Last Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was the best quarterback on the field, which wasn't saying a whole lot. Though more impressive than Chicago Bears counterpart Rex Grossman, Rivers looked more like a shaky second-year starter and less like a guy who'd made the Pro Bowl while winning 14 of his 16 regular season starts in 2006.
Rivers threw an interception, fumbled a snap near the Bears' goal line and took a trio of sacks, all without completing a pass of more than 20 yards. And when the Chargers finally reached the end zone with 45 seconds left in the third quarter, on a glorious toss to tight end Antonio Gates, the game's lone touchdown pass came from the golden right arm of halfback LaDainian Tomlinson.
Yet when it was over, and San Diego had secured a 14-3 victory over last season's NFC champs, Rivers strutted down a hallway leading to the Chargers' locker room looking more bubbly than Rachael Ray at a champagne brunch.
Asked to explain his exuberance, the quarterback put the "Phil" in philosophical: "Hey, that was a tough game, and all that matters is we won it. This ain't college. We don't have to impress the sportswriters."
Well, just one and I'm not yet convinced that San Diego can hang with the Colts and Patriots, pending Sunday night's epic showdown in Foxborough, Mass. So we'll kick off our inaugural "32 Questions" with the defending champs and work our way down to the dregs.
1. Indianapolis Colts: What were the names of all those departed defensive starters again, and why were we supposed to worry about it?
2. New England Patriots: Is someone secretly videotaping me, right now, as I type this sentence?
3. San Diego Chargers: Does Shawne Merriman look a tad less disruptive to you, and can anyone offer any theories as to why that might be?
6. Denver Broncos: Before last Sunday's finale, has an NFL field goal been more exciting since the Snow Bowl?
7. Chicago Bears: When Cedric Benson put on that baseball cap in the third quarter of Sunday's game, did the Paranoid One think that would help his sketchy standing among his teammates?
9. New Orleans Saints: Sean Payton, I love you, man, but instead of skipping that practice after Kenny Chesney snagged that punt do you think maybe you should've passed out some free CDs and worked on defending Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne?
11. Pittsburgh Steelers: Easy, Stiller Fans: Before I put your team in the Top 10, do you mind if we wait until it plays an actual "Football Bowl Subdivision" team on Sunday?
13. Carolina Panthers: Um, John Fox, after you deactivated him for the first game of the season, are we still supposed to believe that the drafting of Dwayne Jarrett is the reason you cut Keyshawn Johnson?
14. Houston Texans: Who is that guy wearing the No. 8 jersey, and where the hell was he the previous five years?
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: So, Jack Del Rio: Would now be an appropriate time to reprise that catchy "Chop That Wood" slogan?
26. Miami Dolphins: Cam, miss LT much?
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Does scoring more points than you have quarterbacks on your roster constitute a moral victory?
28. Detroit Lions: Is Kid Rock available for special teams duty?
29. Kansas City Chiefs: Was it just me, or during the telecast of the Chiefs' miserable effort in Houston last Sunday, did you keep expecting them to cut to Brodie Croyle's wife for a heartfelt reaction?
32. Cleveland Browns: For what franchise will Phil Savage be an advance scout in 2008?