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San Diego 34, Cincinnati 6

Sept. 8, 2002 at 9:13 PM   |   Comments

CINCINNATI, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 93 of his 114 yards in the first half Sunday to lead San Diego to a 34-6 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Marty Schottenheimer's first game as coach of the Chargers.

Schottenheimer's philosophy is based on a strong running game and a physical defense and the Chargers worked the game plan to perfection.

"We met our primary objectives," said Schottenheimer, who improved his career record to 159-104-1. "This game is won on the lines and our offensive line kept the defense off the field."

After being fired by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, Schottenheimer landed on his feet with the Chargers, inheriting a 5-11 team with Tomlinson, who rushed for 1,236 yards as a rookie, and a defense led by Pro Bowlers Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison.

Tomlinson welcomed the workload he will get from Schottenheimer, producing 93 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in the first half as the Chargers built a 20-0 lead and dominated the Bengals.

"We had a great game plan," Tomlinson said. "The O-line was physical. We attacked them. We had great play calling from our coaches, putting us in the right position."

San Diego had 18 first downs and 238 total yards in the first half while the Bengals managed just three first downs and 61 yards.

Schottenheimer let Terrell Fletcher do most of the running in the second half with the game well in hand. Fletcher finished with 73 yards on 16 carries as San Diego rushed for 241 yards.

Tomlinson had just four carries for 17 yards in the second half.

"He (Tomlinson) is immensely, immensely talented," Schottenheimer said. "If you ever wanted for someone to have good fortune it would be him."

Drew Brees, who was named as the starting quarterback over Doug Flutie by Schottenheimer in the preseason, completed 15 of 19 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. He attempted just four passes in the second half, completing all of them for 70 yards.

"Winning by that margin of victory doesn't happen very often," Brees said. "I was handing the ball off most of the time. I don't know how many passes I threw but it wasn't like the old Purdue days."

The Chargers defense held three-time Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon to 10 yards on nine carries.

"One word: embarrassed. That's all I can tell you," Dillon said.

"The first thing we needed to do was stop Dillon," Seau said. "Once we got ahead of them we got them out of that package, everything was looking up from there."

Cincinnati's Gus Frerotte, who won the starting job over Jon Kitna in the preseason, was 18 of 31 for 198 yards with an interception and was sacked four times, including twice by end Adrian Dingle.

"I don't think we gave him (Frerotte) a chance today," Bengals coach Dick LeBeau said. "San Diego had the ball all day. They did pretty much whatever they wanted on offense. We've got a lot of work to do."

The loss was Cincinnati's worst in a season-opening game since a 45-14 defeat at Denver in 1991.

"They did a lot of things right and we did very little right," Bengals linebacker Brian Simmons said. "I don't know exactly what happened. It would be hard to say without looking at the film."

The Chargers opened the game with an 11-play, 66-yard drive which resulted in a 28-yard field goal by Steve Christie. Tomlinson ran four times for 19 yards and had a 14-yard catch to highlight the drive.

After going three-and-out on their first possession, the Bengals turned the ball over on their second when a pass by Frerotte intended for Peter Warrick was intercepted by Alex Molden at the Cincinnati 14.

Tomlinson gained 12 yards on three carries to the two. Two plays later, Brees hit rookie tight end Josh Norman with a one-yard touchdown pass with 1:18 left in the quarter.

After another three-and-out by the Bengals, Brees closed the first quarter with a 24-yard pass to Tim Dwight to the Cincinnati 43. On the opening play of the second quarter, receiver Curtis Conway gained 22 yards on a handoff and a 15-yard unneccesary roughness penalty on cornerback Jeff Burris brought the Chargers to the Cincinnati 11. However, San Diego had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Christie.

The Bengals picked up their first first down of the game when defensive tackle Jamel Williams was flagged 15 yards for a facemask on Frerotte with 12:15 left in the second quarter. They reached the San Diego 42 after a 12-yard catch by Warrick, but Bengals receiver Michael Westbrook was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness, effectively killing the drive.

San Diego then marched 95 yards in 15 plays as Tomlinson keyed the drive with 54 yards on eight carries and capped it with a two-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds left in the half. Fletcher added 19 yards on three carries.

The Bengals finally got a big play when Frerotte hit Danny Farmer with a 51-yard pass to the San Diego six on their first possession of the second half, but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Neil Rackers.

After the ensuing kickoff, Tomlinson turned a short pass into a 30-yard gain and receiver Dwight followed with a 20-yard run on an end-around to the Cincinnati 14. Three plays later, Brees connected with Curtis Conway on a nine-yard touchdown to give the Chargers a 27-3 lead with 8:42 left in the third quarter.

Fletcher added a one-yard touchdown run around right end with 9:14 left in the fourth quarter to cap a 12-play, 78-yard drive. He gained 31 yards on eight carries in the drive.

Rackers kicked a 54-yard field goal, equaling the second longest in team history, with 5:43 remaining. Chris Bahr holds the club record with a 55-yarder against Houston on Sept. 23, 1979.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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