San Diego Chargers running back Mike Tolbert #35 celebrates in the end zone next to tight end Antonio Gates #85 during the team's 24-17 win over the Minnesota Vikings at Qualcomm Stadium on September 11, 2011 in San Diego, California.
San Diego Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding grabbed his left knee in pain.
Minnesota Vikings returner Percy Harvin celebrated with his teammates in the end zone.
In eight seconds, an 8-month-old memory of last season — when the Chargers season folded from special teams disasters — was renewed.
Then the Chargers did something new.
After their home crowd chased them into the locker room with boos, the Chargers rebounded from a 103-yard opening kickoff return and 17-7 halftime deficit, dominating the Vikings in a 24-17 comeback win at Qualcomm Stadium.
In the second half, the Chargers defense held the Vikings offense to 26 yards on 17 plays. The offense totaled 234 of its 407 yards and chewed up 20:56 on the clock. The special teams, paced by punter/impromptu kicker Mike Scifres, didn't miss a beat.
“We were extremely disappointed by the way the game started,” said safety Eric Weddle, who held Scifres' extra-point attempts and a long field goal after Kaeding left with a reported torn anterior cruciate ligament. “We never put our heads down. We stayed focus. We stayed the course.
“That kind of shows the type of team we have this year. It's not the 2010 Chargers. It's not the '08, '09 — whatever. It's the 2011 Chargers. We stick together. We believe in each other. We're going to grind it out, and we're going to get a team win.”
The Chargers finally took the lead with 5:10 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Philip Rivers found running back Mike Tolbert on an improvised 19-yard touchdown pass.
Rivers play-actioned to Tolbert, his check-down receiving option, and looked downfield. Quickly, the pocket collapsed, and Rivers ran to his left and scraped along the line of scrimmage to buy time.
“I saw him take off and I was like, 'Philip is about to run. I need to block,'” Tolbert said. “I was going in to block, then I saw him go sideways and I saw he was trying to throw it. I just kind of backed out, and he threw it to me. I wasn't expecting it at first, but it counts.”
Tolbert had a game-high nine catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns. He added 35 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson rushed nine times for 74 yards in the first half. He was held to 24 yards on six carries in the second.
Chargers middle linebacker Takeo Spikes said a controversial radio appearance made limiting Peterson "personal."
Castillo, Kaeding Down
Kicker Nate Kaeding's 2011 season may have ended on its very first play.
Based on his somber expression, defensive end Luis Castillo may also miss significant time.
Castillo was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with a left leg injury suffered on a play nullified by a false start.
In the locker room after the game, Castillo quietly sat on a cart with a large brace covering the leg and crutches at his side.
The Chargers have not formally announced the two injuries' severity, but according to multiple reports Sunday night, Kaeding has a torn ACL, and his season is done. Player agent David Canter posted on Twitter that Castillo is also out for the season.
Coach Norv Turner said the Chargers won't use Scifres, despite being perfect on three PATs and a 40-yard field goal, as a kicker next week when the team faces the New England Patriots. They're expected to add a kicker in the coming days.