The Chargers reverted to their 2010 form in their final preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers Thursday night by displaying poor run defense and special team play. They also fumbled the ball twice and threw one interception, causing them to lose the turnover ratio(-1).
This all sounds too familiar.
The Chargers defense was slashed on the ground for 160 yards rushing by backups Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon, as Frank Gore got the night off. 54 of those yards came on the first possession, where the 49ers averaged 6.8 yards per carry on a 80 yard drive, orchestrated by the great Alex Smith.
The Chargers can make all the excuses they want, and point to the fact that starters Antonio Garay, Larry English, and Shaun Phillips did not start, but those excuses will mean nothing when Adrian Peterson comes knocking next week.
The Chargers also displayed poor kick coverage, allowing the 49ers to start on the Chargers 34 yard line, immediately after they closed the scoring gap to 14-7 on the Mathews scoring run. Luckily, that drive was promptly ended by Marcus Gilchrist, who intercepted a Colin Kaepernick pass in the end zone.
Now, the game wasn't all negatives. Ryan Mathews showed off his home-run threat ability with a 56-yard touchdown run at the beginning of the second quarter. On that drive, the Chargers relied solely on Mathews, who had four carries for 75 yards.
The other star of the preseason finale was Scott Tolzien, who threw for 226 yards on 16 of 23 passing with one touchdown and one interception (a QB rating of 97.3). His only interception came on a fade pattern to Seyi Ajirotutu (who he later found for his only touchdown) in the end zone; a ball that was only slightly under thrown.
Tolzien was constantly under pressure by the 49ers pass rush (the 49ers recorded six sacks on the night) because of a porous Chargers O-Line, yet still managed to make some brilliant throws with hands in his face. A very impressive performance that may have landed him on the roster.
The Chargers are going to have some very tough decisions this Saturday. Here are some of the things to watch for at the 53-man roster cut deadline.
Scott Tolzien or Darryl Gamble: Keep a big upside back-up quarterback for Philip Rivers to groom or add OLB depth? That is the decision the Chargers are going to have to make at the deadline this Saturday. While Gamble has been very impressive this preseason, the value that Tolzien adds, either in the form of future draft picks (remember Charlie Whitehurst?) or back-up QB stability, could be too enticing for the Chargers to pass up.
Brian Walters vs. Richard Goodman vs. Seyi Ajirotutu vs Laurent Robinson: Based on who the Chargers put on the field Thursday night, it looks as though they are still deciding between these four players. Walters returned kickoffs all night, but did little with them. Goodman had one catch for 16 yards and seemed very underwhelming on special teams. Ajirotutu was targeted all night by Tolzien, haling in five catches for 41 yards. Robinson may have solidified his roster spot with a huge night of six receptions for 120 yards.