It’s easy to see why fans are getting fired up about the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018. They’re now in the hunt for a seventh straight win.
The Chargers haven’t always had an easy time of it, but let’s step back 12 years to the Chargers’ 2006 season when they had lots of success on the field.
The 2005 season finished in disappointment as the San Diego Chargers finished the season 9-7. The Chargers’ 2006 would at least give their fans hope. Drew Brees had moved to new pastures giving an opportunity to Philip Rivers to become the starting quarterback. Although the season would end sourly, the Chargers had every reason to be proud of their achievements. The Bolts would post more points on the board than any other team in the regular season, falling eight shy of 500.
Opening the season with a supercharged shutout
Head coach Marty Schottenheimer was often associated with being conservative. He looked on with pride as his team blew the doors off the Oakland Raiders on the road on Monday Night Football. There’s nothing better than a ‘W’ at the Black Hole.
The Chargers laid down the blueprints for a ‘lights-out’ performance. Raiders’ quarterback Aaron Brooks was held to 68 yards and was sacked seven times by a ruthless Chargers defense. The innefible Shawne Merriman had three of those sacks. The defense finished with nine sacks on the day.
Emergence of a franchise quarterback
Rivers would finish the day 8-of-11, throwing for 108 yards and a touchdown. Rivers had arguably the ‘go-to’ weapon of that season – LaDainian Tomlinson. LT had 13 carries for 131 yards and a tocudhwon. 2006 would be a very special season for the future Hall of Famer.
The Chargers weren’t the only football team to open the season with a shutout. The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-0 and the Chicago Bears defeated the Green Bay Packers 26-0.
Building on the season opener
Any thoughts that the Chargers had a lucky Week 1 win were dismissed when they welcomed the Tennessee Titans and then sent them back east empty-handed.
The Chargers ran out 40-7 winners, inflicting most of the damage in the second and fourth quarters. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron looked on as his team posted a season-high of 476 total offensive yards.
Titans’ quarterback Vince Young finished the day 7-of-20. He was held to a meager 106 yards and one touchdown. Rivers was much more productive. The offensive line kept him upright, allowing him to throw for 235 yards and a touchdown. Tomlinson had 19 carries, rushing for 71 yards and two touchdowns. However, it was Micheal Turner who hauled the chains. Turner, who was drafted in 2004 along with Rivers, had 13 carries for 138 yards.
The schedule handed the Chargers a bye in Week 3. Crazy! A road game followed in Week 4, finishing with a 16-13 defeat in Baltimore. The Ravens, who trailed 13-7 at halftime, had the formidable Ray Lewis on their defense. Rivers and company were held to 284 yards total offense, a number that was to be their second lowest on the season.
At 2-1, Schottenheimer had to rally his troops for the arrival of the Super Bowl Champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers, coached by Bill Cowher. The Steelers’ offensive coordinator was none other than Ken Whisenhunt. The Week 5 game was a big test for the Chargers. Pittsburgh was loaded with talent, including Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Heath Miller and Ike Taylor.
The San Diego trip wasn’t fruitful for Cowher. Despite sacking Rivers four times, the Steelers fell to a score of 23-13. Roethlisberger also took a beating, the pocket was breached numerous times, resulting in five sacks for the Chargers’ defense. The Bolts moved to 3-1, the Steelers fell to 1-3.
Both Rivers and Cowher addressed the media following the game, via ESPN.
It was a little more than a win. We grew a lot as a team. We made a big step tonight”. (Rivers)
“We really didn’t have any answer for them in the second half. He was throwing the ball very accurately. We couldn’t get off the field”. (Cowher)
Two road games followed the victory over the Steelers. First up were the 2-3 San Francisco 49ers. Defensive End Shaun Phillips had four sacks on the season. 49ers’ quarterback Alex Smith would be acquainted with Phillips who had two of the Chargers’ five sacks in a comfortable 48-19 win.
Smith also threw a pick. It was the Chargers’ defense who were ranked No.1 as October drew to the midway point. Niners’ defensive Tackle Anthony Adams would later receive a $5,000 fine from the NFL for a late hit on Rivers.
A visit to divisional rival Kansas City would result in a painful loss. Not only did the Chiefs win with a Lawrence Tynes field goal with six seconds left on the clock, they’d lose sack leader Philips to the trainer’s room.
The Chiefs won the game 30-27 to move to 3-3. The Bolts were pegged back to 4-2 but it would be their last regular-season defeat. How about this for a stat? Tomlinson finished the game with a passer rating of 118.1. He was 1-of-1 throwing for a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna.
That’s it for part one. In part two we’ll look back at the remainder of the Chargers 2006 season, including a shootout with the Cincinnatio Bengals.