Here are five top lessons learned from the Chargers' preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks.
1. Starting Offense Firing on All Cylinders – The talk all offseason was how the Bolts would boast one of the league's most explosive offenses. While it sometimes takes time to get into a groove, the starters came out of the gates strong, authoring a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive right off the bat. Philip Rivers methodically marched the team down the field in 7:15, converting a trio of third downs ending with an Antonio Gates TD. Overall, he finished 5-of-6 for 51 yards, one TD and 146.1 passer rating. In addition to being balanced between throwing the ball and pounding the rock, number 17 spread it around to four different targets on the drive. Overall, Gates was encouraged from what he saw:
"We were balanced and I think that's something we can take away from this game. Offensively, we ran the ball well and we were able to convert on third-down. When you get to red zone, you have to score touchdowns in this league, and we were able to do that…When you have a guy like Philip – a guy who understands the system, understands the game – it puts you in the best position possible; that's what he was able to do. Like I said, we were so efficient and our whole thing is to try to be balanced as an offense."
2. Depth Needs to Step Up – All it takes is one look at the final score to see what happened after the starters came out of the game. The team's 7-3 lead quickly turned into a 34-17 deficit heading into halftime. Although encouraging to see the starters play as well as they did, Head Coach Anthony Lynn was equally concerned by the play of the second units:
"There is no explanation for that. I mean, we turned the ball over and put our defense in poor positions early, and got behind. We came out in the second half, and they made some plays and we didn't make plays. So we have to go back and look at the tape and we (have) to get better. Like I said, I thought our starters played pretty good, but I need to see what's behind those guys. I need to see what we're taking to Denver on September 11."
3. Too Many Turnovers – As Lynn mentioned, the turnovers by the second team offense were a killer. Seattle had a pair of interceptions, including a pick-six, and recovered a fumble right at the Chargers' goal line. Protecting the football has been an emphasis all offseason, so the head coach doubled-down on his comments about limiting turnovers:
"I definitely didn't like it when the twos came in. We turned the ball over three times. We stopped playing Charger football. The things that we emphasized all training camp and OTAs are turnovers, and we did that – in the first half three times, in the game four times."
4. A Debut Fit for a King – It's common for players to have nerves heading into the preseason opener, but rookies always seem to be on edge. After all, it's their first experience playing in the NFL. One rookie who stood out above the rest was Desmond King, the Jim Thorpe Award winning cornerback selected in the fifth-round out of Iowa. A ball-hawk in college, he showcased his knack for making the big play by recording an interception in his very first game. Equally impressive, he showed tremendous hustle to prevent a touchdown by chasing down Seattle's Tre Madden on a 51-yard gain. Instead of hitting pay dirt, King punched the ball out of Madden's hands. While it landed out of bounds, not giving the Bolts an opportunity to recover the fumble, it epitomized the cornerback's playmaking nature:
"I felt really good you know. My teammates kept me in the game. They told me, 'You have to go out there and make plays. You know what you do just go do what you do best, and your game speak for itself.' So you know I just went out there, did what I knew to do and made plays on the ball."
5. StubHub Hubbub – All eyes were not only on the product between the white lines, but the experience in the team's new home. StubHub Center promised to be a unique experience for fans, who get to be closer to the action unlike ever before. An added benefit is the palpable energy they bring to the players, who said they fed off the raucous nature early on. For Keenan Allen, it was everything he hoped it would be:
"It felt great. It's a new environment. The fans were definitely out there today, so it was great."