RB Darren Sproles (Donald Miralle/Getty)
Jacob Hester broke out of a goal-line slump to score a 1-yard touchdown and Malcom Floyd skied for the go-ahead two-point conversion as the Chargers topped the Seattle Seahawks, 18-17, on Monday Night Football. The defense, which struggled early, came through late by forcing turnovers on two of Seattle’s final three drives.
Philip Rivers returned to action after sitting out last week and looked sharp in two-plus quarters of work, completing 11 of 21 passes for 143 yards. Rivers did a good job of managing the game without his top two offensive weapons, LaDainian Tomlinson (rest) and Antonio Gates (toe), as he didn’t turn the ball over and was never sacked.
Rivers’ primary target was Vincent Jackson, who was playing in his first game since injuring his hamstring during training camp. Jackson showed no ill effects from the injury, leading the team with three catches for 84 yards.
On the ground, Darren Sproles was electric and likely cemented his spot as the No. 2 running back. Sproles topped the century mark (102 yards) on just 13 carries and chipped in the Chargers’ first score. Sproles also returned a kickoff for 19 yards and two punts for 8 yards.
Rookie Jacob Hester struggled in his role as the goal-line back. Hester received four carries from the Seattle 1-yard line but was only able to cross the plane on one occasion. However, he made that one success count, as it helped put San Diego ahead in the final three minutes.
The more pressing concern for the Chargers resides on the other side of the ball. The defense struggled against the run for the third consecutive game, allowing the Seahawks to carry 32 times for 162 yards (5.1 avg). The defense has allowed its opponents to average at least 4.8 yards per carry in every game this preseason.
The pass defense also endured some breakdowns, highlighted by Eric Weddle’s missed tackle on Nate Burleson’s 68-yard touchdown catch on the game’s opening drive. Overall, the Chargers allowed Charlie Frye to complete 19 of 29 passes (65.5 percent) for 219 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Luckily for the Chargers, the defense came through when its back was against the wall in the fourth quarter. Seattle’s final three possessions ended with a lost fumble (forced by Keith Grennan, recovered by Paul Oliver), a three-and-out and an interception (tipped by Cletis Gordon, picked by Brian Bonner).
The Chargers now face a quick turnaround as they will face the 49ers in San Francisco on Friday. There are also some difficult decisions ahead, as the roster must be trimmed to 75 players by Tuesday, Aug. 26, and down to 53 players by Saturday, Aug. 30.