Saints top Chargers 13-7 as Brees, Rivers are both held out
CARSON, California (AP) — Alvin Kamara ran for a 50-yard touchdown as the New Orleans Saints beat the Los Angeles Chargers 13-7 on Sunday night.
Safety Dexter McCoil intercepted Ryan Nassib’s fourth-quarter pass and returned it 99 yards for the Chargers’ lone touchdown.
With just a six-day turnaround to the all-important third preseason game, both the Chargers and Saints gave their starting quarterbacks the day off. The only competitive passes fans at StubHub Center saw Philip Rivers and Drew Brees throw were prerecorded, as the former San Diego teammates staged a throwing contest reminiscent of the old Quarterback Challenge after practice during two days of joint workouts between the Chargers and Saints earlier in the week.
Instead, the Saints’ cautious approach gave Kamara another chance to shine. Kamara burst off the left side for a touchdown on New Orleans’ first play from scrimmage. The third-round pick from Tennessee finished with 61 yards on five carries and added a 22-yard catch-and-run coming out of the backfield.
Kamara is averaging 10.7 yards per carry in the preseason, adding another asset to a position group that already includes Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram.
Chase Daniel was 7 of 12 for 80 yards in place of Brees, finding Michael Thomas for a 28-yard reception to help set up Wil Lutz’s 53-yard field goal midway through the first quarter.
Lutz added a 26-yard field goal with 2:11 remaining.
The Chargers played without their starting tackles, as Russell Okung was held out because of a minor ankle injury and Joe Barksdale stood on the sideline with his right foot in a walking boot. The drop-off to backups Tyreek Burwell on the left side and Chris Hairston on the right was evident, as the Chargers only gained 31 yards on 15 plays in the first quarter.
When the Chargers finally reached midfield on their third possession, Burwell and left guard Kenny Wiggins gave up sacks on consecutive plays to end the drive.
Linebacker Manti Te’o, who played his first four seasons with the Chargers, had one of four first-half sacks for the Saints.
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon rushed for 8 yards on five carries and had a catch for 7 yards in the first quarter. Kellen Clemens was 10 of 17 for 99 yards and added 26 yards rushing on three carries.
TROUBLE IN TINSELTOWN?
There was plenty of grumbling and rumblings around the NFL when the Chargers had a crowd of only 21,054 for their preseason opener, failing to outdraw the LA Galaxy’s MLS match the previous night.
It could only intensify after the Chargers pulled in 21,197 fans at their 27,000-seat temporary home Sunday.
That total was again bolstered by a significant number of visiting fans. Some of the loudest cheers and even some “Who Dat” chants came when the Saints defense had the Chargers backed up on their own goal line to end the first half.
Saints: Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore, a first-round pick from Ohio State, made his preseason debut after missing most of training camp because of a sprained knee.
Chargers: Burwell left the game after the third drive with a right hand injury and did not return. Burwell emerged from the locker room in the first half in a cast that covered his whole hand. Hairston slid over to left tackle, with rookie Sam Tevi handling duties at right tackle.