Published November 20, 2014
Ryan Mathews had an impressive debut and the San Diego Chargers got along fine without holdouts Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill in a 25-10 preseason victory over the Chicago Bears on Saturday night.
Mathews, the first-round draft pick who will replace the departed LaDainian Tomlinson, gained 50 yards on nine carries and caught two passes for 11 yards. Philip Rivers threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Legedu Naanee, one of the receivers the Bolts will depend on in Jackson's absence.
It was the Chargers' first game since they took a face-plant in a 17-14 playoff loss to the New York Jets, which was Tomlinson's last game with San Diego. He was released in February and signed with the Jets. The Chargers were 13-3 last year, winning their fourth straight AFC West title.
The Bears are coming off a 7-9 finish, their third straight season out of the playoffs.
Restricted free agents McNeill, the left tackle, and Jackson, a Pro Bowl wide receiver, are holding out, upset that they haven't been given long-term contracts. The Chargers have threatened to put them on the roster exempt list if they haven't signed their tenders by Friday, meaning they'll be suspended for three games once they sign. They are believed to be willing to sit out the first 10 games, returning for the final six to gain an accrued season.
Rivers played two series and wasn't sacked. Backup Billy Volek was sacked once, midway through the second quarter. Brandyn Dombrowski, the first-string left tackle in McNeill's absence, played two series.
The Chargers had six sacks.
Mathews' first carry, a 3-yard gain, came on San Diego's second series. His longest run was 18 yards from the Chargers' 4. He was pushed back almost to the goal line, then bounced off a defender and broke free for the long run and a first down.
"Ryan's great," coach Norv Turner said. "He said that things slowed down for him as it went on. Obviously he's a guy who can break tackles and he's got great speed."
Rivers' TD pass to Naanee was set up by a 51-yard kickoff return by Richard Goodman, an undrafted rookie, after Robbie Gould's 38-yard field goal.
Linebacker Brandon Lang, another undrafted rookie, had a big game. He blocked a punt late in the third quarter that rolled out of the end zone for a safety, and sandwiched Bears second-string quarterback Caleb Hanie along with Antwan Applewhite during a play that resulted in a sack and forced fumble for Applewhite, with Paul Oliver recovering. Hanie stayed on the ground for a few minutes but walked off the field under his own power.
Bears starter Jay Cutler was in for only one series, going 2 of 2 for 47 yards. He was sacked once.
Hanie threw a 7-yard TD pass to Devin Aromashodu in the second quarter. It came seven plays after San Diego's Ryon Bingham was whistled for a neutral zone infraction as Gould kicked a 52-yard field goal, giving the Bears a first down on the Chargers' 30.
The Chargers committed nine penalties for 66 yards in the first half. Right tackle Jeromey Clary was whistled three times for false starts, including on consecutive plays on the Chargers' second drive.