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Will the special teams improve?
Against the Chicago Bears in the second preseason game, the Chargers special teams allowed 227 kickoff return yards, including a 100-yard return, and rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen fumbled a punt, which was recovered by the Bears.
Fast forward nine days and it was a completely different story.
Not only did Allen redeem himself by returning a punt 44 yards, but the Chargers also blocked two kicks – a punt blocked by safety Darrell Stuckey and a field goal blocked by defensive tackle Kwame Geathers.
“The blocked punt to start early in the game, unfortunately we missed the field goal after that – that’s something we got to capitalize either offensively or in the kicking game to get points out of that situation,” McCoy said. “We also had the blocked field goal – Kwame (Geathers) did the nice job of getting in there blocking that kick. Keenan (Allen) had the big return, which was good to see him respond after the muffed punt a couple of weeks ago and then the long field goal at the end.”
Talk about a turnaround.
“We challenged the special teams all week long - that was something we think we needed to make a major improvement on,” Head Coach Mike McCoy said. “I think the guys ran to the football, did a nice job covering some kicks, a lot of little details we still have to clean up, but they did a nice job. I’m very happy with the way the coaches got the players to respond this week.”
Another burning question throughout training camp and the preseason has been whether the offensive line will come together by the time the season opener against the Houston Texans rolls around?
It sure looked that way to McCoy.
“The entire offensive line did a nice job protecting Philip,” McCoy said. “(There were) one or two little breakdowns with a little too much pressure here and there, but I think they did a nice job. Just continue to keep working together, get the best five guys out there and see what we can do.”
The offensive line only allowed one sack on the night, after allowing four sacks in each of the previous two games, and dominated the line of scrimmage for the majority of the night, including on touchdown runs by running backs Ryan Mathews and Fozzy Whittaker. The offensive line also did a nice job protecting the quarterbacks, especially on third down, which allowed the Chargers to sustain long drives. The Chargers were 8-of-15 on third down after going a combined 8-of-26 on third down in the first two preseason games.
“Offensively, a number of long drives again. I think there were the 12- and 14-play scores and then another seven-play score. They only allowed one sack. There were a couple of times there was a little bit too much pressure in there, but that’s all part of the game. Philip (Rivers) did a nice job and Charlie (Whitehurst) and Brad (Sorensen) and Nate (Enderle) of moving around the pocket, and making things happen when they need to help the offensive line a little bit.”