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Chargers 20, Saints 6

September 8, 1997

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ His coach gave San Diego linebacker Junior Seau major credit for the victory. So did his quarterback.

Even William Roaf, New Orleans’ All-Pro offensive tackle, seemed ready to give Seau a game ball after the Chargers’ 20-6 victory over the Saints.

``Junior Seau played an outstanding football game, blitzing, and they were doing a lot of things with their linebackers coming up,″ Roaf marveled after Sunday’s game.

It also was a case of the Chargers getting their act together after a season-opening 41-7 blowout by New England. The Saints just couldn’t, getting only a pair of field goals after losing their season-opener 38-24 to St. Louis.

Still, San Diego got just one offensive touchdown _ a 21-yard pass from Jim Everett to Freddie Jones with 2:10 remaining in the game. Other Chargers scores came on a fumble recovery by Rodney Harrison in the end zone and field goals of 37 and 34 yards by John Carney.

Everett, who was cut by the Saints in the offseason, was exuberant.

``Someone asked me: `Write the script for this game.′ Well, it was written and with an exclamation point on the last touchdown. It couldn’t have happened any better,″ Everett said.

But the Chargers were happiest to get Seau back. He hadn’t played since injuring his left knee in San Diego’s first preseason game. Against the Saints, he finished with nine unassisted tackles, two assists and one sack.

But equally important was the emotional lift his return gave to the team.

``It’s obvious that he’s a great football player. No one questions or has any doubt about that. His presence means as much as his physical ability,″ coach Kevin Gilbride said. ``He refused to accept anything but us winning. His return is a big step forward for us as a team.″

Everett seconded the motion.

``I talked to Junior Seau after the game and I’ve never been around a more impact person. I’m talking about on and off the field,″ Everett said.

But Seau demurred.

``It wasn’t because of Junior that we won. It wasn’t because of Junior that the defense was able to perform,″ Seau said. ``Our defensive squad is expected to go out there and perform like we did. We made plays out there.″

Offensively, each team seemed anemic. San Diego had 229 total yards and 11 first downs. The Saints gained only 243 yards and had only 14 first downs.

Everett, who completed 17 of 29 passes for 195 yards, was sacked twice and intercepted once, all in the third quarter. He got little support from the Chargers’ runners, who gained a total of only 62 yards. Gary Brown led San Diego with 46 yards on 21 attempts.

New Orleans had two first-half field goals to account for all of its scoring. Doug Brien kicked a 37-yarder in the first quarter and a 31-yarder in the second.

The Saints also committed six turnovers. Highly touted rookie running back Troy Davis surrendered two of New Orleans’ three fumbles and Heath Shuler was intercepted three times. Shuler also was sacked three times.

Shuler completed 20 of 38 passes for 194 yards.

Saints running backs gained just 65 yards on 23 carries.

``Mistakes again killed us,″ New Orleans coach Mike Ditka said.

It is only the second time that a team coached by Ditka opened 0-2. The first time was in his first season as head coach of the Chicago Bears.

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