A second-half collapse: Chargers rally to beat Vikings in opener
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SAN DIEGO -- San Diego scored 17 unanswered points in the second half, and running back Mike Tolbert had three touchdowns as the Chargers rallied for a 24-17 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Sunday's regular-season opener at Qualcomm Stadium.
The Vikings offense was non-existent in the second half, accounting for only 26 yards. Donovan McNabb completed seven of 15 passes for only 39 yards with one touchdown and an interception in his Vikings debut. The interception came on his first play from scrimmage.
McNabb was benched twice last season in Washington but never threw for under 100 yards in a game he started. His paser rating Sunday was a miserable 47.9. That's also worse than any passer rating he posted in his one season with the Redskins. McNabb rushed for 32 yards on three scrambles.
Percy Harvin opened the game with a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and the Vikings led 17-7 at halftime after a 33-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell and McNabb's 3-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Michael Jenkins in the second quarter.
That touchdown was set up by a 46-yard run from Vikings running back Adrian Peterson that put the ball at the Chargers 3-yard line. Peterson, who signed a $100 million, seven-year contract on Saturday, had 98 yards on 16 carries.
But the Vikings fell apart in the final 30 minutes and if the Chargers offense had been operating on all cylinders it would have been much worse.
At one point, the Chargers had 253 yards over a four-drive span but had only 7 points to show for it. San Diego had two drives end deep in Vikings territory on interceptions thrown by quarterback Philip Rivers.
With San Diego trailing 17-14 in third quarter, the Chargers had the ball at the Vikings 24 when Rivers tried to throw a short pass to running back Ryan Mathews. However, defensive end Jared Allen had dropped into coverage and made the interception before returning it to the Vikings 31.
But the Chargers tied the score early in the fourth quarter on Mike Scifres' 40-yard field goal. Scifres, who is the Chargers punter, had to handle the field-goal duties after kicker Nate Kaeding was injured on Harvin's touchdown return.
The Chargers, in fact, went for it on fourth-down and 20 from the Vikings 25 in the second quarter in part because their regular kicker was not available. Rivers' pass for tight end Antonio Gates was incomplete.
The Chargers started the game-tying drive at their own 32 after Eric Frampton was called for a horse collar tackle on a punt return by Bryan Walters.
The Vikings couldn't get the ball back late in the game as defensive penalties kept the Chargers on the field. Rivers finished 33 of 48 for 335 yards with two touchdowns. San Diego finished with 407 yards of offense compared to 187 for the Vikings.
Rivers passed for 192 yards in the second half as he spent much of the time working out of the shotgun formation.
The Chargers looked like a different team in the second half and took the lead with 5 minutes, 1 second left in the fourth quarter when Rivers scrambled to his left on second-and-10 from the Vikings 19 and found Tolbert at the 6-yard line.
Tolbert, who had 11 rushing touchdowns last season but none receiving, then did the remainder of the work to get into the end zone.
That touchdown was set up in part by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Vikings cornerback Cedric Griffin that came after an 11-yard run by Matthews and put the ball on the Vikings 38.
0: Receptions by Vikings tight ends. This was a surprise given the tight end was expected to be a big part of new coordinator Bill Musgrave's passing offense. In fact, Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph were targeted a combined twice in the game.
2: McNabb's passing yardage in the second half.
3: Single-game career high touchdowns scored by Tolbert, including two receiving.
4: Consecutive years the Vikings have opened the season on the road. The Vikings lost at Green Bay in 2008, beat Cleveland the following season and then lost to New Orleans last year.
4: Number of kickoffs Havin has returned for touchdowns in two-plus seasons with the Vikings. That is a franchise record. Harvin is the first Vikings player to return a kickoff for a touchdown on opening day since Clinton Jones did it in 1969 in New York against the Giants.
5: Career interceptions by Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. Four of those have come since Allen joined the Vikings in 2008.
Cornerback Asher Allen, who has been dealing with a foot injury since training camp, was among the Vikings' inactives. Also sitting out, but not injured, were cornerback Brandon Burton, safety Mistral Raymond, linebacker Xavier Adibi, offensive linemen Brandon Fusco and DeMarcus Love and defensive end D'Aundre Reed. Burton, Raymond, Fusco, Love and Reed were all selected by the Vikings in this year's draft.
Odds and ends
• The Vikings normally wear white jerseys on the road but they were in purple Sunday because the Chargers elected to wear their white tops in order to try to stay cool in the heat.
• The Vikings unveiled what they call their "Blazer Package" near the end of the third quarter. Joe Webb, who played college football for the Alabama-Birmingham Blazers, lost 2 yards on the first play of what is a "Wildcat" formation and then handed off to Harvin on the next play. Harvin gained 2 yards before McNabb came back into the game.
• Tom Pelissero reported that Peterson's Twitter account was hacked during the game today.
Vikings - Percy Harvin 103-yard kickoff return, 14:45. Ryan Longwell kick. Drive: 0 plays, 0 yards, 15 seconds. Vikings 7, San Diego 0.
Chargers - Mike Tolbert 1-yard pass from Philip Rivers, 11:38. Mike Scifres kick. Drive: 3 plays, 6 yards, 1:21. Vikings 7, San Diego 7.
Vikings - Longwell 33-yard field goal, 12:56. Drive: 14 plays, 77 yards, 7:34. Vikings 10, San Diego 7.
Vikings - Michael Jenkins 3-yard pass from Donovan McNabb, 9:44. Longwell kick. Drive: 3 plays, 51 yards, 1:28. Vikings 17, San Diego 7.
Chargers - Mike Tolbert 7-yard run, 10:43. Scifres kick. Drive: 7 plays, 69 yards, 4:17. Vikings 17, San Diego 14.
Chargers - Scifres 40-yard field goal, 10:05. Drive: 9 plays, 46 yards, 4:45. Vikings 17, San Diego 17.
Chargers - Tolbert 19-yard pass from Rivers, 5:01. Drive: 6 plays, 64 yards, 3:10. San Diego 24, Vikings 17.
The Vikings will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at noon next Sunday at the Metrodome in their home opener.
The Vikings have lost four in a row to the Buccaneers, dating to 2001. That includes a 24-13 loss on Sept. 11, 2005 in the Vikings' season and home opener.
Nonetheless, the Vikings hold a 31-20 edge in the all-time series against the Bucs. The teams faced each other two times a season from 1978 to 2001 when both were members of the NFC Central.
The Vikings, who are 18-7 against Tampa Bay at home, will play host to Detroit on Sept. 25 before heading to Kansas City to face the Chiefs on Oct. 2.