Miami rolls by displaced Chargers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 28, 2003

TEMPE, Ariz. - With their home stadium being used as an evacuation center and the nearby hills in flames, the San Diego Chargers moved their long-awaited Monday night game 365 miles to the east - and fell flat.

Brian Griese, in his first start for Miami, completed 20 of 29 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns and the Dolphins intercepted Drew Brees three times in a 26-10 victory over the Chargers.

Griese, at least for one night, lived up to the heritage that his last name carries in Miami. He completed his first six passes and was 13-of-14 for 145 yards and three scores as Miami built a 24-3 halftime lead.

Email newsletter signup

Patrick Surtain had two interceptions, setting up Miami's first touchdown with the first and stopping a San Diego scoring threat with the second.

Less than 24 hours before kickoff, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue decided to move the game to Sun Devil Stadium because of the deadly wildfires that have devastated the San Diego area.

Admission was free, and the place was rocking and rowdy. There was no official crowd count, but all 73,014 tickets were distributed. Five Arizona Cardinals players helped collect donations for the San Diego Fire Relief Fund at the stadium entrance.

The game, San Diego's first on Monday night since 1996, was supposed to be the celebrated return of Junior Seau, who was the heart and soul of the Chargers for 13 seasons before he was traded to Miami before this season. But the return to Qualcomm Stadium never happened.

Instead, Seau had to be content with a dominant performance by the Dolphins' defense, and a magnificent night for Griese.

Griese signed a free agent by the Dolphins after five seasons in Denver - four as a starter. He knew he would be a backup for a franchise that his father Bob led to two Super Bowl championships. They are the first father and son to play quarterback for the same NFL team.

He got the start because of Fiedler's sprained knee ligament. Fiedler was in uniform for the game, but there was no need for him to try to play.

Surtain intercepted Brees' first pass, on the game's third play, and returned it 32 yards to the San Diego 6. Two plays later, Griese's first pass as a Miami starter went 5 yards to Chris Chambers for a touchdown.

On the Chargers' next possession, Brees' pass bounced off the hands of LaDanian Tomlinson and was picked off by Zach Thomas, who returned it 19 yards to set up Olindo Mare's 44-yard field goal that made it 10-0 barely 6 1/2 minutes into the game.

After Steve Christie's 51-yard field goal cut the lead to 10-3, the Dolphins went 65 yards in 10 plays, Griese passing 2 yards to James McKnight for the score with 13:28 left in the first half.

San Diego drove from its 30 to the Miami 9 later in the second quarter, but on third-and-6, Surtain stepped in front of David Boston to intercept Brees' pass in the end zone.

The Dolphins promptly went 80 yards in just six plays. Griese threw 7 yards to Randy McMichael in the right corner of the end zone and it was 24-3 with 1:55 to play.

Miami handed San Diego its lone touchdown when Ricky Williams fumbled and Quentin Jammer recovered for the Chargers at the Dolphins' 1. Three plays later, Tomlinson scored to cut the lead to 24-10 with 12:21 to play.

Brees' awful night got worse when he was thrown down in the end zone by Rob Burnett. Brees fumbled, and the Chargers' Damion McIntosh recovered for a safety with 8:06 to play.

The Chargers drove inside the Miami 10 three times and came away with nothing. Boston, who played his first three seasons for Arizona, was booed roundly every time he made a play.

Tomlinson gained 62 yards on 24 carries and caught 11 passes for 80 yards.

Immediately after Arizona beat San Francisco 16-13 in overtime on Sunday, crews erased the ''Cardinals'' from both end zones and replaced them with ''Chargers,'' complete with the lightning bolt logo.

Only a handful of NFL games have been moved or rescheduled because of natural disasters. The San Francisco 49ers shifted their game against the Patriots to Stanford Stadium after the earthquake of 1989.