Purists who savor such arcane tactics as defense and the tackle may as well abandon the San Diego Chargers now. But to the scoring glutton hoping to make up for lost ground, this team is heaven-sent. Whether it is Super Bowl-bound depends on whether you need defense to attain championship stature.
San Diego's emphatic 50-34 defeat of the Cincinnati Bengals tonight left behind as many broken records as missed tackles. Both littered San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, to the delight of 51,196 partisan fans who have come to expect nothing less than a heavy dose of something sensational week after week.
This is what they got, unofficially: 66 completions, an NFL record; 97 attempts, one shy of an NFL record; Dan Fouts' second consecutive 400-yards-plus passing game, an NFL first; 10 receptions for 260 yards by Wes Chandler, breaking Lance Alworth's 19-year-old record; 56 first downs; 883 total yards passing, an NFL record.
"The game is changing," said safety Tim Fox, "and you have to change with it. We can be better. Listen, we had a couple of touchdowns called back tonight. Do you realize we could have scored 70 points against the Cincinnati Bengals?"
The Charger victory followed by one week a remarkable 41-37 victory over San Francisco. It would appear that this team's prowess in the air is a legitimate skill.
Both teams gulped up huge doses of yards seemingly at will. There were so many routinely exciting plays that not one seemed exciting in reflection. The Chargers have evolved, like a thoroughbred, for one specific purpose. And whomever they meet gets tangled up in the aura.
Ken Anderson threw 57 times, many on third-and-short. Once on third-and-one, he threw an incomplete screen pass up the middle. And threw. And threw.
He opened the game with eight straight passes, and completed 27 of 35 passes in the first half. But his lead was just 24-17. His 12-yard scramble and a six-yard pass to Cris Collinsworth were sandwiched around Bo Harris' 62-yard interception.
But the Chargers threw in a spectacular Chuck Muncie-to-Chandler option pass for 66 yards and a touchdown, a 17-yard reverse by James Brooks and a last-second field goal to stay within seven, and they went on to score 16 more points in the first 4:54 of the second half.
On their first possession, Fouts passed to Winslow for 40 before Muncie scored from the one.
Anderson brought his time out then tied at 24-24, his first-half heroics gone for nought. One play later, he had been sacked in the end zone by Gary Johnson to make it 26-24.
On the ensuing possession, Fouts hit Chandler on a look-in, beating a safety blitz, and the receiver went 38 yards for the touchdown.
The Bengals came back for a field goal, but were powerless when San Diego returned with the ball again. A 38-yard touchdown pass to Winslow was called back for holding, so, on the next play, Brooks ran right through a blitz for a 48-yard touchdown to make it 40-27.
Cincinnati pulled within six again with an Anderson pass to M.L. Harris near the end of the third quarter, but the Bengals were unable to deal with Fouts and his receivers. Rolf Benirschke kicked a 26-yard field goal with 11:28 remaining.
On Cincinnati's next possession, Fox intercepted Anderson at the Charger 17 and returned it 47 yards. The Chargers went in after a 28-yard pass to Chandler.