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Chargers Show Life, Then Lose


SAN DIEGO — At day's end, the playing field at Qualcomm Stadium was still aligned east-west and the four decks of seating stood strong and sturdy.

But everything else was topsy-turvy in Chargerland after a 28-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints Sunday.

Known as a team with a punchless offense but a solid defense, the Chargers instead jumped to a 24-13 lead over the Saints only to have the defense fail to hold off a fourth-quarter comeback by the Saints.

Before 51,300 mostly excited--then deflated--fans, the Saints won it on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Blake to Joe Horn with 47 seconds remaining.

The Saints' 10-down, 90-yard winning drive was aided by a 15-yard personal foul by Charger strong safety Rodney Harrison, one of several penalties that proved decisive.

"That's just being undisciplined," Charger linebacker Junior Seau said of the penalties. "That's just helping the opponents. It's got to stop."

The victory left the Saints at 1-1 and broke a 14-game losing streak on the road. The Chargers are 0-2.

After last week's 9-6 loss to Oakland, the Chargers' offense had scored one touchdown or fewer in 33 of 49 games over the past three seasons.

As if seeking redemption, the Chargers scored three times in the second quarter, on a three-yard run by Robert Chancey, a 20-yard pass from Ryan Leaf to Curtis Conway, and 93-yard kickoff return by Ronney Jenkins.

In the second half, the Charger offense was decidedly different.

"We lost an edge of execution," said Coach Mike Riley. "It was just one of those games that just starts slowly slipping away."

Leaf was 12 for 24 for 134 yards and one touchdown but was also sacked five times and threw two interceptions.

Riley said two sets of numbers told the tale: time of possession (36 minutes for the Saints, 23 for the Chargers) and third-down conversions (nine of 15 for the Saints, one of nine for the Chargers).

"Our guys deserve to win," said first-year Saint Coach Jim Haslett. "We came in trying to play physical and smart. We did play physical at times, but we weren't very smart at times."

If the Chargers were explosive in the first half and then ineffectual in the second, the Saints were slow but steady, scoring in all four quarters.

The Saints' Ricky Williams scored on a 13-yard pass play in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter the Saints got a 31-yard field goal from Doug Brien and the last-minute touchdown, Blake's third scoring pass of the game.

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