Yes, it’s only preseason, but you have to be encouraged with the San Diego Chargers’ performance on Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals, especially after their miserable performance last week against the Chicago Bears. The starters in all three facets of the game – offense, defense, and special teams – looked good as the Chargers got their first win of 2013, beating the Cardinals 24-7.
The Chargers’ special teams, which looked horrific in the first two preseason games, came up big on Saturday night. Special teams ace Darrell Stuckey blocked a punt after the Cardinals’ first drive, and later, Kwame Geathers blocked a field goal attempt. Rookie Keenan Allen, who muffed a punt last week, redeemed himself this week with an impressive 44-yard return.
The offensive line did a much better job in pass protection this week than last week’s effort and didn’t allow a sack on Philip Rivers. Still, the pass protection wasn’t perfect, as Rivers felt the heat on occasion. His interception was caused when his arm was hit by a Cardinals’ pass rusher.
Rivers’ numbers didn’t look great by the end of the night, going 10 for 18 for 71 yards and the pick. However, he played better than his numbers indicated and ran the no-huddle offense effectively. Rivers led two long touchdown drives of 13 and 14 plays, converting on multiple third downs in the process.
Ryan Mathews continues to impress this preseason, rushing for 57 yards on 14 carries, including a touchdown dive over the pile in which he willed his way into the endzone with a good second effort. He did however fumble at the goal-line at the end of the first half, which was the start of a wacky play that turned out good for the Chargers. After the fumble was recovered by Arizona’s Rashard Johnson, an ill-advised lateral landed into the arms of San Diego’s John Phillips for the touchdown. Good job by Antonio Gates, who forced the fumbled lateral, and Phillips for the heads-up play, but watching Mathews fumble at the crucial part of the field is a concern and something we’ve seen too much of in his career. He still needs to work on holding onto the football.
On defense, Dwight Freeney looked good rushing the passer and appears to still have enough speed and moves at 33 years of age. His patented spin move resulted in a sack on Carson Palmer to close out the first half. In the second half, reserves Thomas Keiser and Andrew Gachkar had great performances. Keiser had three sacks and Gachkar had an interception and a batted pass at the line that almost led to another pick. These two linebackers could see the field a lot in 2013 due to injuries.
In what is considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season, the third preseason game of the Chargers showed a glimpse of what the team can be if it executes and plays to its potential. The performance was by no means perfect, but it gives us a little more hope that the team will be competitive when it hits the field for real in two weeks.