Now they get to give Drew Brees his job back.
Flutie and Rivers each threw a touchdown pass and the San Diego
Chargers warmed up for their first playoff game in nine seasons by
beating the Kansas City Chiefs 24-17 on Sunday in what was little
more than an exhibition.
Having clinched the AFC West title two weeks earlier and the
AFC's No. 4 seed a week ago, the Chargers rested Pro Bowlers Brees,
LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, as well as defensive tackle
The Chargers will host the New York Jets on Saturday in a
first-round playoff game scheduled for prime time.
"We're excited about it. We definitely owe them one," Brees
said. "I don't think we could write it up any better."
The Jets beat the Chargers 34-28 in San Diego on Sept. 19, but
that was before Brees and his teammates got it together. San Diego
has won nine of 10 going into the playoffs, the only loss coming a
week ago at Indianapolis, 34-31 in overtime.
Even with a number of scrubs playing, San Diego (12-4) was still
too much for Kansas City (7-9), which had its four-game winning
"When the decision was made about playing time, we were
convinced it was the right thing to do," said coach Marty
Schottenheimer, who is just 5-11 in the postseason. "I think we
Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez set the NFL's single-season record
for catches by a tight end with 102. He broke the old record of 96
set by Ben Coates in 1994. Gonzalez's 14 catches, for 144 yards,
were a Chiefs single-game record, breaking Ed Podolak's record of
12 set in 1973.
Gonzalez said he had mixed emotions.
"It's just hard to swallow, knowing we can't even beat their
second team," he said.
The Chiefs had two late scores, but Trent Green was intercepted
four times, tying his career high.
The Chargers tied the club record for victories in a season, set
in 1961 and matched in 1979.
Rivers, the prized rookie who's been kept on the bench by Brees'
inspired play, threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Floyd
midway through the fourth quarter for a 24-3 lead.
Rivers wasn't nearly as nervous then as he was when he took over
for Flutie starting the second half and the Chargers leading 17-3.
Rivers had a serious case of happy feet, and his first pass
attempt was an awkward shovel pass that missed Bobby Shaw. After
Michael Turner ran for 2 yards, Rivers completed his first pass, a
screen to Turner that resulted in a 5-yard loss.
Rivers' only other action this season was mop-up duty in a
26-point win over New Orleans on Nov. 7.
"It was a bumpy start of my career, in a game that counted,"
Rivers said. "I didn't play great and I made some mistakes. But if
you can do that, get your first touchdown pass and hang on for the
win to get to 12-4, you can find a lot of positives."
Rivers, who missed practice Friday to be with his wife for the
birth of their second child, was 5-of-8 for 33 yards. Flutie was
13-of-22 for 199 yards.
Flutie started for the first time since Dec. 7, 2003, in a
victory at Detroit. That game came at the end of a five-game
stretch in which Flutie replaced the ineffective Brees. Brees
finished 2003 with 15 interceptions and 11 touchdown passes, but
rebounded this year with 27 TD passes and just seven interceptions.
Flutie ran for a 1-yard touchdown and threw a 10-yard scoring
pass to tight end Ryan Krause, both late in the second quarter to
give the Chargers a 17-3 halftime lead.
Flutie had a 30-yard scramble to open the first scoring drive
and later had a 28-yard completion to Kassim Osgood.
"It was a really good feeling," Flutie said. "When something
is taken away from you and you don't get a chance to do it very
often, you're very appreciative when you get the chance again."
Although Rivers was the second-string quarterback most of the
season and Flutie the third-stringer, they'll flip-flop for the
Larry Johnson scored twice for Kansas City in the closing
minutes, on a 2-yard run and on a 14-yard pass from Trent Green.
Green was 33-of-53 for 373 yards.
Green set KC single-season records with 4,591 passing yards
and 369 completions. ... The Chiefs had 26 first downs to set the
NFL single-season record with 398. The old record was 387 by the
1984 Miami Dolphins. ... Chargers LB Steve Foley had a cut right
forearm and holder Mike Scifres injured his right thumb on a
botched field goal attempt in the second quarter. Scifres bobbled
the snap, then threw an interception. "It was a boneheaded play,"
Looking back at Balitmore's draft history to discern how the team might approach this year's selections, plus more from the mailbag.
A lot of teams will try to copy Denver's Super Bowl-winning formula, but these three franchises actually have the potential on defense to pull it off, writes Scott Kacsmar.
NFL teams, including the Dolphins, can use the franchise tag starting Tuesday; DE Olivier Vernon is Miami's only candidate, but an unlikely one.
The Saints could use some depth in its receiving corps, but New Orleans always seems to find a way to pull together a strong cast of pass-catchers.
Mike & Mike react to Field Yates' column about the worst cap situations in the NFL, with the Jets having the best cap situation out of all the teams in the AFC East.
The mutual good feelings between first-year coordinator Wade Phillips and his Broncos defenders were deep enough to carry Denver to a championship.