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Chargers Are 'Embarrassed'

September 15, 2003|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — In a game that left the fans booing and the coach embarrassed, the San Diego Chargers were beaten, 37-13, Sunday by the Denver Broncos before 65,445 at Qualcomm Stadium, the largest crowd for a Charger home opener.

"Any time you lose like that ... you really don't want to show your face," said Charger running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who gained 93 yards in 16 carries.

The loss left the Chargers 0-2. The Broncos are 2-0.

"I'm embarrassed," Charger Coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "I'm embarrassed because I know we're capable of better."

The fans, however, may lack such confidence in a team that hasn't reached the playoffs in seven seasons. In the third quarter, as the public address announcer intoned that "one lucky fan" would win an autographed jersey from quarterback Drew Brees, the booing was tempered only by the laughing.

The Broncos scored first on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Jake Plummer to running back Reuben Droughns, the first of three touchdown passes by Plummer until he was injured diving for a first down in the second quarter and left the game. The Broncos led, 24-10, at the half.

Bronco Coach Mike Shanahan bolstered his team's balanced offense (197 yards running, 192 passing) with a dash of psychological gamesmanship involving Plummer's injury.

At first, Shanahan had the team report that Plummer had suffered a slight concussion. In his postgame comments, however, Shanahan said that Plummer had suffered a shoulder separation. Shanahan said he had not wanted the Chargers to know that Plummer was finished for the game.

Bronco running back Clinton Portis gained 129 yards in 12 carries. He left the game in the second quarter because of a bruised sternum.

Replacing Plummer was 17-year NFL veteran Steve Beuerlein, who was seven for 16 for 98 yards.

Brees completed 20 of 41 passes for 182 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to Eric Parker in the second quarter. Charger kicker Steve Christie made field goals from 19 yards in the first quarter and 25 yards in the third.

The loss was the most lopsided in a home opener since Pittsburgh beat the Chargers, 37-0, in 1975.

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