Insider's Perspective: Chargers vs. 49ers

The Chargers dropped their second straight preseason game against an NFC West opponent, falling 21-7 against the 49ers on Sunday. But unlike the whooping the team endured in Seattle the week prior, this game included plenty to feel good about. Here is a detailed look at what worked, what didn't and what's next for the Blue & Gold.

What Worked

--Philip Rivers looks primed to pick up right where he left off last season. He completed nine of 10 passes against the 49ers, ringing up 85 yards, a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates and a passer rating of 135.4. He has completed 15 of 18 passes this preseason (83.3 percent) and has yet to turn the ball over.

--The defense made great strides in the third preseason contest, led by a tremendous effort from Corey Liuget (four tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and two QB hits). San Francisco's offensive starters played four series and mustered only three points, going three-and-out twice. Melvin Ingram also played well, hitting Colin Kaepernick in the end zone to force an incomplete pass.

--Two weeks after Dontrelle Inman's 107-yard outing against the Cowboys, the other half of San Diego's Canadian connection balled out. Cordarro Law, who came to San Diego by way of the Calgary Stampeders, posted five tackles, a sack and a pass breakup. Despite Law's big game, Inman -- who was held without a catch against the 49ers despite being targeted three times -- still has a better chance of making the final 53-man roster.

What Didn't

--Ryan Mathews, perhaps San Diego's most polarizing player, had a frustrating game. The Chargers’ first drive ended when Mathews made a short catch and was stopped a yard shy of the first down. San Diego's next drive stalled at the San Francisco 5-yard line when Mathews was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-1 play. Mathews has averaged better than 4.5 yards per carry this preseason, so it hasn't been all bad, but he will certainly be scrutinized in this, his contract year, especially with Donald Brown, Danny Woodhead and Marion Grice all fighting for carries behind him.

--The entire offense went limp after the starters sat down. Kellen Clemens took a sack and misfired on his only attempt. Brad Sorensen completed just 52 percent of his passes while being intercepted twice and sacked twice. Branden Oliver (three carries for 12 yards) and Tevin Reese (one catch for 4 yards) both had quiet games as their pushes for roster spots appear to be losing steam.

--Injuries continue to ravage the defensive line. Kwame Geathers was carted off the field Sunday after injuring his knee in the first quarter. Also leaving via cart was undrafted rookie Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, who is competing for a place on the practice squad. Geathers had been starting in place of Sean Lissemore (ankle); although Lissemore is expected back by the regular-season opener, Geathers is slated to be a significant part of the rotation. If Geathers is out for a while, it will open the door for fifth-round pick Ryan Carrethers.

What's Next

In an unusual scheduling quirk, the Chargers wrap up the preseason at home against the Cardinals, then head to Arizona to open the regular season on Monday Night Football. Most of the starters will not play at all in the preseason finale, as the focus will be on getting out of the game healthy and evaluating the players competing for spots on the back end of the roster. Both teams will play as vanilla as possible, careful not to give away any strategies just 10 days before they meet in the final contest of Week 1.

What are your thoughts on the Chargers' roster? Discuss in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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