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Scouting Report: Chargers vs. Bears
The San Diego Chargers hit the road for the first time this preseason visiting the Windy City to take on the Chicago Bears. The match is a primetime affair broadcast nationally on ESPN.
A Look Back At Last Week
The Bolts kicked off the preseason with a 31-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, but the final result was not indicative of how the starters played. The offense put together a 13-play, 74-yard drive ending with a field goal. Philip Rivers went 5-for-6 for 45 yards, completing a pass to five different receivers, while Ryan Mathews ran it three times for 19 yards, good for a 6.3 yard-per-carry average. On the other side of the ball, the defense played two series, forcing a punt each time.
What to Watch For…
On Offense for the Chargers
The Chargers brought in a new offensive coordinator in Ken Whisenhunt, who spent the previous six seasons at the helm of the Arizona Cardinals. Leading the attack is Philip Rivers, the venerable quarterback entering his 10th season under center. In 2012, he recorded his fifth-straight 3,500-yard season, throwing for 3,606 yards and 26 touchdowns. Also returning are last year’s leading rusher, Ryan Mathews, and 2012’s leading receiver, Malcom Floyd, as well as eight-time Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates. The biggest change offensively is to the offensive line as only two holdovers (Nick Hardwick and Jeromey Clary) from last year’s front five are back, though Clary is moving to a new position (right guard). The line features three newcomers, including right tackle D.J. Fluker, the team’s top pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
On Offense for the Bears
Chicago’s offense is led by veteran signal caller Jay Cutler, who is entering his fifth season at quarterback for the Bears. He is coming off a season in which he threw for 3,033 yards and 19 touchdowns. His top target is wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who tied for second in the NFL in 2012 with 118 catches for 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns. On the ground, Matt Forte leads the way after rushing for 1,094 yards and five touchdowns in 2012.
On Defense for the Chargers
John Pagano returns for his second year as defensive coordinator, looking to build upon an impressive 2012. Some of the brightest young defensive linemen in the league constitute the front three in the form of Corey Liuget, Cam Thomas and Kendall Reyes. At inside linebacker, the team’s second-leading tackler each of the past two seasons returns in Donald Butler. He’ll be lined up alongside Notre Dame Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te’o, the team’s second-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft. At outside linebacker, veteran strong-side linebacker Jarret Johnson is joined by future Hall-of-Fame veteran Dwight Freeney, the Indianapolis Colts’ all-time sacks leader. In the secondary, Derek Cox and Shareece Wright man the cornerback slots while 2012’s leading tackler Eric Weddle anchors the safety position alongside Marcus Gilchrist.
On Defense for the Bears
Despite undergoing fairly significant changes, the Bears return 2012’s leading tackler, Lance Briggs, who recorded 128 tackles. Also returning is cornerback Tim Jennings, who led the NFL with nine interceptions, and fellow cornerback Charles Tillman, who ranked second on the squad with 93 tackles while intercepting three passes. Safety Major Wright collected four picks in 2012, second-most on the team, in addition to 92 tackles.
This is the seventh preseason meeting between the Chargers and Bears, with the Bolts leading the series 4-2. However, in the regular season Chicago boasts a 6-5 advantage.
By the Numbers
In 2012, the Chargers ranked 31st in total offense (297.2 yards per game), 24th in passing (205.9 ypg), 27th in rushing (91.3 ypg) and 20th in points (21.9). The Bears ranked 28th in total offense (310.6 ypg), 29th in passing (187.4 ypg), 10th in rushing (123.1 ypg) and 16th in points (23.4)
Defensively, the Bolts ranked ninth in total defense (326.4 ypg), 18th in passing (230.1 ypg), sixth in rushing (96.4 ypg) and 16th in points allowed (21.9). Chicago ranked fifth in total defense (315.6 ypg), eighth in passing (213.9 ypg), 10th in rushing (101.7 ypg) and third in points allowed (17.3).
A Look Back at 2012
Antonio Gates caught seven touchdown passes to raise his career total to 83 and became the franchise’s all-time leader in that category, surpassing Hall of Fame wide receiver Lance Alworth. Gates extended his streak of at least seven touchdown catches to nine seasons.
