs to a minimum and it can’t let the Vikings control the clock on the ground.

3. Don’t let up: The Chargers can’t afford to lose this home game to a less talented team. With a road test at New England looming next week, the Chargers would be haunted by the ghosts of past slow starts all next week if they lose this game. The Chargers have to use their strong offensive attack and bury the Vikings quickly. They have to take away Minnesota’s will as soon as possible.

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TEAM LEADERS

PASSING
Philip Rivers
ATT COMP YDS TD
363 248 2835 22
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
B. Oliver 117 424 3.6 2
R. Mathews 51 246 4.8 2
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
K. Allen 61 641 10.5 2
M. Floyd 36 604 16.8 4