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Starting Offense, Defense Impress
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Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner hit Philip Rivers right before reality did. As the quarterback rose to his feet a yard short of the first down marker, he remembered that helmet-first slides should be saved for games that count.
"About halfway through that journey," said Rivers, "It hit my head that it was preseason."
It took a while for that realization to sink in for all the Chargers starters. In the meantime, the offense and the defense were both in regular season form for their first few preseason drives.
"I think the great thing was the way we started the football game," said coach Mike McCoy. "Going down the first series and getting points, converting a 4th-and-1, and guys doing what they’re supposed to do. It was a great way to start."
McCoy has every reason to be impressed with the effort his first-stringers displayed. On a drive that spanned 13 plays and seven-and-a-half minutes, McCoy's first-team offense shined.
The Chargers starting offense was in perfect harmony during its longest play. When Ryan Mathews ran a streak down the left sideline, he opened up space for Antonio Gates to get open. Not only that, the entire offensive line gave Philip Rivers a clean pocket to go through his reads and find his tight end for a 20-yard gain.
Rivers said it'd be difficult to draw it up any better.
"The pocket was so good," Rivers said. "Everyone being on the same page, it was good to get started. It's certainly a good start."
It was such a good start that McCoy didn't want it to end. When his team faced fourth and short, he put his trust in Mathews. That trust was rewarded with a leaping first down run that kept the offensive mojo flowing and put the team in field goal position.
Pundits say the Seahawks might field the NFL's best defense. For their sole drive, tackle King Dunlap said he could tell the offense had their opposition on its heels.
"It was about getting out there and getting a drive like that to start it off," Dunlap said. "Getting that many consecutive plays was a good feeling."
The good vibrations spilled over on defense. With a 3-0 lead, the Chargers' defensive starters looked just as comfortable in their abbreviated appearance. In two series, they forced two Seahawks punts.
More importantly, they made second-year standout Russell Wilson look uncomfortable with constant pressure. Dwight Freeney forced Wilson into a faster throw on one third down play that resulted in an incomplete pass. On another play, Freeney forced Wilson right, where Larry English was waiting.
Wilson evaded English, but thanks to some great downfield coverage, he couldn’t find a receiver and was forced to toss the ball out of bounds.
Those two plays – along with the handful of other ones the Chargers starters were able to make – told Freeney that the Chargers’ starting lineup should be a formidable one.
“This is the time to get better,” Freeney said, “but I think it went pretty well.” Read