The Los Angeles Chargers fielded a team sans Philip Rivers and were thus fighting an uphill battle from the very beginning. They won the toss and elected to receive.
The kick return left the team short of the 20. On 1st down, Melvin Gordon had nowhere to go and so he chose to run backward. That went about as well as you would expect and he lost yardage. Kellen Clemens then threw two passes that found the grass before Drew Kaser came on to punt. That punt gave the Saints the ball at midfield after a holding penalty.
Alvin Kamara took his first carry of the game 50 yards for a touchdown. The defense may have managed to look worse than the offense or special teams. Dan Fouts described the play as the Chargers defenders just accepting being blocked and that was certainly a fair description of what we all saw.
Gordon started the next drive off right picking up 11 yards on his second carry of the game. Clemens looked like he might get on track as he found Antonio Gates for seven yards. Then, a bad snap killed the 2nd down play and lost three yards. And on 3rd down Clemens threw an off target pass to Gordon that would have been short of the sticks anyway.
Kamara’s second carry was not quite as exciting as his first, but he did still pick up four yards. Michael Thomas picked up a chunk on the next play. It was man coverage but there was no man near him. Another Kamara run and a first down picked up by Willie Snead put the Saints in field goal range. Three failed plays later they kicked a field goal to extend their lead.
Clemens found Gordon for seven yards to start the drive. Matt Slauson drove them back with a false start. Gordon got a little of it back. Then Hunter Henry bailed Clemens out with a solid catch that moved the sticks and picked up 14. Back-to-back sacks killed the drive.
The Saints were moving the ball well including a 20-yard catch and run by Kamara before the drive was killed thanks to a sack (and vicious hit) by Tre Boston. That ended the first quarter.
Following the punt that was downed by New Orleans at the 5, the Chargers took over. Branden Oliver, in for Gordon, ripped off a six yard gain on 1st down up the middle. He fought for another one yard on 2nd. On 3rd down, Clemens actually scrambled for 14 yards. Two short runs and a sack later, Kaser came on to punt it away.
The defense came to play on the following drive holding Daniel Lasco to no gain on 1st down and forcing a pair of incomplete passes.
The drive looked doomed early, but on 3rd & 10, Clemens scrambled again for another 1st down. Two plays later he connected with Geremy Davis for 20 yards. Three plays later he was sacked yet again to end the drive.
Melvin Ingram got the Saints rolling early thanks to a Horse Collar tackle, but Daniel then turned three passes into two completions for a total of three yards before Thomas Morstead came on to punt again.
Andre Williams came into the came and ran for two yards on consecutive carries. The Clemens to Davis combo picked up another 1st down. Two plays later Clemens hit Jamaal Jones for 11 yards and another set of downs. He followed that with a 12-yard completion to Sean Culkin. Dontrelle Inman then pulled in a pass for five yards. An incomplete pass then led us into the two minute warning. Jones was just short of the sticks on 3rd down. Andre Williams was then stopped for a loss on 4th & 1.
Chase Daniel completed his first pass of the drive to Brandon Coleman to pick up eight yards. An Illegal use of Hands penalty moved them back 10 yards on the next play. Most of that was picked back up by Lasco on a catch and run. That set up a 3rd & 5. Desmond King ended the drive with an emphatic sack.
The Chargers then ran out the clock by handing the ball off a few times.
Younghoe Koo started the second half off kicking deep to Daniel Lasco who returned the ball to the 20. Lasco would carry the ball on the next two plays from scrimmage as well. He would leave Ryan Nassib with a 3rd & 5 which he would fail to convert after an incomplete pass targeting Coby Fleener.
Andre Williams picked up four yards on 1st down. Kenjon Barner added three more on 2nd down. Cardale Jones then got crushed for a sack on 3rd down.
Korey Toomer, Damion Square, and Chris McCain all looked good as the Chargers defense forced a three-and-out punctuated by a McCain sack. Isaiah Burse then pitched in with a nice punt return.
Jones missed on a short pass to Barner. Jones was then sacked after Barner missed picking up a blitzing linebacker. Jones then launched a pretty ball to Burse. The play was broken up by an early defender. That translated into defensive pass interference and a fresh set of downs. Cardale Jones then connected with Jamaal Jones for another 17 yards on another nice throw. Andre Williams then came back into the game and rushed for two yards on two carries. Jamaal Jones had the 1st down after a catch and run, but he was stripped and the Saints recovered.
Nassib found Corey Fuller for eight yards. Darius Philon tacked on 15 more with a Roughing the Passer penalty. A short run up the middle and a pair of incomplete passes ended the drive before it could get going. Burse then muffed the punt, but he was able to recover.
Williams was stopped for a short gain on 1st down, but picked up four on 2nd down. Cardale Jones then missed deep on 3rd down to end the drive.
Darius Victor started the Saints drive by rushing for two yards. Nassib then threw two more incomplete passes. That resulted in yet another punt.
Cardale Jones found Jamaal Jones for a seven yards on 1st down. Andre Williams moved the chains with a four-yard run on the next snap. A holding penalty on the next play moved the Bolts back inside their own 10. Williams got half of the yardage back on his next rush. Jones then missed on a pass to Burse that was near the 1st down marker. On 3rd & 14, Jones escaped pressure then dumped the ball off to Austin Ekeler who came up well short of a 1st down.
Nassib threw to Fleener for six yards on 1st down. Victor added another yard on 2nd down.
Nassib then missed Fuller on 3rd down before the Saints had to punt on 4th.
Jones and the Chargers returned to the field. Jones missed Mitchell Paige on 1st down. He then connected with Paige for no gain. Sean Culkin picked up 12 yards. Then Jones threw an incomplete pass intended for Weiser.
The Saints took over on their own 45-yard line and took nine plays to drive to the Chargers’ 8-yard line. Nassib was then picked off at the 1-yard line by Dexter McCoil who took it back to the house for six points.
The Saints took over at their own 25-yard and took 10 plays to get into the Chargers’ red zone. There they stalled out before kicking a field goal to stretch their meaningless lead to six points.
Down six with just over two minutes on the clock, Cardale Jones returned to the field. Jones’ first pass fell incomplete. His next pass was caught by Paige for six yards at the two minute warning. Davis then moved the sticks with a five-yard reception. Chargers called a time out with 96 seconds remaining and 77 yards to go to the end zone. An incomplete pass brought up 2nd down. A sack brought up 3rd & long and extinguished whatever hope the offense had of a successful drive. A sack on 3rd down brought up the Chargers’ last chance and a 4th & very long. Jones heaved the ball up and it was brought down by the Saints.