After two seasons as a backup to Drew Brees, Rivers made his first start in San Diego’s 27-0 rout of Oakland on Monday night. Not a lot was required of Rivers, though, as LaDainian Tomlinson and the defense played outstanding.
“It was exciting,” Rivers said. “I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. … I’ve said before, I don’t care if I have to hand it off 50 times or throw it 50 times, as long as we win.”
Rivers handed off close to 50 times, as the Chargers (1-0) ran the ball on 48 of 59 plays. He didn’t throw a pass to a wide receiver until his third series, and threw only two passes to wide receivers all game.
“When you have a young quarterback, you run the football a lot,” said Tomlinson, who rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries, surpassing the 100-yard plateau in the second quarter.
“You don’t ever want to put a young quarterback in a situation to make a turnover unless you have to. We played conservative and our defense was playing well so we had to ride our defense.”
The defense held the Raiders to 129 total yards. Shawne Merriman, last year’s top defensive rookie, had three of San Diego’s nine sacks.
It was the most sacks for the Chargers in one game since getting nine in a 24-3 win over Houston on Sept. 15, 2002, which also marked the last time they held a team below 130 yards of offense.
“Our defense played extremely well,” Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said. “We were able to put good pressure on their quarterback and it caused them some problems. We had some pretty numbers. But there’s only one number that counts and that’s in the win column, and that’s the one we’ll hang on as we move forward.”
San Diego has not opened a season 2-0 since winning the first four games of the 2002 season. The Chargers finished 8-8 that year, and have missed the playoffs nine of the last 10 seasons.
Tomlinson, who rushed for 1,462 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, has never rushed for consecutive 100-yard games to open a season in his six-year career. He got off to a slow start last season, rushing for 124 yards on 38 carries in his first two games combined before his first 100-yard game.
Tomlinson rushed for 147 yards on just 17 carries and scored a touchdown in his only career game against the Titans (0-1), a 28-17 win on Oct. 3, 2004.
The Chargers have won three consecutive games over the Tennessee franchise, and have never won four straight against them.
The Titans fell to the New York Jets 23-16 on Sunday, and have not opened a season 0-2 since losing the first three games of 2001.
Collins, the 12-year veteran who signed with the team on Aug. 28, was named the starter just 90 minutes before the game and looked out of sync early.
Collins was 7-of-19 for 89 yards through the first three quarters with one interception before leading two fourth-quarter touchdown drives.
“I really felt ready to play this game,” said Collins, who finished 17-of-38 for 223 yards. “I felt prepared to go out and give a winning performance and while I fought hard and did some good things, ultimately it wasn’t enough.”
Tennessee brought in Collins after Billy Volek, the longtime backup to ex-Titan Steve McNair, had a poor showing in the preseason and rookie Vince Young, the No. 3 overall pick out of Texas, wasn’t ready to be a starter.
Young replaced Collins in the second quarter to make his NFL debut, and finished 3-of-4 for 27 yards with an interception.
Despite his miscues, Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Collins will start against the Chargers, and Young will continue to get experience through spot duty.
Travis Henry rushed for both of Tennessee’s touchdowns on Sunday after failing to get one in either of his last two seasons. He rushed for 22 yards on nine carries backing up Chris Brown, who had 64 yards on 16 attempts.
The Titans, who won only one road game last season, play four of their next five games away from home.
“It’s definitely going to be a good challenge,” defensive tackle Robaire Smith said, “to see where our focus is and see if we can go out on the road and win.”