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5 Takeaways: Chargers Finish Off 'Best Preseason' as Tough Decisions Await 

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The Chargers wrapped up preseason play with a 23-12 win over the 49ers on Friday night.

Here are five takeaways from the Bolts preseason finale:

1. Time to get to 53

The next time the Bolts take the field it will be in Week 1 against the Dolphins.

But the Bolts have plenty of work to do on and off the field before then, including getting their roster down to 53 players early next week. The NFL's deadline to trim all rosters to 53 players is Tuesday at 1 p.m. (PT).

And while a good portion of the Chargers roster is set, Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said the next few days won't be easy as the Bolts pare things down to their initial 53-man group.

"Tough decisions to make, but I think everyone can be very proud of the work we've put in since July 26," Staley said while referencing the first day of training camp.

But Staley also noted that the Chargers are in a much different spot than they were two years ago — or even last year — as he called the past month the "best preseason" the team has had during his time at the helm.

"This is the best preseason we've had since I've been the coach here," Staley said. "I think the feeling that we're able to get here in this game I think meant a lot to the guys. I think to win a game on the road against a quality team, a team that kind of started their starters in the game, I think that was a huge confidence boost for our guys.

"I think the way that they performed throughout training camp when they played against our 1s, that's how they played tonight and it meant a lot to the group that was out there on that field today and I thought it showed," Staley added. "I thought that we really played together as a team and did the things that you need to do to win."

The Chargers did not play most of their starters in the first two preseason games, and even more players did not dress against the 49ers.

Still, Staley lauded the work the entire team put forth in recent weeks.

"I just think the overall quality, from the practices to the games, I think the quality has been consistent throughout the entire training camp," Staley said. "I couldn't say that about our first two training camps and preseasons.

"I felt like our team was consistent throughout the whole way and the quality was high, and the competition was right where we want it to be," Staley added.

2. Kelley goes the distance

There's something about the third preseason game that Joshua Kelley loves.

The Chargers running back showcased an infamous hurdle against the Saints in New Orleans a year ago but had something better on display against the 49ers.

Kelley ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that put an exclamation point on his preseason.

"This is the last preseason game," Kelley said. "For me, I was just like, 'Let's take advantage'. Doesn't matter what kind of reps I was getting — good play, bad play — let's carry this momentum into the season.

"For me, it's cool. It's on tape, it's like, 'Hey, this is what I can do'. Now it's like that's the standard," Kelley added. "Now it's like, 'Hey, this is what you can do, now be consistent.'"

Kelley said finding a way to showcase his speed — and get into the end zone — was a point of emphasis.

"For me, I've always been kind of naturally fast, I've had some gas on me, some wheels," Kelley said. "You want to see my combine 40, go check it out. But yeah, I knew I had to go out there and win. Me and the safety, I have to show off my speed and get to the zone."

The Bolts finished the game with 267 rushing yards as a team, the second time they have gone over 200 yards this preseason.

3. Winning the turnover battle

Staley said before the game that the team's top priority was tallying a few takeaways in the finale.

The Chargers hadn't been able to come up with numerous interceptions in the first two games, and Staley made it a talking point to his players.

"That was the No. 1 thing going into this game: win the takeaway margin. We were plus-2," Staley said. "Offensively, anytime you're going to get 41 runs off in a game, you're going to be in good shape in the takeaway margin."

The Bolts struck early as their reserve defenders went toe-to-toe with the 49ers offensive starters.

Although San Francisco drove down the field, the Bolts denied them points when Carlo Kemp forced a fumble at the goal line that was recovered by Deane Leonard in the end zone,

Rookie linebacker Daiyan Henley logged the second takeaway when he corralled a tipped pass before adding a 16-yard return.

"I was immediately going to hit that slant, that was my initial reaction, but my eyes saw the ball pop out, so I went for the ball," Henley said. "It was a little tip drill for a little bit because it was a shocker play, and then I helped my boy Mikel [Jones], the other linebacker, and he kind of secured it.

"I tried to score but I took too long holding it. I took too long trying to gather the ball. I would've scored if I would've got it and got on," Henley added.

4. Ansley earns game ball

The Bolts gave out a handful of game balls in the postgame locker room.

Kelley and the entire offensive line each earned one, as did tight end Hunter Kampmoyer, who scored on a 2-yard touchdown reception.

The final one went to Defensive Coordinator Derrick Ansley, who called the defensive plays Friday night — a job that usually Staley holds.

Staley praised the DC, who's known as 'DA' around the team facility, for the work he did against the 49ers in a new-ish role.

"Well, you know, it's not DA's first time calling defenses," Staley said. "He's been a coordinator before, but first time in the NFL. Smooth operation, guys played well, we executed.

"It wasn't a clean performance by us by any means, but our guys just hung in there," Staley added. "I think we put some bad plays away and just kept playing and the group did what we set out to do tonight, which was win the takeaway battle."

5. A final look at the kickers

Both Cameron Dicker and Dustin Hopkins kicked in the preseason finale.

Dicker was involved in five total kicks and made field goals from 24 and 35 yards out. He also handled three kickoffs with two of them going for touchbacks.

Hopkins also took multiple kicks. He hit a pair of extra points and a 27-yard field goal, and also had a trio of touchbacks on the same amount of kickoffs.

"I thought they both played a good game," Staley said. "They each did what they needed to do in this football game and now we got some decisions to make over the next couple of days."

The Bolts will keep only one kicker on the roster.

In other special teams notes, here's a reminder that JK Scott will once again be a weapon for the Bolts on special teams.

The Chargers punter ended the preseason on a high note by showcasing his trademark hang time and pinning the 49ers deep on multiple occasions.

His first kick was a 61-yard bomb that helped the Bolts flip the field position early in the first quarter.

Scott's second punt came from the San Francisco 47-yard line. All he did was roll it down to the 8-yard line.

His next punt, a 52-yarder, was downed without a return at the 33-yard line.

And his fourth try was a 51-yard kick that went down to the 3. The 49ers muffed the punt and recovered, but San Francisco started at their own 1-yard line.

"Two of his four punts inside the 20 [yard-line]," Staley said. "Netted 47.3 again, long of 61.

"He is a weapon, and we got to continue to push it on that team in terms of flipping the field and gaining the field position," Staley added. "And I felt like we covered well tonight too. He's improving as a player."

Browse through live action photos of the Bolts Preseason Week 3 matchup against the 49ers in Santa Clara

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