Chargers Start Fast Before Fading in Atlanta

The San Diego Chargers started fast and efficient, building up a 21-10 lead before the Atlanta Falcons' reserves rallied to a 27-24 victory on Saturday at the Georgia Dome. The game served as the final extended tune-up for San Diego's starters in advance of the regular season.

San Diego's first-string offense, which failed to reach the end zone in the first two preseason games, scored TDs on two of its first three drives. Darren Sproles capped the Chargers' first drive with a 10-yard scoring run. Two drives later, Michael Bennett did his best impression of Sproles by taking a screen pass 49 yards to the house.

In all, Philip Rivers played three series and completed 10 of 15 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown. Rivers' yards-per-completion average (18.5 yards) was inflated by Vincent Jackson, who hauled in beautiful catches of 32 and 29 yards.

Rivers gave way to Billy Volek for the final drive of the first half and Volek didn't miss a beat. Volek completed five of six passes for 80 yards on his first series, capping things off with a 10-yard TD pass to Malcom Floyd. It was just part of a busy night for Floyd, who finished with four catches for 56 yards.

SS Steve Gregory
Mike Zarrilli/Getty
On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers did a nice job of keeping the Falcons out of the end zone. Atlanta scored just one touchdown in the first half when Matt Ryan hooked up with Brian Finneran, who broke an Antoine Cason tackle and dove across the goal line for a 12-yard score.

The defense didn't disintegrate until the fourth quarter when Atlanta's Chris Redman completed 10 of 14 passes and led the Falcons on a pair of touchdown drives. The first scoring drive ended when Redman ran the ball in from 10 yards out on a busted play. Atlanta's second fourth-quarter scoring drive ended in dramatic fashion with Redman finding WR Eric Weems for a 5-yard touchdown with only nine seconds left in the game. Weems got inside position against CB Simeon Castille on the play.

The culprit behind San Diego's defensive struggles was a tepid pass rush. Despite the debut of Larry English -- who narrowly missed his first pro sack when Matt Ryan slipped from his fingers -- the Chargers recorded just one sack despite Atlanta's 39 pass attempts. Rookie Anthony Felder recorded the sack one play before Weems' game-winning score.

Game Notes

--LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates and Jamal Williams all sat out Saturday's game. All three absences were considered precautionary.

--Louis Vasquez earned his second consecutive start at right guard and performed very well, even throwing the key block to spring Bennett's TD. Kynan Forney, who has been battling a neck injury, came off the bench and also performed well.

--Several Chargers had near-interceptions, including Steve Gregory, fifth-round pick Brandon Hughes and Quentin Jammer (twice).

--Former Charger Michael Turner carried 12 times for 47 yards (3.9 ypc). Another former Charger, TE Justin Peelle, hauled in an 8-yard reception.

--On San Diego's first drive of the second quarter, the Bolts converted four straight third downs of 13-plus yards. The conversions included third-and-13 (18-yard pass to Malcom Floyd), third-and-18 (32-yard pass to Vincent Jackson), third-and-17 (18-yard pass to Chris Chambers) and third-and-24 (49-yard pass to Michael Bennett).

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