This week I'll be kicking off a new weekly feature here at Bolts from the Blue--a look back at the last time the Chargers met with their upcoming opponent. I'll recap what happened in the previous meeting, talk about potential storylines, and bring up what's changed about each opponent between their last match-up and the coming one. Today, we look at Pre-Season Opponent #3, the Arizona Cardinals.
The Chargers and Cardinals last faced off in Week 5 of the 2010 season. The Chargers had fallen to 1-2, coming off a maddening loss at Seattle (which we need not discuss in any further detail) and hoping to get the ship righted at home. The Cardinals were still trying to figure out how to replace Kurt Warner at quarterback, giving playing time to both Max Hall and Derek Anderson. Despite the uncertainty, however, the Cardinals were 2-1 having managed close wins over St. Louis and Oakland.
Unfortunately for the visitors, however, the day was going to be all San Diego. The Chargers jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter and, despite a fumble-return touchdown for the Cardinals, completely dominated the game from start to finish. Philip Rivers was his usual efficient self, completing 15 of 20 passes for 241 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Mike Tolbert rumbled his way to 100 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries, and even Ryan Mathews got a taste of the end zone.
Perhaps most impressive was the performance of the San Diego defense. Altogether, Charger defenders collected nine (9!) sacks of the hapless Arizona quarterbacks, and picked them off twice. Together Hall and Anderson completed 15 of 28 passes for just 146 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. Cardinal running backs managed only 47 rushing yards on 14 carries.
Game stats complete the picture of dominance. The Chargers outgained the Cardinals 419 net yards to 134, and held the ball for almost 35 minutes. All in all, this one was never in doubt and the Chargers carried the day easily.
What's changed since the last time these two teams met? The Cardinals think they've finally got an answer at quarterback: Kevin Kolb, the erstwhile Philadelphia Eagle who, despite being named the starter leading up to 2010, lost his job to a rejuvenated Michael Vick and was sold to Arizona for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. How things will work out for him once the regular season begins is anyone's guess, but reports so far out the Cardinals' coaching staff have been glowing.
What will make Kolb's job a lot easier is the knowledge that Larry Fitzgerald will remain a Cardinal for many, many years to come having just signed a mammoth contract extension. This caused much weeping and gnashing of teeth amongst Charger fans (like myself) who hoped to see San Diego make a run at the pass-catcher in free agency. Alas, 'twas not to be.
What all this means going into this weekend is relatively little. This is a pre-season game, so neither side is really trying their hardest to win. We'll get to see the starters for a little more than two quarters, so that will be at least fun to watch, but there isn't really much in the way of storylines, beyond two teams still trying to work out the kinks in a shortened off-season.