- The Chargers effectively used the run game to control the contest. San Diego finished with 125 net yards rushing, allowing the Chargers to finish with a 3:38 advantage in time of possession. Nonetheless, the Chargers would like to beef up their yards-per-carry. If you take away Legedu Naanee's 22-yard run and the 11-yard reverse by Buster Davis, the team averaged just 2.97 ypc.
- The Chargers didn't go to the air often, but they were extremely efficient when they did. QBs Philip Rivers and Billy Volek were especially sharp, combining to complete 11-of-14 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. San Diego's passers really spread the wealth around, as well. A dozen different players caught at least one pass, while no pass-catcher caught more than two.
- San Diego played smart football throughout. The team was penalized just three times for 34 yards, with one of those flags being a completely bogus 15-yard personal foul on FS C.J. Spillman for his thunderous, textbook hit on Early Doucet. Also, the Chargers won the turnover battle, 2-0, with Antonio Cromartie and Clinton Hart both intercepting passes in the red zone.
- Beyond the two interceptions, San Diego's pass defense was exceptional against an aerial attack that finished second in the NFL in 2008. Kurt Warner completed less than 50 percent of his passes (6 of 13) and averaged just 6.15 yards per attempt. CB Quentin Jammer made a particularly nice play on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line to knock the ball away from WR Anquan Boldin.
- Naanee transfered his practice-field success into a live-game situation. The third-year receiver, starting in place of Vincent Jackson (finger), registered three touches and made the most of all of them. He hauled in a 49-yard bomb on a play-action pass; ripped off a 22-yard run on an end-around; and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Volek.
- LB Kevin Burnett, who started ahead of Tim Dobbins, paced the team in tackles for the second consecutive week. Burnett finished with five solo tackles, including a tackle for no gain and another for a 2-yard loss. His strong outing likely won him the starting job opposite Stephen Cooper, although Dobbins will figure heavily into the rotation.
WR Chris Chambers
RB Michael Bennett
- The pass protection was horrendous, with Rivers being sacked four times within the first four minutes. Three of the four sacks came through the right side of San Diego's offensive line, where rookie OG Louis Vasquez made his debut next to OT Jeromey Clary, who struggles against speedy pass-rushers.
- San Diego's run defense was equally sieve-like. Arizona's starting halfback, Tim Hightower, carried nine times for 42 yards (4.66 ypc). That's particularly alarming considering Hightower averaged just 2.8 ypc last season, when the Cardinals finished with the lowest-ranked running game in the NFL.
- Cardinals KR LaRod Stephens-Howling likely spent his Sunday making thank-you calls to the members of San Diego's kickoff coverage team. Coach Steve Crosby's group allowed Stephens-Howling to rip off returns of 89 and 63 yards. Cletis Gordon's poor tackling was the culprit on the first return, while sloppy lane-discipline helped facilitate the second one.
- The defense needs to improve in third-and-long situations. On one drive in the third quarter, QB Brian St. Pierre helped the Cardinals convert three consecutive third downs of 8 yards or more, although one of those conversions was courtesy the bogus flag against Spillman. Nonetheless, the defense needs to get off the field more consistently to get the ball back to the Chargers' potent offense.
The Chargers will travel to Atlanta to face Michael Turner and the Falcons Saturday. Turner, who has averaged an ungodly 9.8 ypc so far this preseason, will tear up his former team if the Chargers defense tackles the way it did in Arizona. It wouldn't be the first time Turner terrorized the Chargers, as he rumbled for 120 yards during the Week 13 matchup in 2008.
Three days after the Falcons contest, the Chargers will have to cut their roster down to 75 players. That means players on the back end of the roster must find a way to stand out in Atlanta.
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Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.