Preseason blitz: Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers square off in turnover-filled first half in Chicago

Brian McIntyre
August 16, 2013

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez may lead the NFL with 52 turnovers over the last two seasons, but San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is right behind him with 47. Rivers had a turnover-free preseason debut against the Seattle Seahawks, but was in a giving mood against the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.

On the third play of the Chargers' second offensive possession, Rivers tried to connect with a well-covered Keenan Allen 20 yards down the field, but the ball was intercepted by safety Chris Conte. Just seven games plays later – we'll get to how the Chargers got the ball back so quickly in a moment – Rivers was sacked by Shea McClellin and fumbled, with Bears safety Major Wright recovering the loose ball.

In just 22 offensive snaps, Rivers turned the ball over twice. Not to be outdone, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is coming off a season where he turned the ball over 18 times and his ball security has been an issue in his first two games in a Marc Trestman offense.

On the Bears' second offensive play of the night, Cutler was strip-sacked by linebacker Jarrett Johnson, who initially had recovered the fumble before fumbling himself, giving the ball back to the Bears offense. Cutler would also throw a first-quarter interception on the play after Conte had picked off Rivers, leading to this sequence appearing in the gamebook:

• 3-14-SD 14(5:36) (Shotgun) P.Rivers pass deep middle intended for K.Allen INTERCEPTED by C.Conte at SD 35. C.Conte to SD 7 for 28 yards (E.Royal). The Replay Assistant challenged the runner was down by contact ruling, and the play was REVERSED. (Shotgun) P.Rivers pass deep middle intended for K.Allen INTERCEPTED by C.Conte at SD 35. C.Conte to SD 34 for 1 yard (K.Allen).

• 1-10-SD 34(5:31) J.Cutler pass deep middle intended for B.Marshall INTERCEPTED by D.Butler at SD 6. D.Butler to SD 6 for no gain (B.Marshall).

Two interceptions in what amounted to 12 seconds.

For Cutler, it was his second interception (and third turnover) in 25 preseason snaps. Rivers now has two turnovers in 34 preseason snaps. The turnovers from these two quarterbacks are worth monitoring moving forward because both Cutler and Rivers are playing in what could be the last season in their current uniforms.

Cutler is a free agent in 2014 and will have to wait until after the season to get a new contract. With a general manager and head coach who came in after Cutler was acquired from the Denver Broncos, it is very possible that the Bears could go in a different direction at the position next season. Rivers has three seasons and $41.55 million remaining on the six-year, $91.8 million extension he signed on Aug. 25, 2009. However, all of the prorated amounts from his 2009 signing bonus expires after this season and the team could save $29.55 million in cash and $11.6 million in cap space by parting ways with Rivers next offseason.

Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy had a forgettable 2012 regular season, missing all or most of the final six games after sustaining a concussion in the middle of November. After rushing for over 1,300 yards and a league-high 17 touchdowns, McCoy had 840 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in 2012.

McCoy had signed a five-year, $45 million extension on May 18, 2012 and he is technically entering the first year of that long-term commitment the Eagles made to him last offseason. With the arrival of head coach Chip Kelly and his up-tempo offense, which makes frequent use of the read option, big things are predicted for McCoy, who is a natural fit in the offensive system.

After sitting out the preseason opener against the New England Patriots, McCoy made his debut in Kelly's system on Thursday night. It turned out to be well worth the way as the 2011 All-Pro caught three passes for 16 yards and gained 47 yards on eight carries, including one of the most ridiculous 21-yard runs you will ever see.

In 2011, the Detroit Lions ended 11 seasons of mediocrity by winning 10 games and returning to the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season. The Lions entered 2012 with playoff aspirations, but lost their final eight games to finish 4-12, a mark that placed head coach Jim Schwartz squarely on the hot seat entering 2013.

The Lions' preseason got off to a great start when, on their first series, first-round defensive end Ziggy Ansah intercepted New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and returned the ball 14 yards for a touchdown. The Lions would allow an 80-yard touchdown drive, but the first-team defense forced four punts, including two three-and-outs, and entered the second preseason game, against the Cleveland Browns, with a little bit of optimism.

Detroit's starting defense did not play particularly well in the 24-6 loss to the Browns. In the first 30 minutes, the Browns allowed 204 yards of total offense and 17 points, allowing quarterbacks Brandon Weeded and Jason Campbell to complete 11-of-15 pass attempts for 133 yards and two touchdowns, both from Weeden to tight end Jordan Cameron. Browns running backs also gashed the Lions for 72 first-half yards, with Trent Richardson and Dion Lewis each rushing for 33 yards.

The Lions' first-team offense did not fare much better.

In a full half of work, Matthew Stafford completed 11-of-16 passes, but for just 74 yards, resulting in a 4.6 yards per attempt that is well below his career average of 6.9. Of course, it should be noted that wide receiver Calvin Johnson was held out of the game for precautionary reasons. Still, the Browns defense surrendered 304 passing yards and 8.22 yards per pass play to the St. Louis Rams last week. Running back Reggie Bush caught five of Stafford's completions for 44 yards, but was bottled up in the running game, gaining 15 yards on eight attempts.

Baltimore Ravens 27, Atlanta Falcons 23: The Ravens used a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns by No. 2 quarterback Tyrod Taylor to defeat the Falcons on Thursday night. Joe Flacco completed seven of nine pass attempts for 118 yards, including a 77-yard catch-and-run on the Ravens' fourth offensive play of the game. Smith caught the short slant and turned on the afterburners, outrunning Asante Samuel into the end zone to give the Ravens' a 7-3 lead early in the first quarter. The Falcons responded with a seven-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Matt Ryan hitting Julio Jones in the back of the end zone for a two-yard touchdown.

The bad news for the Falcons is that Roddy White left the game with an ankle injury that will be worth monitoring over the next few days. The bad news for the Ravens is that Flacco was baited into making a poor decision with the football, resulting in one of the most bizarre deflection-turned-interception of the preseason.

• Costly preseason game for the Browns. First-round linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2103 NFL draft, was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic after suffering a bruised lung. The Browns also lost backup running back Dion Lewis to a fractured fibula that will likely end his 2013 season. With Montario Hardesty out after undergoing knee surgery, the Browns are down to Brandon Jackson and Miguel Maysonet behind Trent Richardson in the backfield.

• Bears running back Matt Forte looks ready for the regular season, rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown in a brief outing against the Chargers. The bulk of Forte's production came on a 58-yard run that saw him juke Chargers safety Eric Weddle, the most fundamentally sound safety in the NFL, in the second level. Weddle got a small piece of Forte, which probably saved a touchdown, though the Bears would punch it into the end zone on the very next play when Cutler hit Brandon Marshall, who outmuscled Shareece Wright for the touchdown.

• Offensive linemen may not be the sexiest of draft picks, but offensive tackle D.J. Fluker is exactly what the Chargers needed to add upfront this offseason. Fluker is a natural leader and his block on Fozzy Whittaker's three-yard touchdown late in the first half was a thing of beauty. Fluker helped double-team defensive tackle Corvey Irvin before breaking off an neutralizing middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic at the goal-line as Whittaker slipped into the end zone off Fluker's inside shoulder.

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