It doesn’t seem like it, but the calendar says it’s been eight years since the San Diego Chargers’ last trip to Minnesota. So that means the Bolts are due back.
TCF Bank Stadium will host Sunday’s game. San Diego’s run defense will be pleased to learn that the Metrodome has been leveled.
The last time these two met in Minny, Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie ended the first half with an NFL-record 109-yard touchdown return of a missed field goal and Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson ended the game with an NFL-record 296 yards rushing.
Only three Vikings and five Chargers are left from that 35-17 Vikings win at the Metrodome. The only Vikings offensive player is Peterson. The only Chargers defender is safety Eric Weddle.
Both teams are 1-1 this season with home wins over the Lions. The Chargers rallied from a 21-3 deficit to beat Detroit 33-28 in Week 1. The Vikings bounced back from a 20-3 loss at San Francisco to beat the Lions 26-16 last Sunday. The Chargers are on the road for the second straight week after losing in Cincinnati last Sunday.
For a closer look at the Chargers, we turned this week to San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Nick Canepa. Nick started at the paper in 1974 and has been a columnist since 1984. He also is San Diego’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s board of selectors.
MC: Philip Rivers broke Dan Fouts’ franchise record for passing touchdowns on Sunday. Wednesday, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer called Rivers one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. How is Rivers playing now compared to when Norv Turner was the head coach, is this guy a Hall of Famer and how do you think Rivers will be remembered by Chargers fans?
NC: “I believe Rivers is better than Fouts. Their playoff records are similar. Rivers is far more accurate, throwing about half the picks Fouts threw. Fouts threw FIVE interceptions in two separate playoff games. I think Rivers now is better than when Turner coached him. Turner calls plays and didn’t give Rivers much room to improvise. Mike McCoy often has gone to the no-huddle and allowed Rivers, as smart as any NFL quarterback, to call plays and audiblize. He has much more freedom now. By the time he’s finished, he will be remembered as the Chargers greatest quarterback. Fouts is an icon and rules were different then. But he also had Hall of Fame receivers Kellen Winslow and Charlie Joiner and there are WRs in the Hall of Fame not as good as Wes Chandler. Fouts also played behind a great offensive line and in a Don Coryell system miles ahead of any other offense at the time. Plus, Chuck Muncie and James Brooks at tailback. Rivers has skill around him. But only Antonio Gates, who isn’t playing [four-game suspension], is a legit Hall of Famer.”
MC: As an offensive coordinator, Norv Turner enjoys reverential status here, as I suspect he has wherever he has been a coordinator. What would you say is the general feeling toward Norv in San Diego two years after he was fired following six years as head coach?
NC: “I’d say nothing has changed. Norv was hated (unfairly) from the day he was hired. For the most part, fans didn’t like his dull, sideline demeanor. Like he says, bad coaches don’t win 13 games in the NFL. Still think he beats the Pats in the AFC Championship Game had Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates been healthy.”
MC: Tight end Antonio Gates is serving a four-game suspension. Ladarius Green looks like a capable backup, but he has been limited with a second concussion in two weeks. Is the tight end position the biggest problem area facing the Chargers’ offense, and, on the flip side, what are the Chargers doing particularly well at on offense?
NC: “The biggest problem with the Chargers right now is special teams. Period. Injuries on the O-line aren’t helping any. That, and McCoy being far too conservative and Gates serving a 4-game suspension.
MC: What would you say is the identity of defensive coordinator John Pagano’s defense and how well-equipped is it in terms of scheme, talent and health to contain Adrian Peterson?
NC: “Pagano is a pretty good planner and the defense played well enough to win in Cincy. It’s a faster defense. But he has to find a way to get a pass rush and he hasn’t yet. My guess is this week he will try to let Teddy Bridgewater beat him and gang up on AP. Don’t know that it will work.”
MC: Peterson said this week that he sees some of his style in the way Melvin Gordon runs. How good do you think Gordon will be and, speaking of Adrian, what’s your best memory of his record-breaking 296-yard game against the Chargers in 2007?
NC: “I’m a running back fancier and do my best to watch the best college backs on Saturdays. I saw Gordon play a lot. I think he’s tremendous. AP thinks so, too. Gordon has everything a RB needs and a great attitude. He’s still learning the ins and outs, but what a talent. As for AP’s big day, all I remember is that it was as if he were playing by himself. Great, great player. And he’s playing fresh now. A year was taken off those great legs. If you get find a way to see Gordon’s TD run that was called back vs. Detroit, then you’ll know. Very few backs could do that.”