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The Green Bay Packers traveled to the West Coast for their first preseason game of the year against the San Diego Chargers. Both teams were off to a sloppy preseason start, combining for 5 turnovers in the first quarter, however the Chargers seemed to have a bit more in them to hold off the Packers 21-13.
The Packers are coming off their best regular season year in franchise history, finishing with a record of 15-1. Unfortunately for Green Bay, their postseason ended early after defeat by Super Bowl Champions, New York Giants. Offensively the Packers were elite, averaging 35 points per game, the best in the NFL, 3rd in total offense, averaging 405.1 yards per game, and 3rd in passing yards per game, averaging 307.8.
Most of Green Bay’s offensive greatness was due to their leader under center, NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers finished last season with a passer rating of 122.5, threw for 4,643 yards, 45 touchdowns, and a completion percentage of 68.3. Rodgers was a threat in and out of the pocket and continued to keep defenses guessing throughout the season.
Although the Packers pass game was top-notch, their run game was below mediocre. The Packers were ranked 27th in the NFL, averaging only 97.4 rush yards per game. The departure of Ryan Grant does not help the situation this upcoming season either, with the burden falling on James Starks and Alex Green to battle it out to see who will be the number one guy. With injury concerns surrounding both backs, the biggest question offensively is, can the Packers find someone to solidify the running back position consistently for 16 weeks and help them become less predictable?
Defensively Green Bay struggled all season and were last in the NFL in yard allowed per game, 411.6. Although they lead the NFL with 31 interceptions, they still allowed offense after offense to march down the field consistently. In their attempt to improve defensively, the Packers brought in some young talent via draft, USC defensive end/outside linebacker Nick Perry, and Michigan State defensive tackle, Jerel Worthy, were their first two picks. Both rookies are expected to have some type of impact in terms of applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks.
As for the San Diego Chargers, they finished last season with an 8-8 record, missing the playoffs for the 2nd straight year. Philip Rivers is coming off his 4th consecutive 4,000+ yard season, as well as his 4th consecutive 25+ touchdown season. However, Rivers’ biggest flaw last season was his turnovers. Rivers threw a career high 20 interceptions and lost a career high 7 fumbles. Charger fans will be hoping Rivers can be a bit more patient and execute efficiently to lead the team back into the playoffs.
The Chargers’ biggest defensive flaw was their 3rd down defense. They were ranked last in the NFL, allowing opposing offenses to convert 49.2% of the time on 3rd down, and have consequently addressed this issue with free agent acquisitions and through the draft.
Rodgers only completed 2-of-8 passes for 16 yards and threw an interception in Thursday nights loss. Rodgers did not look as comfortable in the pocket last night because of the lack of protection he received from his offensive line.
As for Rivers, he completed 3-of-5 passes for 37 yards, one touchdown, and an interception. Rivers was able to connect with tight end, Antonio Gates, for a 23-yard touchdown pass. Gates has been battling an ongoing foot injury but looked in good form on the night, something the Chargers will be hoping is a positive sign going into the regular season.
The Packers continued to struggle running the ball as James Starks, the player most likely to start at running back come the beginning of the season, carried the ball five times for 16 yards and fumbled once. In addition, Alex Green and Marc Tyler did not help make a name for themselves, averaging less than three yards per carry.
The Chargers run game took a big hit after Ryan Mathews exited the game following his first carry, suffering from a broken clavicle which was reported later, leaving San Diego without Mathews for 4-6 weeks. Newly acquired Charger Ronnie Brown will likely get the nod for the starting role until Mathews return.
Green Bay rookie Perry finished the game with with three tackles and one sack, an optimistic sign for the Packers ahead of the regular season. Opposing defensive rookie Melvin Ingram finished the game with two tackles, and the pressure he exerted on Rodgers helped to force an interception.
The Packers are back in action, Thursday, August 16th against the Cleveland Browns, and will be looking for a more efficient offensive display. As for the Chargers, they will be back in action, Saturday, August 18th against the Dallas Cowboys. Luckily for both teams it was only preseason, and there is still plenty of time to assemble good chemistry as well as better execution on the field.
Image Courtesy of San Diego Chargers