Mathews impressive in debut, Chargers win 25-10

FootballSportsChicago BearsNew York JetsNFL PreseasonLance BriggsJay Cutler

Ryan Mathews was so nervous before his debutthat he had to duck into the bathroom to throw up.

He recovered quickly though. On his second NFL carry, Mathewswas pushed back almost to the Chargers' goal line, then poweredthrough linebacker Lance Briggs and ran for 18 yards.

Mathews had an impressive debut and the San Diego Chargers gotalong fine without holdouts Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill in a25-10 exhibition victory over the Chicago Bears on Saturday night.

Mathews, the first-round draft pick who will replace thedeparted LaDainian Tomlinson, gained 50 yards on nine carries andcaught two passes for 11 yards. Philip Rivers threw a 28-yardtouchdown pass to Legedu Naanee, one of the receivers the Boltswill depend on in Jackson's absence.

"You trust what you see and I've seen him now for threemonths," coach Norv Turner said. "He's got all the things youneed to be an outstanding runner. It's exciting to have him."

The Chargers enjoyed watching Mathews drive through Briggs forthe big gain.

"That was impressive," Rivers said. "He showed a little speedthere in getting outside."

Said Mathews: "I kind of froze up on the corner or safety orwhatever it was. I've got a lot of work to do still. The more I getmore games in, the more practices in, the more fluent I'll begetting ready for that stuff."

Mathews said everything was going fast at first. He even beatguard Kris Dielman to the hole a few times.

"He told me to slow down a little bit. That was just thenerves," Mathews said. "I was just trying to get out there fast.That was me just overthinking it."

It was the Chargers' first game since they took a face-plant ina 17-14 playoff loss to the New York Jets, which was Tomlinson'slast game with San Diego. He was released in February and signedwith the Jets. The Chargers were 13-3 last year, winning theirfourth straight AFC West title.

The Bears are coming off a 7-9 finish, their third straightseason out of the playoffs.

"We have a lot of work to do, a long ways to go to be the typeof football team we're going to be," coach Lovie Smith said. "Butit is a start."

The Bears lost safeties Craig Steltz (ankle) and rookie MajorWright (finger).

"I've liked what Major has done through training camp andtonight also," Smith said. "We need to get him back on the fieldas soon as possible."

Restricted free agents McNeill, the left tackle, and Jackson, aPro Bowl wide receiver, are holding out, upset that they haven'tbeen given long-term contracts. The Chargers have threatened to putthem on the roster exempt list if they haven't signed their tendersby Friday, meaning they'll be suspended for three games once theysign. They are believed to be willing to sit out the first 10games, returning for the final six to gain an accrued season.

Rivers played two series and wasn't sacked. Backup Billy Volekwas sacked once, midway through the second quarter. BrandynDombrowski, the first-string left tackle in McNeill's absence,played two series.

Dombrowski and Tyronne Green, who also played left tackle forthe Chargers, squared off against Bears end Julius Peppers.

"I thought both our guys who we played at left tackle, againsta real good football player earlier, played awfully well," Turnersaid.

The Chargers had six sacks.

Rivers' TD pass to Naanee was set up by a 51-yard kickoff returnby Richard Goodman, an undrafted rookie, after Robbie Gould's38-yard field goal.

Linebacker Brandon Lang, another undrafted rookie, had a biggame. He blocked a punt late in the third quarter that rolled outof the end zone for a safety, and sandwiched Bears second-stringquarterback Caleb Hanie along with Antwan Applewhite during a playthat resulted in a sack and forced fumble for Applewhite, with PaulOliver recovering. Hanie hurt his right shoulder on the play.

Bears starter Jay Cutler was in for only one series, going 2 of2 for 47 yards. He was sacked once.

Hanie threw a 7-yard TD pass to Devin Aromashodu in the secondquarter. It came seven plays after San Diego's Ryon Bingham waswhistled for a neutral zone infraction as Gould kicked a 52-yardfield goal, giving the Bears a first down on the Chargers' 30.

The Chargers committed nine penalties for 66 yards in the firsthalf. Right tackle Jeromey Clary was whistled three times for falsestarts, including on consecutive plays on the Chargers' seconddrive.

NOTES: Chargers WR/PR Craig Davis sustained a hip pointer on apunt return in the first quarter and didn't return. ... Chicago LB

Hunter Hillenmeyer sustained a foot injury.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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FootballSportsChicago BearsNew York JetsNFL PreseasonLance BriggsJay Cutler