The New Orleans Saints traveled to Qualcomm Stadium looking for their first win of the season, while the San Diego Chargers looked to come back from another disappointing loss in Indianapolis last week. Predictions going into the game were even, with many expecting an offensive shootout. For the most part, the two offenses didn’t disappoint.
In Drew Brees’ first game back in San Diego, both offenses lit up the scoreboard early. Brees drove down the field on the first possession of the game, setting the tone for the high-powered offense by capping it with a short touchdown run by Mark Ingram, giving the Saints a 7-0 lead.
The Chargers eventually answered back in the first quarter with rookie Hunter Henry receiving his first NFL touchdown from 20 yards out. After a four-yard touchdown pass from Brees to John Kuhn, the Chargers took over when Dontrelle Inman scored with a 57-yard catch and run from Philip Rivers, evening up the game 14-14.
The Chargers’ offense didn’t stop there. After a Craig Mager interception, the Chargers closed out the half with a 30-yard field goal from Josh Lambo and a short touchdown run from Melvin Gordon to put the Chargers on top 24-14 going into the half.
The second half didn’t start well for the Chargers, who received the kick. The Chargers couldn’t get their first drive going, and that could be contributed to three consecutive penalties, forcing the Chargers to punt.
The Saints started the second half as they did the first. Brees orchestrated a good drive leading to John Kuhn jumping over the pile for a one-yard score. The Chargers’ offense eventually got the ball rolling in the fourth quarter with the help of key receptions from Tyrell Williams and Inman, which eventually led to a one-yard rushing touchdown by Gordon, putting the Chargers up 31-21.
The Chargers’ defense stepped up again when Brees overthrew a receiver, and defensive back Adrian Phillips intercepted the pass, which led to a 47-yard Lambo field goal. The game seemed to be out of the Saints reach; however, Charger fans knew that it was far from over.
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Deep into the fourth quarter, things started getting interesting when Gordon fumbled the ball deep in Chargers territory while fighting for extra yards, and the Saints took advantage with a Michael Thomas five-yard touchdown reception, shrinking the gap 33-28.
On the ensuing Chargers possession–and the on first play–Travis Benjamin caught a pass from Rivers and fumbled the ball, allowing the Saints to recover. After a couple of key plays, Kuhn scored his third touchdown of the game, giving the Saints a 35-34 lead.
Oct 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin (foreground) running back Melvin Gordon (background) react on the sideline after they both had fumbles late in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
With 1:57 on the clock in the fourth quarter, the Chargers’ offense came onto the field to conduct a two-minute drill, but in true Chargers fashion, it did not go well. On the first play of the drive, Rivers was sacked by Nick Fairley. On the second play, Rivers tried to change the play, however, center Matt Slauson was not on the same page and hiked the ball, leading to a muffed snap. On third down, Rivers’ pass to Inman was deflected by Sterling Moore. And on the final play, Rivers threw a desperation pass on fourth-and-22 that was intercepted, ending the Chargers’ comeback attempt.
This was another tough loss and the 12th time in the last two seasons that the Chargers have lost by eight points or less. The Chargers fall to 1-3 and remain in last place in the AFC West.
The Chargers season will be defined by what kinds of adjustments the organization makes going into next week’s divisional game against the Oakland Raiders.