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Chargers-Vikings Final Score: San Diego Chargers lose to Minnesota Vikings 23-10

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The only thing that really mattered in this game was a likely season-ending injury to Branden Oliver.

NFL: Preseason-San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings get the ball first as the Chargers won the coin toss and deferred. The Vikings started off fast with a first down pass to Stefon Diggs who was “covered” by linebackers and 45-yard run by Jerick McKinnon right up the middle completely untouched through the line.

A Chargers penalty and another easy pitch and catch to Diggs kept the chains moving and got the Vikings in the red zone. McKinnon then picked up another first down on a cutback where Darius Philon looked foolish. Mercifully, the Vikings drive stalled near the goal line and the Vikings attempted a 23-yard field goal which Blair Walsh converted.

A quick pass to Hunter Henry put the Chargers in good down and distance. Melvin Gordon then picked up the first on a run to the right side. It was a wonderful, decisive run by Gordon. He didn’t have one run like that last year. He looks like a different player and it is so good to see. Danny Woodhead came in and picked up a couple on a first down shotgun run. Keenan Allen then let a ball go through his hands that was picked off.

The Vikings attempted to take a shot downfield but Teddy Bridgewater overthrew his man. A 4-yard run made third down manageable, and Bridgewater converted with his legs to move into the red zone. Diggs then picked up another first down while covered by a linebacker. On first and goal, Kyle Emanuel did an excellent job of batting down a ball at the line. Jerick McKinnon was then stuffed on a run up the gut. Corey Liuget beat the backup let tackle for a sack to end the drive. Walsh capped the drive with a 33-yard field goal.

Rivers looking for Travis Benjamin on third down and Benjamin not making him regret it is a good sign for the offense. The Chargers then ran Woodhead into the line for no gain and followed that up by handing Woodhead the ball where he was immediately tackled before he could take a step. On 3rd and 13, the protection was there, but Rivers couldn’t connect with Allen which forced a punt. Rookie Drew Kaser with a 4.5 second hang time on a long punt that was not returned.

Damion Square replaces Ryan Carrethers at the nose to start the drive and the run defense looks stout on first rush. On 3rd and 7, Tenny Palepoi jumped offside to give away the defense’s advantage. Adrian Phillips wrapped up the ball carrier in the backfield on 3rd and 2, but McKinnon still managed to fall forward enough to get the first down.

On the next play, Phillips made a nice tackle for no gain, then Bridgewater tripped and fell while taking the following snap. On 3rd and 15, Corey Liuget made a very nice play to stop a screen from picking up the first and force the punt.

On first down, Rivers tried a deep pass to Benjamin. It didn’t work, but it was close and a sign of things to come. A pass in the flat to Gordon picked up a few yards and a wide receiver screen to Benjamin picked up the first. Tyrell Williams gets involved for a first down. Then a beautiful 39-yard run by Melvin Gordon to the house put San Diego on top. It was a perfect audible by Rivers and it’s amazing how well it worked since Derek Watt blocked nobody at all.

Dexter McCoil gets in the game and he strips the ball from Kyle Rudolph. Jason Verrett recovers and the Chargers looked to be rolling.

And like that, Rivers’ time was over. Kellen Clemens took over and immediately scrambled for a first down. Then, looking at a 3rd and 7, Clemens found Danny Woodhead in the flat who picked up the first and more. Then, in case you were wondering why Rivers was out, Joe Barksdale had an injury scare where he got rolled up on by his teammate. The drive died after a terrible throw by Clemens that Allen couldn’t haul in. Lambo finished it up with a field goal.

We then got to see the defense in a two-minute drill. The highlight was a coverage sack, but the lack of pass rush caught up with them on a handful of long passes including a 27-yard touchdown to Rudolph who beat Manti Te’o and the safeties.

Next, we got to see the offense try to respond. Clemens completed a few passes to get within long field goal range, but Kenny Wiggins whiffed on a block on a screen pass to Oliver that could have been a big gainer. To make matters worse, Oliver had to be carted off the field with what looked like a non-contact Achilles injury.

The second half started rather poorly with Clemens getting stripped on a third down play after left tackle Tyreek Burwell got beat. Some terrible tackling by Nick Dzubnar later and the Vikings were in the end zone following a fumble of their own.

As the game continued on, the Chargers had an uneventful drive featuring poor running by Dreamius Smith and poor throws by Kellen Clemens. Kaser ended it with a decent punt.

Ryan Carrethers looks dominant against backups after he disappeared against the 1s. Ben Gardner also flashed as he made Jeremiah Sirles look horrible on a sack that ended the drive.

On 4th and 1, the Chargers did not go under center instead opting to try a shotgun run. It never had a chance.

Backups against backups, the Chargers defense gave up chunk plays in the passing game until the Vikings got into the red zone. Then the defense stiffened and forced a fumble on a sack.

As the 3rd quarter wound down, Mike Bercovici replaced Clemens at quarterback. A pair of handoffs got us to the 4th quarter. A third handoff resulted in a punt, but a defensive penalty during the punt moved the chains anyway. A nice pass by Bercovici to Smith moved them again. A rushing attempt saw Derek Watt driven back and the play was blown up. James Jones turned a tipped pass into another first down when he held on after getting drilled. Bercovici then sailed a pass that was intercepted.

After the long interception return, the Vikings started in Chargers territory and had little trouble moving the ball until they got inside the 10 where they stalled out. Walsh then came in to attempt another field goal which he converted.

Bercovici looked better on his first attempt of the next drive as he found Rasheed Bailey for a first down. Smith got a carry on the next play and appeared to suffer an injury, though it did not look serious. That finally got Chris Swain on the field. Two incomplete passes led to a punt.

Gardner and McCoil both continue to fly around the field and make plays. McCoil could challenge for starter snaps eventually. Gardner can hopefully make it to the practice squad, though his play makes you worry that he will get claimed.

DeAndre Reaves appeared to muff the punt but he also touched the ball with his foot while his other foot was out of bounds, so the Chargers retained possession. Can’t say I have ever seen that before. A nice run after catch by Bailey and a personal foul put the Chargers in the red zone. Bercovici tried to throw another interception, but the corner could not hang on. But then two plays later, he managed to get picked off anyway.

At least, this performance probably means that Bercovici can most likely make the practice squad and not need to take a 53-man roster spot.