Before the game, the stirring commemorations were of 10 years ago, the anniversary of the attacks of 9/11. Once the game began – immediately, in fact – the football remembrance was of last year’s Chargers. Unlike the many disappointments of last year, though, the Chargers overcame themselves for a 24-17 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the 2011 regular-season opener. After the game was tied on a 40-yard field goal by Mike Scifres – yes, the Chargers punter – quarterback Philip Rivers passed the Chargers to a go-ahead touchdown with little more than five minutes remaining. Rivers had driven the Chargers from their own 36-yard line to the Minnesota 19, then rolled to his left, appearing to have room to run. But he released a pass past two Vikings defenders to Mike Tolbert, who caught it and dove in for his third touchdown of the game. Scifres, whose first-ever NFL field goal looked as if he’d been doing it for years, was kicking because Nate Kaeding had injured a knee while trying to make a tackle on a TD return of the season’s opening kickoff. The status of Kaeding’s left-knee injury was still uncertain at game’s end. All the changes the Chargers have made on defense worked out fairly well, too, primarily in the containment of star running back Adrian Peterson. Having run for an NFL-record 296 yards against the Chargers in 2007, Peterson had rushed for 100 yards even Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, but lost two with his last carry. The Chargers said they were motivated by comments Peterson made earlier in the week that he would gain 200 yards and the Vikings would win. “I was like, ’200 and a W, huh?’ ” linebacker Takeo Spikes said. “Come on man, that’s the greatest disrespect you can put to our defense. Great disrespect. … That’s why we had such attention to detail. “We knew they were going to make some plays, but at the end of the day you don’t come into our house saying what you’re going to do because, at the end, you have to realize that your success is predicated off the man in front of you. I know I got some dogs in front (linemen) and they went hunting today.” Minnesota finished the game with 187 total yards, just 26 coming in the second half. Conversely, Rivers completed 33 of 48 passes for 335 yards, nine of the receptions by Tolbert. The Chargers wound up with 407 yards and a 31-10 advantage in first downs. Thus, the Chargers avoided the kind of disastrous loss that marked much of 2010, leaving them in second place and out of the postseason for the first time in five years. Although the start of Sunday’s game with the Vikings was entirely too reminiscent of last season. Fifteen seconds into the 2001 season, astonishingly, the Chargers trailed 7-0. More astonishingly, they’d fallen behind on a 103-yard return of the opening kickoff. And they may have lost the veteran who kicked the ball, the most efficient kicker in NFL history, for the season. For all the rehashes of how special-teams coverage kept the Chargers out of last year’s postseason – their first miss in half a decade – barely a glove was laid on Percy Harvin after he took Kaeding’s kick three yards into the end zone and came out. First breaking to the right – and shedding the attempted tackle of Darryl Gamble – Harvin broke back up the middle. Among those Harvin eluded with his cut was Kaeding, who twisted his knee and was taken off to the locker room, leaving Scifres as his replacement. In short order, Scifres would be called on to make both a point-after kick and a kickoff. The Chargers’ tying touchdown was the result of an interception of Donovan McNabb’s first pass for the Vikings, their first play of the season. Linebacker Shaun Phillips batted the pass straight up into the air and caught it himself, falling at the 6-yard line, and Rivers soon found Tolbert alone in the end zone with a 1-yard pass. Scifres made the PAT (out of safety Eric Weddle’s hold) and even skipped the ball through the end zone on the kickoff, but when Kaeding still hadn’t returned by late in the first half, his absence was definitely being felt. The Vikings had taken a 17-7 lead on Ryan Longwell’s 33-yard field goal and McNabb’s 3-yard TD pass to Michael Jenkins, but when a most promising Chargers drive stalled at the 25-yard line, they eschewed a Scifres field-goal attempt and missed badly on a fourth-down pass into the end zone. The Chargers were back to well within field-goal range in the closing seconds of the half, but Rivers had his arm hit by defensive end Brian Robison and the pass wobbled out of his hand, coming down in the hands of Antoine Winfield. The boos that pretty much chased the Chargers off the field at halftime had been silenced, if temporarily, less than five minutes into the third quarter. Ryan Mathews took a short pass 37 yards and the offense was handed over to Tolbert, who caught two passes and turned into a battering ram for the final seven yards and a score, making it 17-14.