NFL Nation: Jets-Chargers

 
 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
 Philip Rivers was 19-of-25 for 250 yards and threw for three touchdown passes against the Jets.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- Philip Rivers is a big Brett Favre guy.

Rivers, 26, has followed Favre, 38, since he was a ball boy for his father's high school team in Alabama. He couldn't get enough of Favre. What was there not to like? Favre was a Southern boy just like him. He was a son of a football coach. Most of all, he was a gunslinger quarterback. Rivers was sold.

This summer, when Favre's saga in Green Bay was in full insanity mode, Rivers politely declined to comment on the situation out of respect for Favre. He meant that much to Rivers. Monday before the game, the two men spoke on the field for several minutes. It was easy to tell it was a big moment for the smiling Rivers.

The night got better for Rivers, though. He outdid his hero.

Continuing a quietly brilliant start to the season, Rivers had a terrific night as he picked apart the Jets, leading the Chargers to a much-needed victory. After two straight games in which they got their hearts smashed in the final 30 seconds, the Chargers cruised to a 48-29 victory over Favre and the Jets.

Rivers completed 19 of 25 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns. He easily managed the field and made big plays when he needed them.

"He's our leader," San Diego tight end Antonio Gates said. "Philip made some big plays tonight."

Rivers' one mistake was reminiscent of Favre's night. On his first pass play, Rivers threw a bad pass that was intercepted by New York cornerback David Barrett, who easily trotted to the end zone. Rivers' hero also threw an interception that was returned to the house.

In the end, Favre completed 11 more passes than Rivers for 21 more yards. But this was Rivers' night. Afterward, though, in true Rivers form, it was about the Chargers entering the win column, not beating his boyhood idol.

"We needed to win a game," said Rivers, who has led San Diego to 110 points in three games. "This was a good win for us."

Here are some keys we learned from this game:

The Jets have taken the leash off Favre: In Favre's third game with the Jets, coach Eric Mangini clearly thought it was time to let Favre do what he was traded for: sling the ball. Favre threw the ball 42 times.

He was 30-of-42 for 271 yards and he threw three touchdowns. However, Favre also threw two interceptions. San Diego dropped three other potential interceptions.

Favre, who had X-rays taken on a sore ankle after the game, was much better in the second half than he was in the first half. Favre threw 26 times in the second half as the Jets attempted to rally from a 31-14 halftime deficit. The Jets were so bent on having Favre throw, he attempted a pass from the shotgun on a two-point conversion inches from the goal after three San Diego penalties moved the ball closer to the goal. The Jets missed the conversion.

"We're disappointed in the loss, but I think there is something to build on here," Favre said.

Antonio Gates is getting back to form: Gates, the Chargers' Pro Bowl tight end, admitted Monday night that two weeks ago, against Carolina, he thought he was not going to make it through this season. Gates had offseason surgery on his left big toe and missed all of the preseason.

However, Monday night, Gates said he is almost certain he will soon be completely healthy.

"I really feel great tonight," Gates said. "I'm at about 85 percent and going up. It's not going backwards anymore. I'm definitely going to make it. Tonight, I felt the best I have since the surgery. It's really getting better. In pregame warm-ups, I could tell the difference."

Gates had two catches for 25 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown catch.

The Chargers also got a boost from left tackle Marcus McNeill, who played his first game of the season after sitting out with a neck stinger. With running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who got 67 rugged yards on 26 carries, recovering from a turf toe and center Nick Hardwick a few weeks from returning from a foot injury, the Chargers are slowly returning to health.

The Chargers' defense can make big plays: After faltering in the final seconds of the first two games, the Chargers' defense came up with big plays -- even though the unit still gave up too many passing yards.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie made a huge play, scoring on a 52-yard interception return. And San Diego, which had just two sacks in two games, came up with three sacks. All of them came with New York driving.

"They did some nice things," Favre said.

