Here are five top lessons learned from the Chargers’ 21-19 win over the Rams.
1. Rivers is Ready – Head Coach Anthony Lynn announced following the game that Philip Rivers won’t suit up in the preseason finale. After all, what else does number 17 have to prove? The QB was lights out on his lone two drives of the night, authoring a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Rivers finished the game 6-for-6 for 85 yards, highlighted by a beautiful 45-yard rainbow to Travis Benjamin for a touchdown. Overall, he ends exhibition play having completed 11 of 12 attempts for 141 yards and two TDs over three series. Despite his success, Rivers has taken an even-keeled approach as he prepares for the Week 1 opener:
“I never like to overreact either way, good or bad. Obviously, we’ve had some good drives, but we’ve got a long way to go, a lot room to improve, (but) it’s been a positive training camp and preseason so far.”
2. Feeva’s Back – Jason Verrett showed exactly why he’s considered one of the game’s elite cornerbacks, intercepting Jared Goff in his return to the field. The former Pro Bowler has authored several spectacular picks over his career. While Saturday’s may not fall into that category, it did prove how big time players make big time plays. Perhaps more importantly, an emotional Verrett said he felt fully healthy following the game:
“It felt good. Chance to get my feet wet a little bit and move around and make some plays. Coach always talks about how they (turnovers) come in bunches. (DE) Melvin (Ingram) got a turnover earlier in the game and then I got another one, so it was good to be out there…To keep it all the way 100 with you all, I kind of got a little teary eyed in the national anthem. You know, I’ve been away from the game for so long, so I’ll give all the praise to God for being able to get that interception. It was good to be out there.”
3. Still Work to be Done – Yes, the starters impressed as they raced out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Even though he’s satisfied with the progress the ones have made, Lynn once again stressed how the players behind his starters must improve. All 53 players on the roster will be called upon at some point during the season, and the head coach didn’t mince words about their need to get better in a hurry:
“It was a much better start than the last week. Fortunately, we got off to a good start on the offense and defense. I think the first half, we played efficient football and took care of the ball, execution was good. Still have a ways to go with (our) reserves. We have to move the ball a little better and catch the ball, and the penalties almost killed us. But it’s a process, and we’re working on it.”
4. Defense on Offense – Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley vowed to instill a mindset that his unit should always be looking to put points on the board. So far, so good. For the second straight game, the Chargers defense found the end zone as Melvin Ingram scooped up a loose ball caused by a Joey Bosa strip-sack and returned it 76-yards to the house. Last week, Dexter McCoil authored a 99-yard pick-six. Both plays came with the defense backed up, appearing ready to surrender points. Instead, it was the Bolts who got on the scoreboard. So, does Lynn think the defense’s ability to find the end zone in the preseason can translate once Week 1 rolls around?
“Absolutely. That’s what we talked about. That’s what Gus emphasized. It’s not just turnovers, but scoring after you touch the ball. I believe we scored once (on defense last weekend) and we were trying to tonight.”
5. O-Line Improving – The Bolts notably struggled up front against the Saints, giving up eight sacks while struggling to establish a ground attack. It was a completely different story on Saturday as the Chargers allowed only one sack while gaining over 100 yards on the ground. The o-line played a pivotal role on both touchdowns, giving Rivers tons of time so Benjamin could get open deep down field. Later, they helped pave the way for Melvin Gordon’s two-yard TD plunge. Rivers lauded their efforts after the game:
“We’ve always been at our best when we’re balanced over the last decade. We were that again today and we were that in the first drive (against) Seattle. A lot of the guys are doing a nice job. It’s early. I thought the guys up front though, you saw in the run game they’re finishing blocks. In the pass game, they’re (providing) great protection. Hopefully we can keep those five healthy all year long.”