The Chargers Rely On Stingy Defense In Preseason Debut Against the Rams
The 2021 NFL season is officially underway and the Los Angeles Chargers did not disappoint in their preseason opener Saturday night at SoFi Stadium. It was the Chargers who got the early lead on the Battle for Los Angles as they defeated their cross-town rivals the Rams by a final score of 13-6.
Bolts Crack The Scoreboard First
The Chargers offense moved the ball well in their first possession of the game, utilizing a quick passing attack. Lots of short slants and quick-hitting routes allowed backup quarterback Chase Daniel to methodically move down the field. The drive stalled out in the red zone as the Chargers dialed up two consecutive pass plays from the Rams two-yard line.
On 3rd and goal, Daniel had an open K.J. Hill in the corner of the endzone but threw behind his receiver. The Bolts were held to a Tristan Vizcaino field goal but not before running 21 plays and burning over 10 minutes off the clock.
Rams Settle For Six, Chargers Tie Game
Eventually, both defenses settled in, making it tough for both sides to move the football. It took an explosive 46-yard punt return from Raymond Calais to change the momentum. The Rams capped off the drive with a touchdown pass from Bryce Perkins to Trishton Jackson on blown coverage from the Chargers secondary. The home squad settled for six points on the drive as Matt Gay sent the ensuing extra-point attempt wide right following a costly delay of game penalty.
With 3:10 left in the half, Daniel orchestrated a solid drive, leading the squad from their own 33-yard line and into field goal position. Vizcaino kicked a no-doubter, straight through the uprights, tying the game at 6-6 right before halftime.
Charged Up Run Game
The Chargers broke up the tie game again in the second half, this time fueled by their impressive running game. Facing a 4TH and 1 from the Rams 39, rookie Larry Rountree bounced the ball outside then made a decisive cut back inside before finishing the run off for a 25-yard gain. This was the best offensive play from either team, in my opinion. A great sign for Rountree who is battling for the RB3 spot.
A few plays later, Darius Bradwell took the ball off the right end and seemed to score from 13-yards out. He was called down right before the goal line but Bradwell barreled the ball forward the following play. Michael Badgley nailed his extra-point attempt and from there, the Chargers defense took over.
Redzone Defense Steps Up
The Rams put together a solid drive early in the fourth quarter which found the home team in a 1st and goal scenario from the Chargers two-yard line. Rookie Forrest Merrill exploded through the line on second down and dropped the Rams ball carrier for a three-yard loss.
An incomplete pass the next play brought up 4th and 5. Trailing by seven, Sean McVay elected to go for it. Devin Hodges rolled out right and threw an interception to John Brannon, abruptly halting the Rams drive.
The Battle for WR3
Josh Palmer was easily the offensive star of the first half, being targeted early and often. The former Tennessee product finished with a game-high six receptions for 36 yards. Palmer showcased his physicality and reliable hands as he hauled in most of his catches while also taking hits from the Rams defenders.
Third-year pro, Jason Moore, also had an efficient day despite only being targeted three times. He made the most of his limited opportunities and corralled all three passes, racking up 31 yards. Jalen Guyton finished with two catches and 16 yards but he also played better than the box score indicates. Guyton created a lot of separation on his routes and would have had a huge 60-yard touchdown in the first quarter if Daniel didn’t overthrow him.
The Chargers Kicking Game Was Perfect?
One of the main Chargers training camp storylines has been the abysmal play of the team’s placekickers. The struggles reached an all-time high last weekend as incumbent Badgley and newcomer Vizcaino were booed for their performance by home spectators at the team’s live scrimmage at Fan Fest.
The boos must have worked because the Chargers kickers were flawless in their first game action of the preseason. Vizcaino seems to have jumped out to a bit of a lead as he started the game and nailed both of his field-goal attempts. Badgley played the entire second half but was only allowed one extra point attempt. His kickoffs were significantly shorter than Vizcaino’s but the Money Badger played admirably in that phase of the game as well.
On the flip side, the Rams missed all their kicks, which included the extra point attempt from Gay and a missed 40-yard field goal from Austin MacGinnis. Ultimately those four points proved to be extremely costly.
Scheming Kemon Hall
Among the young guys vying for a spot on the backend of the final 53-man roster, one player that stood out to me was Kemon Hall. Overall, the Chargers kick and punt coverage played undisciplined and sloppy football. Hall was the bright spot on that unit as he was routinely one of the first ones down the field and delivered one of the most powerful hits of the night in punt return.
The Chargers boast a very deep secondary so if Hall makes the cut it will have to be on the back of his special teams play. Still, Hall got plenty of playing time at defensive back and was making plays all over the field. He ripped a Rams receiver coming across the middle and forced the only fumble of the ball game. Hall was also asked to blitz on more than one occasion, showing great speed and instincts when rushing the passer.
Hall ended the day with four total tackles, a pass deflection, and one quarterback hit.
Next week the Chargers will hold their lone home game of the preseason as they welcome the San Francisco 49ers. Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 22 at SoFi Stadium.