Philip Rivers passed for 3,606 yards and 26 touchdowns to extend his team-record streaks of 3,500-yards passing and 25 touchdowns to five seasons. Only five quarterbacks in NFL history can claim five or more consecutive seasons with at least 25 touchdown passes. That list includes Peyton Manning (1998-2012), Brett Favre (1994- 98), Dan Marino (1984-88), Drew Brees (2006-12) and Aaron Rodgers (2008-12). Rivers also passed John Hadl’s career yardage total during the season to become the second-most prolific passer in team history. Rivers finished the season with the NFL’s seventh-best completion percentage (64.1) and he is the team’s career leader in that category (63.6).
Malcom Floyd caught a career-high 56 passes and was closing in on a new season high for yards before an ankle injury sidelined him the last two games.
Ronnie Brown caught a career-high 49 passes. As a team, Chargers’ running backs caught 123 passes this season, second in the NFL only to New Orleans’ 140.
The Chargers’ defense had a team record-tying 11 sacks in a Dec. 23 win against the New York Jets, including 3.5 from rookie Kendall Reyes, the most by a Chargers rookie since 1986, and two from Corey Liuget. Reyes, the team’s second-round draft pick in 2012, finished the year third on the team with 5.5 sacks, while Liuget, the squad’s top pick in the 2011 draft, finished the year second on the squad with seven. For the season, Reyes paced the defensive line with 19 quarterback pressures and 15 quarterback hits, while Liuget ended the year as the defensive line’s leader in sacks, tackles (61), tackles for loss (15) and passes defensed (9).
Eric Weddle led the team in tackles (111) for the first time in his career and he tied for the team lead with three interceptions. The Chargers scored a total of seven defensive touchdowns in 2012, second in the NFL to Chicago’s 12, and two shy of the San Diego team record. The 1961 Chargers returned nine interceptions for touchdowns to set the mark while last year the Bolts returned five interceptions and two fumbles for scores.
The Chargers were in virtually every game they played in 2012. Their seven wins came by an average of 13.4 points, while all but two losses were close. Only defeats to Atlanta and Carolina were by margins greater than 11 points, while San Diego’s other defeats were by margins of 7, 11, 1, 10, 3, 3 and 7 points.
Thanks to the powerful right leg of Mike Scifres and his pin-point accuracy, the Chargers allowed only 9.1 yards per punt return in 2012. Scifres posted a 40.6- yard net punting average, the second-highest season average in team history. It went along nicely with a team record 48.3-yard gross average that was third in the NFL and shattered the previous team mark of 46.7 (min. 50 attempts), which Scifres had set in 2010.
Nick Novak made 18 of 20 field goals in 2012, the third-highest conversion rate for a season (90.0%) in team history. Novak’s only two misses this season were also his longest attempts of the year from 54 and 55 yards.
Chargers cornerback Cornelius Brown entered the NFL in 2010, signing with Chicago as an undrafted rookie. He went to training camp with the Bears in 2010 and 2012.
Quarterback Nathan Enderle was a fifth-round pick by Chicago in 2011 and he spent his rookie season with the Bears.
Kicker Nick Novak also entered the NFL with the Bears, signing with Chicago in 2005 as an undrafted rookie. He went to training camp with the Bears in 2005 and ’07.
Safety Sean Cattouse is a native of Chicago and attended Hubbard High School.
Defensive line coach Don Johnson spent the 2005 and ’06 seasons in the same capacity with the Bears.
Assistant secondary coach Greg Williams is a native of Bollingbrook, Ill., and went to training camp with the Bears after playing collegiately at North Carolina.
ESPN (Simulcast on KUSI-TV, Channels 9 & 51 in San Diego) – Chris Berman (play-by-play), Trent Dilfer (analyst) and Lisa Salters (sideline reporter)
Rock 105.3 FM, XTRA Sports 1360 (San Diego) and AM 570 KLAC (Los Angeles & Orange County) – Josh Lewin (play-by-play) and Hank Bauer (analyst)
Spanish Radio –XHFG 107.3 (San Diego) and KWKW 1330 AM (Los Angeles) – Jorge Villanueva (play-by-play) and Dante Lazcano (analyst)