SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The San Diego Chargers wiped out memories of their season-opening defeat six days ago as Philip Rivers led the defending AFC West champions to a crushing 38-13 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Rivers completed 22 of 29 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns while the Chargers delivered a stellar defensive display to give their home fans plenty to celebrate on a sunny afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.
In pursuit of a fourth consecutive division title, San Diego shrugged off the loss of talented running back Ryan Mathews with an injured right ankle in the first half to outclass the visitors in every department.
Fullback Mike Tolbert and tight end Antonio Gates, roared on by a crowd of 62,691, recorded two touchdowns apiece, while the Chargers defense limited the Jaguars to 71 rushing yards.
Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard was intercepted four times and sacked twice, and the Jaguars’ six turnovers matched the team’s highest game total ever.
“It was a great defensive effort,” Chargers head coach Norv Turner said. “Every time we had a negative situation, defensively we stepped up and created a negative situation for them.
“The things I wanted to see from our team were a physical presence and the ability to pressure contact the quarterback, and create turnovers.
“If we can do those things, we can be the type of team I have been talking about.”
Rivers, who was intercepted twice in the second quarter, applauded his team’s offensive effort after the early loss of Mathews.
“We’ve got a great group to throw the football to -- backs, tight ends and receivers,” the quarterback said after recording the 16th 300-yard game of his career.
“The guys up front protected and run-blocked like crazy. When they do that, we feel like we can be efficient in the passing game.”
Stung by their surprise 21-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday, the Chargers made a fast start, Rivers hitting Tolbert for a two-yard touchdown after moving his team 74 yards in six plays on the game’s first drive.
Although a 44-yard field goal from Josh Scobee trimmed San Diego’s advantage to 7-3, Rivers twice connected with Gates for touchdowns in the second quarter to give the home team a commanding 21-6 lead at halftime.
With his second touchdown, the 62nd of his NFL career, Gates moved into a tie for second in the all-time standings for tight ends, behind only Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez (82).
A 41-yard field goal from Nate Kaeding put San Diego ahead 24-6 going into the fourth quarter before they tightened their grip with a flourish.
Tolbert bulldozed his way through the Jaguars defense for a one-yard touchdown and Rivers hit Malcolm Floyd for a 54-yard score, the wide receiver lifting the ball skywards with his right arm as he powered into the end zone.
The Jaguars, who had launched their season last week by beating the Denver Broncos 24-17, earned a consolation touchdown with 37 seconds remaining when wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker scored on a three-yard pass.
“It was a terrible day at the office,” said Garrard after hitting 15 of 23 passes for 170 yards. “If I could erase my memory from today, I would. We have to re-group as a team.”
Local television coverage of the game was blacked out after the Chargers failed to sell all the tickets, ending a run of 48 consecutive sellouts at Qualcomm Stadium dating back to 2004.
Editing by Steve Ginsburg
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