It was a chance for safety Bob Sanders to take a swipe at the team that cut him.
The Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts were embarrassed immediately before Sanders’ new team, the San Diego Chargers, allowed the Minnesota Vikings to gain a total of 26 yards in the second half in a 24-17 victory on Sunday.
"Wow," Sanders said before he paused for a moment when asked if his dismissal from the Colts could have been a blessing. "I am not sure. I am not going to look too far forward."
Sanders, 30, may be on a team that has a healthy franchise quarterback in Philip Rivers, but the past few seasons have taught him nothing is a sure thing in life — especially staying injury-free. He tore his right biceps in the opener a season ago with the Colts, an injury that required surgery and cost him the rest of the season. Knee and elbow injuries caused him to miss all but two games in 2009.
The injuries soon became what Sanders became known for about as much as his interception returns, hard hits and his status as AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2007.
He wasn’t among the victims on Sunday as two teammates — kicker Nate Kaeding (torn ACL) and defensive end Luis Castillo (broken leg) — were likely lost for the season.
"It felt normal and not too different from what I experienced before," said Sanders, who last finished an opener in 2009. "It’s always exciting to play in the first game of the season. We were excited, pumped and ready."
Sanders and linebacker Takeo Spikes, most recently with the San Francisco 49ers, were brought in by Chargers GM A.J. Smith to strengthen a defense that was already respectable, albeit inconsistent in stretches. The Chargers allowed a league-low 271.6 yards per game even if they were 23rd in points allowed at 20.1 per game.
"I just know I love having (Sanders) out there for the same reason I love Takeo," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "The way our defense got better as the game continued. Throughout the game, I thought we played faster, faster and faster."
The only big play the Chargers defense — special teams remains another issue — allowed against the Vikings was a 46-yard run by Adrian Peterson that set up a first-half TD. The Chargers became even stingier in the second half.
Minnesota quarterback Donovan McNabb completed only one pass after the half for all of two yards and Peterson gained only 24 yards. McNabb finished with 39 yards passing with an interception, and Peterson had 98 yards rushing as the Vikings squandered a 10-point halftime lead.
"I feel like we had more control in the second half and we did a good job," Sanders said. "We got a lot of work to do. We don’t want to get too high and we don’t want to get too low. We just have to focus on working and getting better."
The Chargers haven’t been 2-0 under Turner, who was hired before the 2007 season. To get to that mark this year, San Diego has to deal with an offense that is just slightly more dynamic than what it saw in the opener: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Brady threw for a team-record 517 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Monday. Overall, the Patriots gained 622 yards, which was also a franchise record.
"We are going to prepare and go into the game the same way we did this week," Sanders said. "We won, but we’re going to fix our mistakes. We had some out there we need to correct."
Unlike previous seasons, Sanders is hopeful he’ll be healthy enough to be there to make those adjustments.