SAN DIEGO (AP)—Got Flutie? The San Diego Chargers do, and they finally used him from the start of a game.
The payoff was phenomenal.
Two weeks after turning 41, Doug Flutie juked his way to two touchdowns and threw for two more in his first start in nearly two years, leading the San Diego Chargers to a stunning 42-28 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The big performance from the pint-sized Flutie and two touchdown runs by LaDainian Tomlinson—including a 73-yarder, his longest career TD—injected some excitement into an otherwise dismal season for the Chargers (2-7).
Tomlinson, who was just 5 when Flutie won the 1984 Heisman Trophy, raved about his quarterback.
“I believe in magic, Flutie magic,” Tomlinson said. “He played awesome. Doug Flutie, he’s just amazing. He’s unbelievable.”
Flutie said that age “is just a number. I feel as good as I did when I was 30, that’s for sure,” he said. “It was fun. I had a blast. It was an emotionally draining day.”
Coach Marty Schottenheimer refused to second-guess himself for taking so long to bench the ineffective Drew Brees in favor of the energetic Flutie, whose scrambling ability has kept him playing pro football for 19 years despite being just 5-foot-10.
“I’m not going to get involved in musical chairs with the quarterback,” he said. “It can destroy your team.”
Or in this case, double a team’s win total for the season.
Schottenheimer would only say that Flutie “probably” will start next Sunday at Denver.
“Clearly, it was a very impressive performance,” Schottenheimer said.
“The way Doug played today, it’s hard to call it a quarterback controversy,” Tomlinson said.
The Chargers had no turnovers.
“Guys just made plays. We didn’t have the mistakes,” Flutie said. “They weren’t the best defense in the league—let’s not get too carried away.”
Flutie’s second rushing touchdown might have been his most impressive moment of the day. On second-and-7 from the Minnesota 13, he fumbled the snap, picked it up and ran straight up the middle before sidestepping safety Brian Russell and diving into the end zone for a 42-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Flutie shook his head, as if wondering whether it was all real.
“It was one of those days where things went right,” Flutie said.
Flutie got a hug on the sideline from Brees, who was benched after throwing five interceptions and no TD passes in the last three games.
The Vikings didn’t sell Flutie short.
“He’s 41 years old but he still plays like a young kid,” linebacker Henri Crockett said.
“He kept them on the field,” Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper said. “I have a lot of respect for him.”
The 42 points were the most for the Chargers since they beat Miami 45-20 on Dec. 27, 1993, a span of 153 games. Their 458 yards were a season-high.
Minnesota (6-3) lost its third straight game. Culpepper completed 32 of 44 passes for a career-high 370 yards and four touchdowns, which tied his career-high. Randy Moss had 11 catches for 120 yards and one touchdown, a 4-yarder.
The Chargers allowed 460 yards, but had two second-half takeaways, including intercepting Culpepper in the end zone late in the game.
Flutie was 21-of-29 for 248 yards and no interceptions in his first start since 2001. Tomlinson had 162 yards on 16 carries.
Flutie’s first scoring run was pretty impressive, too. On third-and-goal from the 3 in the second quarter, Flutie dropped back, dodged defensive end Lance Johnstone and then broke for the end zone. He put a Tomlinson-like move on Kevin Williams at the 2 and scored for a 21-7 lead.
He jumped as high as a 5-foot-10 player can, then spiked the ball.
Flutie picked up where he left off a week earlier, when he relieved Brees in the fourth quarter at Chicago and led the Chargers on their only scoring drive in a 20-7 loss.
The Chargers scored on all four possessions in the first half, matching their TD total from the last three games combined. In leading 28-14 at halftime, they scored more points than they did total in all but one game previously this year.
Tomlinson’s 73-yard TD run came after he took a pitch from Flutie and raced down the left sideline, leaving the last defender grasping at air at the 20.
The Chargers, last in the NFL in third-down conversions, were 6-of-9. … Chargers C Cory Raymer broke his right hand and DE Raylee Johnson sprainedhis left foot. … The Vikings were penalized 10 times for 107 yards.