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American Football: Brees' big game

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posted on Aug, 22 2004 @ 09:01 AM
The way Drew Brees is playing, San Diego's inability to sign Philip Rivers might not be a controversy much longer.

Brees continued his strong exhibition season, passing the Chargers to a big halftime lead and a 38-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night.

"Once we got going, I felt like we moved the ball effectively," Brees said. "I thought we were pretty good on third downs. I don't know what the numbers were, but we put together some good drives."

For the second straight game, coach Marty Schottenheimer sat LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers' marquee player.

As it turned out, neither Tomlinson, the only player to rush for over 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes in the same season, nor Rivers, the rookie quarterback the Chargers received after trading Eli Manning, was needed.

Brees, who completed 11 of 14 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown in the exhibition opener, was 13-of-21 for 172 yards, a TD and an interception in one half of play.

"I thought he played reasonably well," said Schottenheimer, who was concerned about the failure to get in the end zone early. "Once again, I think he managed the game well."

San Diego dominated in every way, denying new Arizona coach Dennis Green his first win and nearly keeping the Cardinals, 23-6 losers at Minnesota last week, out of the end zone again.

Arizona got its TD on a 29-yard pass from rookie John Navarre to Reggie Newhouse with 33 seconds left.

"I don't think I've ever seen a game that had so many things go wrong with one team," Green said.

The Chargers scored their first on a 7-yard run by kicker Nate Kaeding after a fake field goal.

Schottenheimer didn't want to tip his hand on trick plays in the exhibition season, but was miffed about not scoring in the red zone.

"The reason I went with the fake is I got tired of kicking field goals," he said.

The Chargers also turned an interception by Arizona's David Macklin to their advantage, recording the first of two safeties when Stephen Cooper tackled Damien Anderson in the end zone.

San Diego also answered with a 28-yard run by Michael Turner after Kyle Vanden Bosch came within inches of getting Cleo Lemon for the Cardinals' first sack of the preseason. That was seconds after Schottenheimer won his challenge of a 15-yard pass play that would have kept an Arizona drive going.

The Chargers took a 22-6 lead on a 21-yard field goal by backup Mackenzie Hoambrecker with 4:25 left in the third quarter after that possession, and added two points 1:23 later when Arizona's Everett Lindsay held defensive end Dave Ball while trying to protect Shaun King in the end zone.

Josh McCown, left in for the first series of the third quarter while Green tried to get his offense in the end zone, was 11-for-17 for 109 yards.

But there was no zip with all three starting wide receivers missing from Green's preferred offensive set. Pro Bowl wideout Anquan Boldin and first-round draft picks Larry Fitzgerald and Bryant Johnson are injured, and Green complained all week that the offense couldn't develop as well without them.

"We moved the ball really well and we would get down there, and it would stall out," McCown said.

Kaeding scored San Diego's first 10 points, sending the Chargers to a 10-3 lead when he lined up for his second field-goal try, took a flip from holder Mike Scifres and ran untouched around the right side with 1:56 left in the first quarter.

"It felt weird," he said. "I'm used to kicking it."

The first two Chargers scores were set up by great kickoff returns -- 65 yards by Drayton Florence and 43 yards by Turner.

The Cardinals got within 10-6 on Neil Rackers' 38-yard field goal with 13:42 left in the second quarter.

But Brees started a drive with a 20-yard pass to Justin Peelle and completed it with a 24-yard throw to Wes Welker to make it 17-6 with 10:11 to go.

Arizona, among the NFL's worst pass-rushing teams for three years, finally got pressure on Brees, with Bertrand Berry knocking Brees off-balance to set up Macklin's pick on the Arizona 2.

But that led to Cooper's safety with 5:15 left in the half.

The Chargers added two TDs in the fourth quarter. Jonathan Cox returned a fumble 28 yards with 13:10 left, and Luke Powell returned a punt 76 yards with 3:45 to play.

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