The Los Angeles Chargers hosted their in-state rivals, the San Francisco 49ers, on Sunday. The teams had a fierce battle, but it was eventually the 49ers that came out on top. The 49ers beat the Chargers 15-10. Both teams abstained from playing most of their starters, with a few exceptions on each side. Instead, fans got to see their interesting new prospects put their talents on display. These are the Chargers’ takeawys from preseason week 2.
The Chargers started off hot, taking a 10-2 lead with 57 seconds left in the first half. Easton Stick shone, throwing for 10 completions on 14 attempts for 85 yards and a touchdown. He also was the Chargers’ leading rusher, adding 15 yards on the ground on three attempts. Stick ended his game with a passer rating of 110.7, a respectable rating. Until he subbed out of the game, it was looking like the Chargers would destroy the 49ers. The Chargers defense was bullying Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, nabbing an interception from each of them and holding them to two points through most of the first half.
However, after that, the 49ers shook off their slow start and dominated the rest of the game. Trey Lance led a 75-yard drive down the field en route to a touchdown pass in 45 seconds before the end of the half. While Lance played well on this drive, showing confidence and poise in the pocket, the drive couldn’t have been successful without poor play by the Chargers defense. Penalties and mistakes enabled Lance and Co. to decimate the Chargers defense.
The second half was essentailly more of the same, with the 49ers being the only team actually making any progress on the field. Chase Daniel played terribly, completing 14 passes on 21 attempts for 60 yards and an interception. Keep in mind that Stick completed four less attempts, yet threw for 25 more yards. Daniel’s passer rating came out to a 50.3, which is expected for such a performance. Stick proved that he could possibly be more fitting for a backup role behind Justin Herbert, not Daniel.
What Went Well
- The Linebackers – If there was any shining light for the Chargers defense, it was the pair of middle linebackers in Nick Niemann and Cole Christiansen. Niemann, a rookie out of Iowa, led the defense with eight tackles (five solo, one for loss), proving to be a thorn in the 49ers side. Niemann showed off that surefire tackling and high-energy play of his throughout the game. Cole Christiansen also had a game, making seven tackles (six solo) of his own. Christiansen, a second-year linebacker out of Army, showed that he was ready to play and earn his roster spot.
- Asante Samuel Jr. – Samuel seemed far more comfortable this week compared to last week. Perhaps it was due to extensive reps against talented recievers in the joint practices with the 49ers? Samuel was better understanding his assignments and appeared to be adjusting better to the speed of the NFL. Samuel had only one tackle, but he also added an interception and a deflected pass on a jumped route on limited reps. Expectations for Samuel being a day one starter seem more valid now than before the game.
What Did Not
- The Offensive Line – It was excruciating to watch the Chargers on offense in this game. The offensive line was no better than turnstiles, allowing five sacks throughout the game. Right tackle Trey Pipkins was particularly bad this game, allowing his assignment to pressure the quarterback on almost every play. Thankfully, the starters were all sitting, but it is quite concerning to see how poor the backup linemen played, in case of injuries.
- The Running Backs – Easton Stick led the Chargers in rushing with 15 yards on three carries. That means that no other running back on the team could even manage 15 yards. Rookie running back Larry Rountree III, who had been building confidence as being a potential backup to Austin Ekeler, took a major step back in this game. Rountree ran the ball eight times for 12 yards, an average of 1.5 yards per carry. This statline is poor enough as is, but when taken into account that his longest rush was 7 yards, that skews his numbers. Excluding the 7-yard rush, Rountree ran for 5 yards on seven attempts. Rountree’s competiton, Joshua Kelley, did not fare much better, running for 9 yards on seven attempts. His longest attempt was also 7 yards, meaning he ran for 2 yards on six attempts when excluding that run. It’s unclear whether the 49ers have a fantastic rush defense with their backups or the Chargers running backs simply played terribly. However, this must be addressed in the film room this week either way.
Losing this game may actually have been a postive thing for the Chargers. While fans and the team alike would prefer a win, having a poor performance could be used as motivation in practice. There were some things that went well, but the majority of the Chargers’ play was abysmal. This will prove to be the first major test for head coach Brandon Staley. Staley must make sure that the team’s morale doesn’t drop too far. Sure, this could just be an overreaction, but rebounding from this loss will be a challenge for Staley, as well as rebuilding the confidence of his young players. These were the Chargers’ takeaways from preseason week 2.