Insider's Take: Chargers vs. Saints

The San Diego Chargers muffed their second straight preseason contest with a 36-21 loss to the New Orleans Saints. The offense authored its share of big plays, but the defense conceded even more. Here is a look at what worked, what didn't and what's next after this preseason dress rehearsal.

What Worked

--Norv Turner scripted a gorgeous drive to start off Friday's game. The 12-play drive was equal parts pass and run and ate more than 6:30 off the clock. Philip Rivers was 5-for-6 on the drive, locating Antonio Gates, Legedu Naanee and Jacob Hester. Ryan Mathews ran five times for 32 yards on the drive, including a nice 16-yard gain on a misdirection play on third-and-1. Hester capped off the drive with a 6-yard TD run, giving the LSU product a chance to shine in his old stomping grounds.

--San Diego converted 5-of-8 third-down attempts in the first half, a success rate of 62.5 percent. That's impressive against a defense that loves to bring heavy pressure. Malcom Floyd was money on third down, catching a 20-yard pass on third-and-14 and scoring a 9-yard touchdown on third-and-goal.

--Nathan Vasher got tested often by the Saints -- so did everyone in the secondary -- but responded with a couple nice plays. He broke up a would-be touchdown pass on third-and-7 late in the third quarter to force the Saints to settle for a field goal. In the fourth quarter, he intercepted an underthrown ball by Patrick Ramsey. It was not a flawless performance by any means, but Vasher -- who may be on the bubble come Sept. 4 -- helped his cause more than he hurt it.

What Didn't

--Eric Weddle sacked Drew Brees on New Orleans' opening drive, forcing a fumble (that the Saints recovered) and a quick punt. Unfortunately, that was the only sack of the game for the Chargers. Brees and Ramsey had all day in the pocket, combining to complete over 62 percent of their passes for 431 yards (15.4 yards per completion). Shawne Merriman's return should help generate some heat, but Larry English and Jyles Tucker need to start playing up to their contracts.

--Ron Rivera won't call it a bend-but-don't-break defense, but his schemes are designed to eliminate big plays. However, those schemes did not work Friday. New Orleans recorded seven plays of 20-plus yards, four of them coming in the first half when the top units were still in the game. The Saints scored offensive TDs of 46 and 76 yards. On the 76-yard catch-and-run by Chris Ivory, the defense put on a poor-tackling clinic. On the 46-yard catch Devery Henderson tipped to himself over the outstretched hands of Antoine Cason, Chargers fans couldn't help but think, maybe, "Antonio Cromartie would have made that play."

--San Diego's offense looked out of sync as soon as Rivers went to the bench. That's to be expected, to an extent, but more should be expected of a unit that included vets like Billy Volek, Josh Reed and Buster Davis (though Davis, to his credit, finished third on the team with three catches for 41 yards). Speaking of the veteran reserves, Kris Wilson had a game to forget, dropping two wide-open passes that left nearly 50 combined yards on the field.

What's Next

The Chargers have until Tuesday to trim their roster from 80 to 75 players. Two days later, Turner's squad hits the road for a preseason finale vs. the San Francisco 49ers, something that has become a preseason tradition.

The final roster must be set at 53 players by Sept. 4, two days after the 49ers game.

Will Nathan Vasher make the final roster? Talk about it inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and 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 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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