Chargers 36, Rams 21
LaDainian Tomlinson scored on a 55-yard run—his only carry of the game— and his backup, Michael Turner, also had a 55-yard run, plus a 2-yard TD scamper, to help the Chargers beat the St. Louis Rams 36-21 on Sunday.
Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said at halftime that Gates was expected to arrive in San Diego on Sunday night and sign a $380,000 tender to end his holdout. Because Gates missed a team-imposed deadline to report, the Chargers said on Saturday that they will put him on the Roster Exempt List once he signs, meaning he would have to sit out the last two exhibitions and the season opener against Dallas on Sept. 11.
Gates caught 13 touchdown passes last year to set an NFL record for tight ends, leading the Chargers to the AFC West title and their first playoff appearance in nine seasons. He led the Chargers with 81 catches for 964 yards, accounting for about 20 percent of the offense.
But negotiations on a multiyear deal have fallen apart, leading to his uncertain status. The Chargers set Saturday’s deadline in an effort to break the impasse.
“At the end of the day, he’ll be here, and that’s what’s most important,” coach Marty Schottenheimer said after the Chargers’ first game in San Diego since their 20-17 overtime playoff loss to the New York Jets on Jan. 8.
Rams tight end Roland Williams strained a knee on the opening kickoff but continued to play.
“I don’t know how bad it is,” coach Mike Martz said.
Tomlinson capped San Diego’s first drive when he sprinted through a huge hole, ran toward the right sideline and blew past safety Adam Archuleta for the score. Tomlinson then took a spot on the sideline, his day’s work over after being in for just five plays. He also caught two passes from Drew Brees, for eight yards.
“I wish it was the Cowboys,” Tomlinson said, looking ahead to the season-opener. “A preseason game is not really where I need to get in a rhythm. Obviously it helps to play some preseason.”
With the Chargers (1-1) leading 10-0, Turner started the Chargers’ third possession with a 55-yard run, then capped it with a 2-yard run to give San Diego a 17-0 lead.
“I wanted that TD,” Turner said. “I didn’t know it was going to open up that much. L.T. was kidding me about having a monkey on my back.”
Martz wasn’t happy with the Rams’ performance.
“We had some missed tackles that resulted in over 100 yards in two plays rushing,” Martz said. “This was a very, very good football, an outstanding team, especially offensively. They are probably as good as any team on the league on offense. They exposed us. It’s a good wakeup call in a lot of areas.
“We lacked discipline. That’s coaching. That’s me,” Martz said. “We need to get a lot more disciplined in every phase.”
Kicking on a dry field for a change, San Diego’s Nate Kaeding had field goals of 35 and 40 yards to snap an 0-for-4 streak.
Kaeding missed three field goal attempts in the final eight minutes of a 10-7 loss at Green Bay in the exhibition opener, which was played in a steady drizzle. Seven months earlier, he was wide right from 40 yards in overtime of San Diego’s playoff loss to the Jets, also on a wet field.
Kaeding’s 40-yard kick on Sunday was from the same hash mark and same end of the field where he had his playoff clunker.
Marc Bulger threw two touchdown passes for the Rams (1-1). His 41-yarder to Torry Holt with 2:12 left before halftime burned Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer and pulled the Rams to 17-14. He also threw 13-yard TD pass to Kevin Curtis.
Curtis had a 78-yard scoring reception from rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick with 1:35 left. It was Fitzpatrick’s only play of the day.
“I wasn’t sure if we were going to run the clock out or go for it,” said Fitzpatrick, who led Harvard to an undefeated record last year. “And he gave me the play. I was trying to loosen my arm up in the huddle a little bit. I just threw it up to Kevin and Kevin made a great play.”
San Diego’s top draft pick, outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, made his debut and had three tackles.