Baseball teams are used to playing 3 game series against one team. Football teams, not so much. The Chargers going to Dallas and playing the Cowboys three times in four days is not something that happens very often.
"Well, the Lockout is not something that happens very often, either," said defensive lineman Vaughn Martin. Missing four months of off-season work forced NFL teams to do things a little different, hence the Chargers' little working vacation in Texas. Thursday and Friday were spent practicing against the Cowboys. Sunday night was spent beating the Cowboys 20-7 in preseason game number two.
"Practicing against the Cowboys for two days I think gave our guys a good feel for getting ready to play them," said head coach Norv Turner. "They used it."
Philip Rivers used his right arm to make the Dallas secondary re-think their collective career choice. Rivers completed 8 of 11 passes (one incompletion was a drop by Patrick Crayton) for 92 yards and a touchdown to tight end Randy McMichael, who showed some nimble feet to stay inbounds for the score. Rivers filed away some of the things he saw in practice to his advantage.
"There wasn't the kind of, 'get to know each other' feel at the first of the game," Rivers said. "We played something like 80 plays against each other over the two days of practice. We were, ready to go right off the bat."
Eric Weddle, too, used his familiarity with Tony Romo to make a 1st quarter interception on a poorly thrown ball.
"A little dropper," as Weddle called it. "I read play-action right away. I fell back and read Romo and just made a play. It was a big play. Get the ball back to the offense. It's what we've been preaching and stressing, making turnovers and getting the ball back to the offense."
Putting the ball in the hands of San Diego's prolific offense is a good way to go. The interception led to the McMichael touchdown catch. The Chargers also recovered a pair of fumbles, thanks to a trio of rookies and a man who's never started an NFL game.
Jonas Mouton and Corey Liuget forced fumbles that were recovered by C.J. Wallace and Andrew Gachkar. The Bolts did not turn the ball over once, although Mike Tolbert did fumble inside the 10 yard line (Jeromey Clary made the recovery to save him). In 2010 the Chargers were on the wrong side of the turnover margin. This season they've re-committed to taking the ball away more often than they give it away.
They're also working on getting to the quarterback more often. Martin had two of the Chargers three sacks and Liuget had the other. Through two preseason games San Diego looks to have quality depth on the defensive line, and Liuget, the first round pick in April's NFL Draft, has the makings of a major disruptive force.
"He's a beast," said Ryan Mathews. Oh by the way, last year's top pick broke off a beautiful 15-yard touchdown run. I had the pleasure of sitting next to "Mean" Joe Greene, the Hall of Fame defensive lineman who's now a scout for the Steelers. He said he thinks Mathews can be the key to putting the Chargers in the AFC Championship game.
He'll get a lot more work on Saturday the 27th in Arizona when the Bolts play preseason game number three against the Cardinals.