The Chargers got their groove back: San Diego is just 1-2, but this team will have to be accounted for in the AFC playoff race. The Chargers could easily be 3-0 and they know it. If the defense can continue to make strides, San Diego will creep back in this race.

The Chargers were 1-3 last year before finishing 11-5, so they are no strangers to fighting out of a hole. Now that hole is just a 1-2 record as San Diego heads to Oakland.

"This is what we had to do," Gates said. "Being 0-3 is not San Diego Chargers football."

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- The Denver Broncos had better fix their defensive issues because the San Diego Chargers are not done.

San Diego bounced back from two narrow defeats to dispatch Brett Favre and the Jets, 48-29, on Monday night.

San Diego is coming off losses to Carolina and Denver in which it fell by a total of three points. The Chargers led with 30 seconds remaining in both games. It was the first time in NFL history a team lost back-to-back games in that manner.

With its Super Bowl aspirations on the line, San Diego put it together on both sides of the ball against New York. San Diego's passing defense bounced back from two poor showings and quarterback Philip Rivers outplayed Favre.

Like last year, when the Chargers started 1-3, they have an uphill battle. However, San Diego reminded the NFL and the surprise 3-0 Broncos that it still has plenty of fight remaining in it.

Halftime: Chargers 31, Jets 14

September, 22, 2008
9/22/08
10:23
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO - Some halftime thoughts from the Chargers' 31-14 lead.

The Chargers are much better against the pass tonight than they were the first two weeks and the San Diego offense is clicking. Philip Rivers looks great, Antonio Gates looks healthy and LaDainian Tomlinson, for the most part, doesn't appear to be laboring because of his turf toe.

Brett Favre needs a big second half to avoid starting his New York career 1-2. Favre is a tad wild already with two interceptions. It will be interesting to see how he reacts when he is in full passing mode trailing by 17 points.

That was a strange onside kick attempt by the Jets trailing, 17-14. It was not executed well and it gave momentum right back to the Chargers.

Also, credit San Diego linebacker Shaun Phillips for a huge sack of Favre on third down late in the second quarter. It took New York out of scoring position. It was important for San Diego to show it can come up with a big sack without Shawne Merriman.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

There was talk that the Jets would unleash Brett Favre in his third game and he is throwing often. However, two throws have been intercepted and another sure interception was dropped. The interception that was returned by Antonio Cromartie wasn't Favre's fault. Cromartie made a great play.

But Favre's second interception was horribly overthrown. San Diego safety Eric Weddle, basically playing center field, caught the ball. San Diego turned the interception into a touchdown and a 31-14 lead over the Jets. Favre has now thrown an NFL record 292 interceptions.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- Antonio Cromartie just made one up to himself.

A series after dropping a sure touchdown return, Cromartie made a difficult play and got his touchdown to give San Diego a 17-7 lead.

Cromartie stole a Brett Favre pass from receiver Laveranues Coles and returned it 52 yards for a score.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- Antonio Cromartie owes Quentin Jammer lunch.

A play after Cromartie let a sure touchdown drop out of his hands, Jammer saved his teammate by picking up a Thomas Jones fumble and returning it to the Jets' 16. The Chargers' offense took advantage by scoring to take a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter.

The Brett Favre pass that Cromartie let slip through his hands came after Cromartie read the play perfectly and got a break on the ball. Cromartie had the ball in his hands at Jets' 45 but flat-out dropped it.

Cromartie would have waltzed into the end zone. It would have been perfect redemption for Cromartie after last week's outing when Denver's Brandon Marshall caught 18 passes. Cromartie described his play against Marshall as "garbage."

He was likely not happy with himself again tonight, but Jammer saved him.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- Philip Rivers just made one of his first mistakes of the season.

And it hurt the Chargers badly.

On San Diego's third play of the game, New York cornerback David Barrett stepped in front of a pass intended for tight end Antonio Gates and picked it off for an easy score. Barrett read the pass easily.

The pass, Rivers' first of the game, was ill-fated from the start. Rivers bobbled the shotgun snap from center Jeremy Newberry before quickly unloading.

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