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Column: NFL Week 2: It’s like old times as Chargers stun Seahawks

Antonio Gates, Kam Chancellor
Chargers tight end Antonio Gates makes a touchdown catch in front of Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor in the second quarter Sunday in San Diego
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Unfazed by the challenge of knocking off the defending Super Bowl champions, the San Diego Chargers leaned on a nostalgic combination to beat the Seattle Seahawks, 30-21, before a raucous, sun-splashed crowd at Qualcomm Stadium.

Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates. Times three.

That’s right, the Chargers quarterback threw touchdown passes of eight, eight and 21 yards to his old buddy, a tight end who’s halfway to Canton and, at 34, is older than every player on the Seahawks roster.

Forget Beast Mode. This was Beach Mode.

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The Chargers are the first team to beat Seattle by more than a touchdown since the Dallas Cowboys won by 10 in Week 9 of the 2011 season.

The Seahawks losing to the Chargers wasn’t the only rub-your-eyes result of Week 2. By day’s end, the once-hapless Buffalo Bills were in first place in the AFC East, the talent-laden New Orleans Saints were in the NFC South cellar, and backup quarterbacks had led the Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams to victory.

The three touchdown receptions by Gates moved him into 11th on the NFL’s all-time list with 90, passing Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (87) and Hall of Famers Andre Reed (87) and Don Maynard (88).

It was a colossal triumph by San Diego, which was coming off a short week, compared to the nine days the Seahawks had to prepare. Both teams had to contend with wilting heat, as the mercury climbed to 120 degrees at field level, resulting in a lot of cramping bodies.

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The time of possession was stunningly lopsided, with San Diego holding the ball for 42 minutes 15 seconds, compared to Seattle’s 17:45. That means the vaunted Seahawks defense was on the field for roughly forever, and had to make 73 tackles to San Diego’s 48.

In those infrequent times the Chargers were on defense, they swarmed quarterback Russell Wilson, hurrying and harassing him, and limited running back Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch to 36 yards in six carries. That was quite a downshift from Lynch’s performance in the Kickoff Opener, when he ran for 110 yards in 20 carries with two touchdowns.

The respect between the franchises was evident after the game, when Chargers Coach Mike McCoy brought his son, Luke, with him to midfield and introduced him to Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.

But that handshake aside, San Diego had the upper hand all day.

Washington woes

The Redskins absorbed a painful one-two punch, losing quarterback Robert Griffin III and receiver DeSean Jackson in quick succession.

Griffin suffered a dislocated left ankle in the first quarter against Jacksonville, an injury that might have ended his season. According to various reports, the best-case scenario has him returning by Thanksgiving. He wiped his eyes and gave the crowd a thumbs-up as he was carted off the sideline, wearing a full-length inflatable cast.

Shortly after Griffin was injured, Jackson landed awkwardly as he attempted to catch a long pass from Kirk Cousins. The result was a game-ending shoulder injury for the three-time Pro Bowl receiver, who signed a three-year, $24-million deal with the Redskins after being cut by Philadelphia.

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“This one was a little vicious, the pain right on the bone and things like that,” Jackson said. “So I’m day-to-day.”

The Redskins did win, at least, 41-10.

Dawg day afternoon

Cleveland is 1-0 at home for the first time in 10 years.

Downtrodden for so long, the Browns finished Sunday in style, pulling off a 26-24 victory over the Saints with a stirring performance by quarterback Brian Hoyer. He drove his team from its four-yard line to the New Orleans 11 in crunch time, setting up the winning 29-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff with three seconds to play.

Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel made his NFL debut, entering for one play early in the third quarter (a handoff) and later for two more plays (a handoff and an incomplete pass).

The replacements

It was a head scratcher when Washington spent a third-round pick on Cousins the same year it took Griffin second overall. It was a smart move in retrospect, though, as Cousins is impressive. He completed his first 12 passes and finished 22 of 33 for 250 yards with two touchdowns in the rout of Jacksonville.

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“He’s handled being a backup like a pro,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said of Cousins. “He’s waited patiently, and now his time is going to come to really take this thing and run with it.”

With Arizona’s Carson Palmer bothered by nerve problems in his throwing shoulder, Drew Stanton learned within two hours of kickoff that he’d be starting against the New York Giants. Stanton directed three long scoring drives, and the Cardinals defense feasted on four turnovers in the 25-14 victory at East Rutherford, N.J.

The Cardinals became the first team since the 1982 Green Bay Packers to start 2-0 despite trailing in the fourth quarter of both games, then posting back-to-back shutouts in the fourth quarter.

Finally, St. Louis picked up its first victory — 19-17 at Tampa Bay — with Austin Davis at the helm, the quarterback the Rams originally thought would be their No. 3. He was pressed into action after the season-ending knee injury to Sam Bradford, and a thigh injury to backup Shaun Hill.

Davis, who was undrafted in 2012 and spent most of the previous two seasons on the St. Louis practice squad, completed 22 of 29 for 235 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

Far behind Favre

Aaron Rodgers threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns in Green Bay’s 31-24 victory over the New York Jets. That bumped Rodgers’ career passing total to 24,732 yards, second in Packers history and 14 yards more than Bart Starr.

Rodgers has a long way to go to surpass the quarterback he replaced, though. Brett Favre threw for 61,655.

Spiller thriller

Buffalo improved to 2-0 with a 29-10 victory over Miami, and it was a huge game for Bills running back C.J. Spiller.

He had a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 47-yard run, becoming the first player since 1973 to have a kickoff return of at least 100 yards and a run of at least 45 in the same game. Houston Oilers running back Bob Gresham accomplished that 41 years ago with a return of 103 and a run of 52 in a game against Cincinnati.

Conscience call

The Carolina Panthers reversed their field. In a surprise move, they deactivated Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy for Sunday’s game against Detroit, two days after saying they planned to start him. Hardy played in the opener, but that was before the Ray Rice situation exploded in Baltimore.

Hardy was found guilty by a North Carolina judge on domestic violence charges but has appealed the verdict and has a jury trial tentatively scheduled to begin Nov. 17.

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was near tears at an awards ceremony last week when he addressed critics who felt he had been too lenient on Hardy.

“When it comes to domestic violence, my stance is not one of indifference,” Richardson said at the ceremony, his voice trembling. “I stand firmly against domestic violence, plain and simple.”

San Francisco made a different decision. Ray McDonald, recently arrested on suspicion of felony domestic abuse, started at defensive tackle for the 49ers against Chicago in the Sunday night game.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer


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