You want exciting Sunday football, there are no guarantees. But if you want victories, it helps to play the Jets.
The San Diego Chargers, who have yet to defeat a team with a winning record, beat the New York Jets, 38-17, before 40,877 fans in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
“The intensity wasn’t where it should be for this game, and even with that we were able to win,” Charger linebacker Gary Plummer said. “I think that’s a sign of a good team. You can’t let that happen very often, but to be able to win when you’re not at your best says something for us.”
Or maybe it says something about the woeful Jets, who sabotaged their offensive output of 352 yards with three turnovers and a four-for-14 performance in third-down conversions (29%).
The Chargers piled up 412 yards in offense in a 39-3 victory over the Jets in Giants Stadium earlier this season, and Sunday they gained 409. Not since Oct. 19, 1986 had the Chargers scored a touchdown in each quarter of play, but they did it against the Jets, and it was fun for all:
--Running back Marion Butts scored a pair of touchdowns, went over the 1,000-yard mark in rushing and gained 159 yards in 26 carries.
--Wide receiver Anthony Miller ended a 20-quarter scoring dry spell by catching a 24-yard touchdown pass.
--Quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver, who was booed again for his spray-gun passing attack, rallied in the second half to throw a pair of touchdown passes.
--Wide receiver Nate Lewis entrenched himself in the starting lineup with a 10-yard touchdown run and four catches for 89 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown reception.
“We had some outstanding plays, and then we had some plays that weren’t so outstanding,” Coach Dan Henning said. “That’s part of this team right now.”
The Jets had jumped ahead of the Chargers, 3-0, on Pat Leahy’s 38-yard first-quarter field goal, and made it obvious they were going to run the ball with conviction. They would go on to gain 145 yards on the ground, but it would not be enough to offset a series of mistakes in the passing game.
Cornerback Donald Frank intercepted quarterback Ken O’Brien’s intended pass for Rob Moore in the first quarter at the Jets’ 13, and moments later Butts scored for a 7-3 lead.
Linebacker Billy Ray Smith forced a Chris Dressel fumble on the Jets’ next possession, and the Chargers’ offense took over on its 47-yard line in the closing seconds of the first quarter.
Tolliver completed a 25-yard pass to Lewis, and on the next play Lewis gained an additional five yards on a reverse to put the ball on the Jets’ 23.
Then Butts carried four times in a row and scored on a four-yard run to make it, 14-3.
The Jets, with an offense that had scored only one touchdown in their previous 12 quarters, marched 84 yards and scored on a 21-yard pass play from O’Brien to wide receiver Al Toon.
The Chargers added to New York’s woes with John Carney’s 22-yard field goal with three seconds remaining in the half to go ahead 17-10, and then Tolliver added to San Diego’s advantage in the third quarter with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Miller.
“It’s not often you get single coverage on Anthony,” said Tolliver, who completed 14 of 27 passes for 220 yards with an interception.
The Jets struck back again with O’Brien going up the ladder to Toon, who was towering once again over Seale for an eight-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
But then it was time for Lewis. He left Jet rookie Tony Stargell behind and hauled in a 19-yard pass from Tolliver to push his team ahead, 31-17. Then he raced around left end, and with a generous ruling from officials, was credited with a 10-yard scoring run.
“It wasn’t our best game,” safety Vencie Glenn said, “but an ugly win is better any day than a pretty loss.”