The Chargers’ rookies were the highlight of Saturday night’s preseason opener as the Bolts outraced the Rams 34-17 inside SoFi Stadium.
Three rookies combined to score the team’s four touchdowns, including an 81-yard punt return from fourth-rounder Derius Davis. Backup quarterback Easton Stick also put together his best preseason game to date as the former fifth-round pick looked poised and confident in the pocket all night long.
In all, it was a great first game of the preseason and Chargers fans could likely see the Kellen Moore effect start to take shape as the offense looked potent and markedly different, especially on the ground where the Chargers rushed for 214 yards on 31 carries (6.9 YPC).
Let’s go ahead and hop into the recap!
The Chargers and Rams offenses each started with a quick three-and-out to start the game. Edge rushers Tuli Tuipulotu and Chris Rumph II each made an impact with the former forcing two early incompletions while the later ended the drive with a sack on third down.
Rookie first-round wideout Quentin Johnston had a rough start with his first NFL catch going for a loss of two yards. He later caught a short crossing route for a first down but ended up dropping two of his five targets, including a beautiful deep pass from Easton Stick.
Cameron Dicker hit home on a 50-yard field goal after a 13-play drive by the Chargers to take an early 3-0 over the Rams.
Dicker knocked home a short field field goal early in the quarter to give the Chargers the 6-0 lead. Quarterback Easton Stick had been slinging some dimes early against the Rams but the Chargers hadn’t been able to break through.
That is, until rookie return man Derius Davis introduced himself to the NFL by taking a punt back 81 yards on an electric return all the way to the house to push the Chargers’ lead to 13-0.
On the ensuing offensive drive for the Chargers, safety JT Woods broke up a third down pass near the goal line to force a field goal from the Rams. Unfortunately, he spouted a few too many words to Rams wideout Ben Skowronek and was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty which gave a fresh set of downs to the opponent. Rookie quarterback Stetson Bennett then found fellow rookie Puka Nacua for an 11-yard touchdown to make it 13-7.
Stick guided the Chargers back down the field with some nifty throws to Isaiah Spiller, Keelan Doss, and Davis before capping it off with a short score to Johnston for his first NFL score.
The Chargers headed into the locker room with a 20-7 lead.
The Rams received the opening kickoff of the second half but couldn’t put together a lengthy drive. On the flip-side, second-year back Isaiah Spiller ripped off a huge touchdown run of over 70 yards but it was called back due to a holding penalty on fifth-round rookie Jordan McFadden.
UDFA edge rusher Andrew Farmer recorded his first NFL sack with takedown of Bennett for a loss of 11 yards but the Rams converted on a 2nd-and-21 on the very next play.
Late in the third quarter, the Rams found a groove on offense and managed to cap off a seven-play, 64-yard drive with a touchdown run from veteran Royce Freeman to minimize the Chargers’ lead to 20-14.
After a rough start for UDFA quarterback Max Duggan and the third-string offense in the second half, fellow undrafted player Elijah Dotson gave the Chargers a jolt by scooting up the left sideline for a 37-yard touchdown run early in the final quarter.
The Rams would hang a field goal on the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter to make it a 10-point game but that only lasted two drives before Dotson once again found a running lane up the left sideline once more that took him untouched into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game.
he really got that dawg in him pic.twitter.com/AexrWAaTHK— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) August 13, 2023
Late in the final period, Nigerian IPP player CJ Okoye recorded a sack which was greeted by a huge eruption from the team’s sideline.
The final few minutes of regulation ticked away as the the Chargers knelt the clock out on the final drive to preserve a 34-17 win.