RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Harry How/Getty)
Before all eyes shift to a Week 2 matchup against the Denver Broncos, Samantha Fillerup takes one last look back at the season opener against the Carolina Panthers. Fillerup unveils some telling news, notes and tendencies about the Chargers and their offensive superstars.
--The Chargers and Panthers have met just four times. The Chargers have been unlucky more times than not, with a record of 1-3 after Sunday's 26-24 loss.
--LaDainian Tomlinson returned to action for the first time since the AFC Championship Game. Unfortunately, he broke his streak of rushing for 100-plus yards during season openers in even-numbered years. He did it against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2002 (114), the Houston Texans in 2004 (121) and the Oakland Raiders in 2006 (131). The Chargers won each of those games.
--It's bad news bears for the Chargers when Tomlinson fails to crack the century mark. The loss against the Panthers brings San Diego's record to 29-43 when Tomlinson rushes for less than 100 yards. Tomlinson had 21 carries for 97 yards and three receptions for 15 yards.
--The Panthers were able to keep Tomlinson out of the end zone, which was another bad omen. The Chargers are only 15-23 when L.T. doesn't cross the goal line.
--Philip Rivers enjoyed a strong performance, completing 17 of 27 passes for 217 yards and three TDs. It's usually a good sign when Rivers throws for less than 250 yards, as the Chargers have a 21-7 record in such games. The explanation for this quirky stat: The Chargers must establish the run to be effective. And as was mentioned above, there was not enough success on the ground against Carolina.
--Mike Tolbert and Antoine Cason made their NFL debuts. Tolbert had three carries for 6 yards and three receptions for 35 yards. Cason posted five tackles and a forced fumble, which set up the Chargers for the go-ahead score late in the game.
--Antonio Gates played his first game since suffering a toe injury and recorded four receptions for 61 yards and one touchdown. However, a costly fumbled that was returned 31 yards for a touchdown showed the Gates of old is not quite back.
-- Nate Kaeding maintained the momentum he started last season during the AFC Championship Game and carried through the preseason. He connected on a 27-yard field goal and went 3-for-3 on extra points.
--The defense -- without Stephen Cooper and with gimpy stars in Shawne Merriman and Jamal Williams -- allowed the Carolina offense to rack up 388 total yards.
--Wide Receiver Mark Jones was released by the Chargers on Aug. 31 and was promptly signed by the Panthers. However, he didn't do much to show the Chargers what they were missing. He returned two punts for 8 yards and muffed one kick that was nearly picked up by Malcom Floyd for a Chargers touchdown.