Random thoughts after San Diego’s 25-10 win over Chicago on Saturday night:
The good: Ryan Mathews looks like the real deal. The No. 12 overall draft pick ran strong and with a purpose in the first preseason game of the LaDainian Tomlinson era. Mathews had 50 yards on nine carries and he had two catches for 11 yards. Mathews’ night was highlighted by an 18-yard run. The Chargers believe the Fresno State product will revive a running game that was 31st in the NFL last year. So far, it looks like the ground game will improve greatly.
San Diego’s offense performed well without receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill, who may holdout all season. The line held up well and quarterback Philip Rivers hit receiver Legedu Naanee for a 28-yard touchdown pass. Naanee became a starter when Jackson began his holdout. Other bright spots were fullback Mike Tolbert in short yardage and backup tight end Randy McMichael, who had two catches 33 yards. He could be a nice receiving option once the regular season starts.
Defensively, San Diego was also outstanding. The team had six sacks, including two by Antwan Applewhite, who the team believes can be a contributor. San Diego was also stout against the run. The Bears had just 28 yards rushing on 13 carries in the first half.
The bad: While the Chargers were productive on both sides of the ball, they were very sloppy. San Diego committed nine penalties in the first half and finished with 10 penalties for 81 yards. Right tackle Jeromey Clary was flagged for three false starts. The Chargers have been a clean team in the past. Norv Turner’s team must work on this as the preseason marches forward.
Overall, though, it was a very nice start to the preseason by the AFC West’s best team.