The San Diego Chargers provided their fans with some early excitement in what could prove a tumultuous season.
The Chargers will try to keep that positivity going with their first 2-0 start in three years Sunday while spoiling the Cincinnati Bengals’ return home following a dominant opening performance.
Philip Rivers shook off two first-half interceptions Sunday, including one returned for a score, to rally San Diego (1-0) from an 18-point deficit for a 33-28 win over Detroit.
Rivers connected on a pair of touchdowns in the final 20 minutes while finishing 35 of 42 for 404 yards.
He also set a team mark by completing his final 20 passes and tied Dan Fouts atop the Chargers’ all-time list with his 254th TD. With star tight end Antonio Gates beginning a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, wide receiver Keenan Allen matched Kellen Winslow’s franchise record with 15 catches for a career-best 166 yards.
The team gained a league-high 483 yards in what’s potentially the final season opener in San Diego for the Chargers. They’re rumored to be heading up the coast to Los Angeles.
"I couldn’t be happier for our football team," coach Mike McCoy said. "We have a lot of things to work on and clean up obviously, but that’s going to be every week in this league playing against a very good football team. But I’m just very pleased overall with the group, the way they rallied around each other."
The Chargers haven’t opened 2-0 since 2012, but they also finished 7-9 – their only losing season since 2003. The Bengals (1-0) will seek to accomplish that feat for the second straight season after a 33-13 win in Oakland last weekend.
Cincinnati scored all of its points in the first three quarters, and former first-round pick Tyler Eifert had his best day as a pro while helping his team finish with 396 yards.
The tight end had nine catches for 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns from Andy Dalton, matching his total from his first 16 NFL games. Eifert didn’t make it past his second season opener in 2014 because of a severely injured elbow.
"I missed all of last year and (Dalton and I) are still developing that relationship and the trust factor," Eifert said. "So hopefully that keeps developing and the offense keeps putting up points."
Cincinnati is facing San Diego for the first time since a 27-10 wild-card loss at home in January 2014, one of its six consecutive defeats in playoff openers. They’ve taken four of those losses in each of Dalton’s first four seasons.
Dalton had 334 yards against the Chargers but completed just 56.9 percent of his passes and had two intercepted while posting a 67.0 passer rating. He has a 57.8 rating in the postseason compared with 85.7 in 65 regular-season contests.
San Diego needed Rivers to complete just 12 of 16 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in that win. In this matchup, he could face a depleted secondary.
Bengals safeties George Iloka (foot) and Reggie Nelson (groin) missed practice Wednesday. Nelson sat out a practice three days before Sunday’s game but played nearly all of the win over Oakland.
Cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones was fined $35,000 by the league for his personal foul on Raiders rookie receiver Amari Cooper and said he would appeal.
Chargers offensive lineman D.J. Fluker will likely have to sit out because of a high ankle sprain suffered in the third quarter Sunday. Fluker, the No. 11 overall pick in 2013, was playing in his first game at right guard after starting at right tackle in each of his first two seasons.
Chris Hairston could take his place again for Sunday’s game and also played guard for the first time in the win against Detroit. Hairston, signed as a free agent in April, was a tackle for Buffalo in his previous three seasons but had practiced at guard.
"Really in any organized football situation. It just never came up for me to have to slide into guard,” Hairston said. "I was just glad I was ready. It’s a testament to this coaching staff, a testament to the guys that helped get me get caught up and get rolling."
Cincinnati has won the past three regular-season meetings with San Diego, the most recent in December 2013.