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Week 1 in the NFL

Quick Snaps

September 09, 2007|From the Associated Press

The San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears could have had a date in Miami last February. Maybe they should have had a date considering the Chargers had the best record in the NFL at 14-2 and the Bears cruised through the NFC.

That Super Bowl matchup never happened, of course, because the Chargers let New England score 11 points in the final 4:36 of a 24-21 AFC divisional playoff loss. That led to the firing of coach Marty Schottenheimer and the hiring of Norv Turner.

So now the Chargers have to be content with hosting the NFC champions today in one of the featured games of the NFL's opening weekend.

Some consolation.

"It's something that eats at you," Turner says. "I've ended the year with playoff games like that, and you know it's a long time before you can do anything about it."

Turner was 58-82-1 in previous head-coaching jobs with Washington and Oakland and walks into a situation where he's expected to win big.

Likewise, expectations are again high for the Bears, who were 29-17 losers to Indianapolis in the Super Bowl.

Given that Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman's turnover problems extended from the Super Bowl into the preseason, the Bears will be leaning heavily on their defense.

Interestingly, it is that Bears' defense the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson is seen shredding in commercials for an about-to-be released Nike commercial.

Another subplot: Ron Rivera, the Bears' defensive coordinator the last few years, is now on Turner's staff in San Diego. After interviewing for the Chargers' head-coaching job, he was let go by Chicago.

"If I were on the coaching staff out there, I would pick his mind constantly," Chicago wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad said. "If I were a player out there, I would be asking about all the guys.

"They've got a good advantage with coach Rivera out there, but you've got to line up, you've got to play. It's still a game of talent. Rivera can't be out there."

No he can't, but there's enough Super Bowl-caliber talent on both teams to make this game worthwhile.

Tennessee's Vince Young and Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew were two of the most impressive rookies in the league last season.

Young was 8-5 as a starter and led the Titans to six consecutive wins before a season-ending loss to New England ended their playoff hopes.

Jones-Drew totaled 2,250 yards of offense, the third-most by a rookie in NFL history, and scored 16 touchdowns while playing behind Fred Taylor.

Both of them believe they can do better. They begin their second seasons on opposite sidelines today, when the Jaguars host the Titans.

Jones-Drew ran for 941 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and finishing 59 yards shy of making the Jaguars the fifth team in NFL history with two 1,000 rushers. He added 436 yards receiving and 860 yards on kickoff returns.

Not bad for a 5-foot-7, 208-pound back from UCLA who was the 60th overall pick in the draft. Then again, Jones-Drew expected success even though Reggie Bush, Laurence Maroney, DeAngelo Williams, Joseph Addai and LenDale White were selected ahead of him.

"I don't see any surprises in this league," Jones-Drew said. "I don't underestimate anyone. If you're fighting a guy 5-2, 100 pounds, you're going to fight him the same way you fight a guy who's 6-6, 300 pounds because you don't want to lose. That's how I see it. That's how I view life."

Jones-Drew spent the better part of last season trying to prove everyone wrong. All 32 teams passed on him at least once in the draft -- the reason he wears No. 32 -- and several overlooked him twice, including the Titans.

"Every game is a rivalry game for me because they didn't pick me," he said. "I'm going to go out there angry and play."

Jones-Drew may have been most upset when the offensive rookie of the year award was announced last season. He thought he had outperformed the other top contenders: Young, Bush, New Orleans receiver Marques Colston and San Diego left tackle Marcus McNeill.

But Young won by a wide margin. Colston and Jones-Drew tied for second.

"I can't be mad at Vince because I didn't get to vote for it, and he didn't either," Jones-Drew said. "You guys voted for it, so I should be mad at you guys. It was terrible."

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