The San Diego Chargers continued their warm up for the regular season against a familiar foe in the Dallas Cowboys. The Bolts had scrimmaged the ‘Boys for three days prior to their Sunday night match-up. In the end, the Chargers came out on top 20-7.
As is typically the case in preseason games, the score was meaningless and belied the two team’s performances. The Cowboys actually out-gained the Chargers 313 to 239, but turnovers cost them several scoring opportunities.
The Chargers’ defense forced three turnovers; two fumble recoveries and one interception off Dallas starting quarterback Tony Romo. All three were long drive killers that kept the Cowboys off the scoreboard. On the interception, Romo showed off his well-known weakness as he had zero pressure and all the time in the world, yet still overthrew his receiver by 10 yards for the pick.
If that weren’t bad enough for the ‘Boys, they were also the unfortunate recipients of some crucial call reversals. San Diego head coach, Norv Turner made two challenges on the same drive, both were overturned in the Bolts favor.
The first was on a poorly thrown pass from San Diego backup quarterback Billy Volek that was picked off by Dallas safety Gerald Sensabaugh. After review it was decided that Sensabaugh had come down with his heal just barely out of bounds, and the Chargers retained possession.
Later, Chargers' running back Ryan Mathews made his longest rush of the day, a 15-yard scamper to the end zone. However, the referees had ruled him out at the one-yard line. Upon review, it was determined that Mathews had indeed broken the plane of the goal line and was awarded the touchdown.
To top it off, when Chargers' rookie defensive end Corey Liuget knocked the ball out of Dallas’ backup quarterback Stephen McGee’s hand, the ‘Boys only challenge of the game was upheld in favor of the Bolts once again, when McGee was ruled to have not started his throwing motion.
Three challenges—all of which resulted in favor of the Chargers. The Cowboys' loss was the Chargers' gain all day long.
While both teams recorded 7 penalties each, it seemed like all of Dallas’ were in crucial situations that either gave the Bolts a first down or negated a big Dallas gain.
Needless to say the Chargers came away from this game hording most, if not all the luck. Were it not for all this serendipity, the outcome may have been very different.
For instance, the Cowboys ran 20 times for 109 yards and a very respectable 5.5-yard average. It looked through most of the game that the Cowboys could run at will over the Chargers front line, and into the secondary. If the Bolts can’t tighten up their rush defense before the season opener, I can see this as being an Achilles’ heal once again.
Remember those two losses to the Oakland Raiders last year?
On the opposite side of the ball, the Chargers started off very poorly with their own running game. The Bolts kept at it though and by midway through the second quarter, they were starting to open up some holes in the Dallas defense.
Overall, the Chargers ran 26 times for 92 yards with a 3.5-yard average. Not great, but not bad either.
Most impressive was the running of Mathews who managed a five-yard average on his seven carries to go along with his one touchdown. That is good news indeed for Chargers' fans.
Again, not great, but not bad either as the Bolts don’t need a superlative rushing attack, just a decent enough one to take the pressure off of Philip Rivers and the passing game. If decent is what the Chargers needed, then decent is what they got from Mathews.
And what about the vaunted Chargers' passing game? Tight end Antonio Gates was absent, still nursing his case of plantar fasciitis. It’s obvious that Turner is keeping Gates away from full contact until the season opener. How long the seven time pro-bowl player will last then is anyone’s guess.
Randy McMichael played well in his stead, catching three passes including a seven-yard touchdown pass from Rivers.
Wide receiver Malcom Floyd made one catch in the game and was promptly taken out with a concussion. His status is listed as questionable for the next game.
As for the rest, they performed as expected. Rivers continued to show why he was the NFL’s leading passer last year with three completions to his favorite target, wide receiver Vincent Jackson. If there is one thing not to worry about the Chargers, its their passing game.
The same might even be said about the special teams as they performed solidly for the second straight game. It wasn’t anything to write home about, but it sure didn’t cost the Bolts in any way either—and that is surely good news for Chargers' fans.
Defensively, it’s hard to get a handle on just how good or bad the Chargers really are. With all the new faces and continual substituting, the defensive corps looks like they need the most time to gel compared with all the other units. Perhaps we will get a better look as the starters get more playing time together in the upcoming game against the Arizona Cardinals next Saturday back at Qualcomm.
Until then, GO BOLTS!