CINCINNATI -- Drew Brees already has a legacy.
|Drew Brees goes 15-of-19 for 160 yards and two touchdowns in his impressive debut as San Diego's starting QB.(AP)|
"Seriously, my heartbeat was probably like 40," Brees said. "I have a resting heart rate of 38, which is pretty incredible. I swear it was right around there. I was just relaxed out there, having a good time."
The record-setting passer from Purdue appeared in only one game as a rookie, but looked experienced well beyond his year. He was 15-of-19 for 160 yards and made gritty plays that impressed teammates -- throwing a downfield block on a reverse, running over a safety on a scramble.
"You don't see that too often," said Curtis Conway, who caught one of the touchdown passes. "That's one of the big things about him. He's a football player, not one of those wimpy quarterbacks."
He wasn't the only star. LaDainian Tomlinson had 114 yards on 21 carries, and one of the NFL's toughest run defenses of the last few years clamped down on Corey Dillon, who had only 10 yards on nine carries.
"I've never seen an offensive explosion like that," linebacker Junior Seau said. "Brees was poised. We're looking for great things from him. It was a treat seeing our offense going up and down the field."
While Marty Schottenheimer's coaching debut with San Diego was an overwhelming success, the Bengals' debut with Gus Frerotte as the starting quarterback couldn't have gone any worse.
In all respects, the NFL's worst team since 1991 played down to its distinction.
It was the most lopsided home-opening loss in franchise history and the Bengals' worst opening loss overall since a 45-14 drubbing in Denver in 1991, the start of their dismaying run.
"I'm embarrassed," linebacker Brian Simmons said. "I don't know what to call it, but it wasn't a professional football game."
Frerotte was flagged for delay of game before his first play, and was intercepted by Alex Molden at the Bengals 11 on his second throw of the game.
The Bengals' fifth different starting quarterback in the last five seasons was 18-of-31 for 198 yards, most of them coming well after the game was decided.
"I've still got a lot of optimism," Frerotte said. "We're planning to move the ball. We're planning on having big games. People were booing. They can say what they want -- we're not going to let this stuff go on."
The crowd of 53,705 -- more than 11,000 below capacity -- loudly booed and jeered the home team as it fell behind 20-0 in the first half.
Brees, a second-round draft choice, gave the Chargers the type of leadership they were looking for out of 1998 top pick Ryan Leaf.
He threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Josh Norman and led a crushing 15-play, 95-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter that lasted 7 minutes, 55 seconds. The Bengals had the ball for only 7:53 in the entire half.
The Chargers also had a 12-play touchdown drive in the second half that lasted 8 minutes, 31 seconds. By that time, the Bengals' defense was so worn down that it was easy pickings.
Brees, who set most of the Big Ten's passing records, had only a handful of first-game mistakes -- a short throw to an uncovered receiver, a broken play here or there.
He also showed some first-game exuberance. On Conway's reverse in the second quarter, he led the blocking wedge, pointed at cornerback Artrell Hawkins and threw a block at his legs.
His gutsiest moment came during the 95-yard touchdown drive just before halftime that essentially finished off Cincinnati.
On second-and-8 from the Bengals 16, Brees couldn't find a receiver and took off. Instead of going into a protective hook slide, he dropped his shoulder and bounced off safety Mark Roman, who lowered his head to make the hit.
Brees was finally dragged down by linebacker Takeo Spikes at the 1, and Tomlinson took it from there.
- Chargers SS Rodney Harrison strained his groin, TE Justin Peelle hurt his right ankle, and G Toniu Fonoti hurt his right shoulder. The extent of their injuries wasn't immediately known.
- Bengals DT Tony Williams hit the front of a television camera on the sideline after one Chargers touchdown. A Bengals official apologized to the Dayton television station and offered to pay for a broken lens cap.
- Neil Rackers made field goals of 21 and 54 yards, the last one tying for second-longest in Bengals history.
The Associated Press News Service
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