The San Diego Chargers found the win column on Friday night, defeating the Arizona Cardinals 19-3 in preseason action despite not having Philip Rivers and several other starters suit up for the game.
Though it is just preseason, it was nice to see the Chargers bounce back from an ugly 27-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans last week.
Here are some other observations and notes taken from the game.
Run Defense Steps Up
In previewing the game, I mentioned that the run defense had to improve off of last week’s performance, in which the Titans ran all over the place. That was an obvious statement. Against Arizona, the Chargers did just that.
Despite giving up 288 yards on the ground to the Titans, San Diego held the Cardinals to just 63 yards rushing on 21 attempts, a three-yard average per carry.
Defense Forces Two Big Turnovers
Aug 19, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers strong safety Jahleel Addae (37) returns an interception thrown by Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton (not pictured) during the first quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
The Chargers were among the worst teams in the league in 2015 at creating turnovers, so the home crowd had to be especially pleased with what it saw in the preseason opener. Not only did the Chargers force two turnovers, they also turned them into big plays.
Brandon Flowers, much maligned for his 2015 season, made one of the best plays you will ever see a defensive back make. San Diego sent him on a blitz and he read the play perfectly, intercepting a pass from Carson Palmer that looked like it was going to be a quick bubble screen. Flowers caught the ball pretty much in Arizona’s backfield and raced the other way for a touchdown.
Moments later, safety Jahleel Addae intercepted a pass from Cardinals backup Drew Stanton and returned it 61 yards, all the way down to the Arizona 9-yard line.
This had to be very encouraging for fans. Perhaps the defense is much better than people think?
Tight end Jeff Cumberland was injured and later carted off the field. Early reports suggest that he suffered an achillies injury, but the team is waiting for further evaluation.
Chargers say TE Jeff Cumberland has an Achilles injury and will not return. He was taken to the locker room on a cart for further evaluation
— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) August 20, 2016
Backup offensive lineman Donovan Clark was also forced to leave the game with what appeared to be a leg or knee injury. We’ll await announcement on that, but he has had a good summer with the team.
Zach Mettenberger Won’t Make the Team
Aug 19, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Zach Mettenberger (4) passes before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
At least, that’s how it looks at this point. Zach Mettenberger was not inserted into the game against the Cardinals. Instead, undrafted rookie Mike Bercovici was given extended playing time, going 9-of-13 for 108 yards on the night.
It's looking like Zach Mettenberger will not play tonight. Mike Bercovici has officially moved up the #Chargers QB depth chart.
— Derek Togerson (@DerekNBCSD) August 20, 2016
It appears the coaching staff may have seen all it wants to see out of the former Tennessee Titans quarterback, who will likely need to look elsewhere if he is going to resurrect his career.
The Chargers now head to Minnesota to face the Vikings in the third preseason game of the season, often considered the final dress rehearsal before the season starts. The Vikings are coming off a playoff run and have looked good in preseason, so this will be a good test for San Diego’s first team.