Since Los Angeles Chargers owner Dean Spanos announced the relocation from San Diego to Los Angeles, the team has adopted the motto “Fight for LA”. The motto has been routinely mocked by much of the NFL, and particularly by Los Angeles Rams fans and Chargers fans based in San Diego. However the Los Angeles Chargers won the first “Battle for LA” last night, defeating the Los Angeles Rams 21-19. The Chargers victory was an important first step towards securing a fan base in their new city.
Los Angeles Chargers Starters Look Sharp in “Battle For LA”
Chargers Starters On Offense
The starters of this team can play with anyone. Philip Rivers looked incredible, going six for six for 85 yards and a touchdown pass, able to move the ball at will. Melvin Gordon had little trouble penetrating the defensive line and ran hard for 36 yards on eight carries.
The receiving core also played well, as Keenan Allen caught all five of his passes for 45 yards. Travis Benjamin caught just one pass, but it was a 45 yard touch-down. Considering that Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams, and Dontrelle Inman didn’t play last night, this receiving core proved incredibly deep.
The offensive line might have been the brightest spot of this game. Just as they did against the Seattle Seahawks, the starting line generated good push in the run-game and kept Rivers clean in the passing game. The Rams were without their elite defensive line-man Aaron Donald, but the offensive-line’s performance was fantastic.
Chargers Starters On Defense
This defense centers around defensive-line play, and Joey Bosa and company looked dominant last night. Bosa seemed capable of generating pressure at will. He was able to get his hands on Rams quarterback Jared Goff, stripping the ball out of Goff’s hands and allowing linebacker Melvin Ingram to scoop up the ball and run it back for a touchdown.
Corner Jason Verrett, playing for the first time since getting injured early last season, remarked on the importance of those men up-front in his post-game interview, saying “they make my job easier.” Verrett intercepted a bad throw by Goff, and looks ready to return to form this season.
The Rams running backs did have a little bit of success running the ball on the Chargers, but ultimately the Rams had trouble sustaining a drive. The two turnovers the Rams committed were costly as it allowed the Chargers to establish a 21-point lead quickly.
Winning the first “Battle for LA” was important, but their were some serious negatives apparent in last night’s game.
The Chargers Kryptonite
The Chargers have suffered an extraordinary amount of injuries in the last two seasons. While the amount of injuries has been truly odd, no team can completely avoid injuries. Injuries are a part of football. Just this weekend, the New England Patriots lost their star receiver and Superbowl hero Julian Edelman to a season-ending injury. The Kansas City Chiefs also lost their starting running back Spencer Ware for the season.
Injuries are going to happen. Linebacker Denzel Perryman and rookie receiver Mike Williams are already expected to miss significant time. It’s how a team’s depth players fill the void left by the starters that allows teams to overcome injuries, or wane into mediocrity. The Chargers must be able to find good depth players to replace starters should they go down. Yet, so far, it does not look good.
The Chargers depth players have not played well at all this preseason. The second and third teams got completely shutout for the second week in a row. While they played better than last week against the New Orleans Saints, they still couldn’t score.
The defense played sufficiently, and their are some clear bright spots. Defensive end Chris McCain played well for the third week in a row and has been one of the stars of preseason. He was even the highest-graded player on the field last night, according to Pro Football Focus.
Defensive back Desmond King is an impact player that has a future with this team shutting down wide receivers on the exterior. Defensive-end Isacc Rochell is a solid backup on the defensive line; a massive rotational piece (280 pounds) who can get into the backfield. There are a few more, but overall, the lack of solid depth is concerning. This team would not be able to replace Verrett or Casey Hayward.
Victory in the Battle for LA
While preseason games don’t matter in terms of record or playoff contention, they do count for something. The Chargers utilized the first “Battle for LA” to send a message. They are better than the Rams, and they want to make LA their home. If the starters can play this well throughout the season, they will be at least fun to watch. Being fun to watch, which the Rams were not last season, should translate into a healthy fan base for the Chargers.
The Chargers clearly have boundless potential heading into this season, but they are going to have to stay healthy if they are going to do any better than last season. There will be injuries to starters at some point, they just need to limit them as best they can, and hope it doesn’t happen to the truly irreplaceable players such as Allen and Bosa.
If the Chargers are able to limit injuries to key players and squeeze some quality performance out of their depth players, they will win the war for Los Angeles.