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Leaf Shows His Strength

Round one went to Ryan Leaf and the San Diego Chargers. The rematch with the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning will be in October, when it counts.

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  • The meeting Saturday night between Leaf, the second pick in the NFL draft, and Manning, the No. 1 pick, was only the second time in NFL history quarterbacks picked 1-2 in the draft had faced each other as rookies.

    Leaf was 15-for-24 for 172 yards, set up one touchdown and ran for a score as the Chargers broke a 3-3 halftime tie and beat the Colts 33-3. It was only an exhibition game, but after a shaky first half, Leaf looked sharp in leading the Chargers to their third victory in a row.

    Manning, playing into the third quarter for the first time in the preseason, was 11-for-21 for 123 yards but twice had passes intercepted by Mike Dumas as the Colts dropped to 1-2.

    San Diego, helpe by Indianapolis turnovers, scored on its first five possessions of the second half. On the first play of the third quarter, Leaf passed 36 yards to Freddie Jones, starting a 10-play drive that produced a 6-yard go-ahead touchdown run by Natrone Means.

    Dumas returned his second interception 39 yards on the next series, giving San Diego the ball at the Indianapolis 18. Leaf, who was sacked three times, was thrown for a 4-yard loss by Bert Berry, but an interference penalty on Rico Clark gave the Chargers a first down at the Colts 1.

    Peyton Manning suffers two interceptions in a loss to San Diego. (AP)

    Leaf ran in on the next play, his second rushing TD of the preseason, for a 17-3 lead.

    The Chargers got the ball ack less than two minutes later when Latario Rachal returned a punt 40 yards to the Colts 22. Casey Weldon replaced Leaf at quarterback and took the Chargers to the 3 before John Carney kicked a 21-yard field goal for a 20-3 lead two seconds into the final quarter.

    After the next Indianapolis punt, Weldon passed 44 yards to Brian Roche at the 14, and three plays later, Weldon passed 13 yards to Rachal for another touchdown and a 27-3 lead. Lloyd Lee intercepted a pass off backup Indianapolis quarterback Kelly Holcomb on the next series, and the Chargers moved 71 yards in 12 plays, scoring the final touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Weldon to Michael Haynes with 3:25 to go.

    The Colts defense appeared to get the best of Leaf early, holding the Chargers inside their 25 on the first two possessions. A 7-yard loss by Leaf on a sack by Al Fontenot forced a punt, setting up the only Indianapolis scoring drive from near midfield late in the first quarter.

    Manning completed passes to Jerome Pathon and Marcus Pollard, and Cary Blanchard kicked a 41-yard field goal to put the Colts up 3-0.

    In the second quarter, Leaf began finding his receivers and hit Jones for 13 and 14 yards to help the Chargers to the Indianapolis 42. Means ran twice for 24 yards and Terrell Fletcher ran 11 yards to the Indianapolis 7. San Diego reached the 5, but Leaf was sacked by Kendell Shello for a loss of 2, and Carney tied the game 3-3 with a 25-yard field goal.

    The standoff continued on each team's final series of the half.

    Manning was 4-for-7 for 47 yards on a drive to the San Diego 31 before the first interception by Dumas. Leaf then passed three times for 29 yards to Webster Slaughter before his pass was intercepted by Jeff Burris at the Colts 11 with seven seconds to go, keeping the 3-3 tie at halftime.

    The only other quarterback matchup between No. 1 and No. 2 picks was in 1993, when Seattle and second-pick Rick Mirer beat New England and No. 1 pick Drew Bledsoe 17-14. The Colts and Chargers will play here again in a regular-season game Oct. 4.

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