Stunned by two gut-wrenching losses, Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson and the rest of the Chargers raced past nemesis Favre and the New York Jets for a 48-29 victory Monday night in a wild game befitting two original AFL teams.
"It didn't matter how any of us felt. We were going to do what we had to do to win this game," Tomlinson said. "We needed this bad. If we lost this game, we go 0-3 and I don't know what's going to happen. For us to get that first win, there is a sigh of relief."
Rivers tied his career high with three touchdown passes, Tomlinson scored his first two TDs of the season and San Diego finally got back at Favre after all these years. They sacked him three times and intercepted him twice, including a 52-yard return for a score by All-Pro cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
Favre always seemed to come up big on Monday nights with Green Bay. This night, though, he finally lost to the Chargers after beating them five straight times dating to 1993.
San Diego (1-2) looked like the team picked by many to reach the Super Bowl. The Chargers lost their opener to Carolina on the last play, then lost by one point at Denver in a game remembered for referee Ed Hochuli's blown call that set up the Broncos' winning score.
"It's good to win a game," Rivers said. "We needed to win a game. I think you saw what this team can do and the big plays we can make."
Tomlinson, the two-time defending NFL rushing champion, scored on a 2-yard leap to give the Chargers a 38-14 lead in the third quarter. He had been slowed since jamming his right big toe late in the Carolina game. He scored on another 2-yard run late in the fourth quarter, one play after Rivers' 60-yard pass to Vincent Jackson.
"I almost forgot what it felt like," said Tomlinson, who has 131 career touchdowns to tie Cris Carter for sixth place all-time. "I was happy to get a rushing touchdown to keep you guys off our backs."
Favre rolled his left ankle early in the third quarter.
"It felt like I got shot in the leg or something," said Favre, who played all but the Jets' final possession. "They took some X-rays and I think it's OK."
Rivers has thrown three TD passes in every game this season. He was 19-of-25 for 250 yards on Monday, while Tomlinson had 67 yards on 26 carries, his third straight game under 100 yards.
The Chargers could have had two more picks, but safety Clinton Hart -- playing with a broken bone in one hand -- dropped Favre's fourth-down pass in the end zone late in the third quarter and Cromartie let an interception and a sure touchdown clang off his hands in the first quarter. Cromartie intercepted backup QB Kellen Clemens in the end zone in the final minute.
"It's hard to overcome that when you're playing a loaded offense like they have," Favre said.
Although the Chargers know they need to improve on defense, it was enough to stop Favre.
"I wasn't surprised, based on what we've seen on film," Favre said. "They were very active defensively. This ruffled us a little bit protection-wise. I thought they schemed very good."
The Chargers scored three times and the Jets once in a crazy span of 5 minutes, 46 seconds spanning the first and second quarters.
Rivers recovered from an early blunder to throw a 1-yard touchdown pass to rookie fullback Mike Tolbert for a 10-7 lead late with 2:03 left in the first quarter.
On the fourth play of the next Jets' drive, Cromartie overpowered Laveranues Coles and took the ball away, racing 52 yards for a 17-7 lead.
Leon Washington returned the kickoff 94 yards to the San Diego 5. Two plays later, Favre hit Coles on a 3-yard TD pass to pull the Jets within 17-14.
Jets cornerback David Barrett stunned the Chargers and quieted the crowd at Qualcomm Stadium when he jumped in front of Gates for an interception he returned 25 yards for a touchdown less than four minutes into the game.
- Chargers DE Luis Castillo was shaken up in the second quarter but returned.
- Tomlinson said his toe is close to being 100 percent.
- Cromartie, who led the NFL with 10 interceptions last year, has 12 in his three-year career.