SAN DIEGO (AP) - Vincent Brown soared above two Oakland Raiders defenders to snatch a touchdown pass.
The San Diego Chargers rookie, who as a boy pretended to be Jerry Rice, has gained nearly 20 yards per catch in two starts since replacing injured receiver Malcom Floyd. Brown's nine catches for 196 yards came against the Packers and Raiders, each a first-place team.
"Vincent Brown is exciting," Chargers coach Norv Turner said.
Of late, the same can't be said of the Chargers (4-5), who on Sunday will ride a four-game losing streak - their longest since 2003 - into Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears (6-3).
"A lot of people are going to doubt us for losing four in a row, but we've still got a lot of football to play," said Brown, who cheered for the Chargers while attending San Diego State.
With Floyd ruled out for Sunday with a hip injury, the Chargers will need more big plays from Brown. Chargers veterans are vouching for the third-round draft pick, saying he plays bigger and faster than his 5-foot-11 frame and 4.68 clocking at the NFL combine.
"One thing that he does better than most receivers is attack the football," cornerback Quentin Jammer said. "He doesn't really give a chance for the DB to go up and get the ball. For a little guy you don't expect that, but he's going up and getting the ball."
Patrick Crayton asked that Brown get the locker next to his, the better to educate the fellow receiver on how to read coverages and fool cornerbacks.
"He takes his craft seriously," said Crayton, who entered the NFL as a seventh-rounder seven years ago with the Cowboys. "We'll see, but right now, he's showing some great promise. I think he's going to help this team for a long time."
Not immune to rookie moments, Brown bungled a route against the Raiders, almost leading to an interception that could've gone for an easy touchdown.
He was of little use to the Chargers in September, having missed training camp after injuring his hamstring on the second day. Brown said the drills were more "high tempo" than he anticipated in his pre-camp workouts, which may have led to his hamstring failing when he slammed on the brakes and attempted a 180-degree turn.
If his body wasn't ready, Brown's mind had him ahead for a rookie.
San Diego State's offense, for which Brown averaged 19.6 yards per catch as a senior, is similar to the Chargers offense, Turner said, and likewise required him to function at three receiver spots.
Catching passes and learning the offense from quarterback Philip Rivers during the NFL lockout also made the lost training camp less harmful
The Chargers, who share a stadium with San Diego State, figured they'd already gotten the jump on Brown leading up to the NFL draft.
"When you are in the same town as a player like Vincent, you get to see so much more of him than most of the other scouts and player personnel people would at other NFL teams,' said personnel director Jimmy Raye.
Raye, a former San Diego State receiver, said he scouted Brown 15 to 20 times. Even Raye, though, wasn't expecting Brown to twice outduel two Raiders in the end zone, although the second of those catches was overturned because a defender was deemed out of bounds while touching the ball.
"He plays like a mature player for such a young player," Raye said, "and I think a lot of that comes from confidence. I think he's very confident, and it's shown in how he's playing, and it's showing in the type of plays he's made."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.