For those individuals either in attendance at Seattle’s 16-15 win over the host San Diego Chargers this past Saturday evening or watching locally or nationwide on television, did you enjoy your football?
Hopefully the answer was a resounding yes, especially since this week’s fourth and final pre-season game for all NFL teams will be nothing short of a true exhibition game.
Yes, while many guys will be giving it their all Thursday evening, many others will be dressed in street clothes or NFL uniforms without shoulder pads. Yes, this week’s final pre-season tilt before the regular season kicks off Sept. 10-14 will be for guys fighting for jobs.
But before we get to this week’s contest, how about Seattle’s narrow victory over the Bolts?
The game wasn’t truly decided until Seattle (1-2) kicker Steven Hauschka drilled a 60-yard field goal with :16 remaining in the contest. San Diego (2-1) got the ball back one last time, but was unable to get into position for a potential game-winning field goal of its own.
The game to attend and/or watch
As most NFL fans know, the third pre-season game is oftentimes the best one to attend.
Starters generally see a fair amount of action, new guys are continuing to make their push to secure a spot, and coaches are generally very engaged in winning this game on the August schedule.
With that in mind, here are three key takeaways from last Saturday’s contest in front of nearly 59,000 people on a sweltering Southern California evening:
1. Offensive game should be good to go – While there are high expectations in the backfield this season with Wisconsin star Melvin Gordon projected to get the bulk of the carries, a healthy Danny Woodhead, along with expected contributions from Branden Oliver and perhaps others, should leave QB Philip Rivers a number of options on just which back will get the ball. Gordon had 34 yards rushing on 14 carries against the Seahawks, while Oliver had one catch for 70 yards (touchdown) on a play out of the backfield with Rivers. Yes, veteran tight end Antonio Gates must sit out the first four games of the season, but that will hopefully give backup tight end Ladarius Green an opportunity to show what he can do. Gates is going to have to hang up the cleats at some point and time, so would be nice if Green can get out of the blocks in September and show some improvement;
2. Defense will be key – Holding the defending NFC champion Seahawks to 16 points (just one touchdown) was rather impressive. Yes, talented running back Marshawn Lynch saw very little action early in the game, but QB Russell Wilson and other main cogs in Seattle’s offense played a number of series, so the Chargers’ defense wasn’t exactly going up against chopped liver for much of the evening. San Diego held the very durable Wilson to 7-of-15 passing and just 56 yards on the night. Keep in mind this was a defense that did not have Pro Bowl free safety Eric Weddle (in street clothes) in the lineup;
3. Chargers are going to be just fine – After last season’s 9-7 finish (failed to make playoffs), some Charger faithful may have thought this was the best second-year head coach Mike McCoy could do. Entering his third season at the helm, McCoy could turn out leading his team to an AFC West crown and even more. Both Denver and Kansas City have some weapons, but they also have question marks. Can future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning lead the Broncos to one more Super Bowl appearance? Will Kansas City be able to keep star running back Jamaal Charles healthy for a full season, plus get some touchdowns out of their wide receivers (none last year)? And as for Oakland, well, the Raiders are still a ways from challenging for a division crown.
San Diego will finish its pre-season slate this Thursday evening with a road game versus San Francisco, then host Detroit to kick-off the regular season Sunday, Sept. 13.