No need to worry about a preseason loss to the defending Super Bowl champions. These exhibitions only count in the pocketbook of NFL owners, who do the ultimate money grab by charging full prices for these meaningless contests.

The San Diego Chargers lost to the New Orleans Saints 36-21 on Friday night to drop to 1-2 in the preseason. Big deal – the outcome will be forgotten by the players and coaches before the team’s charter flight makes it back to San Diego.

The regular-season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs is still 2 1/2 weeks away so there’s no need to waste cyberspace with a full-fledged account. So we will go with the two-minute drill style of report on some of good (no devastating injuries) and bad (backup quarterback Billy Volek) and the horrible (defense allowing 552 yards).

–Philip Rivers looked sharp and went 16-of-27 passing for 167 yards and a touchdown to Malcom Floyd. Rivers is now an upper-echelon quarterback. Volek reminded everyone why the Chargers can’t afford a lengthy injury to Rivers. Volek was 9-for-21 and intercepted twice against the New Orleans’ backups.

–Ryan Mathews had his moments and is showing all the signs of being a big-time feature back as a rookie. His numbers against the Saints weren’t all that impressive – 13 carries, 43 yards – but that’s not a concern. Of course, that 3.3 average is reminiscent of last year’s LaDainian Tomlinson.

–Craig Davis caught three second-half passes. Don’t get used to that. He’ll again be a nonfactor when the games count.

–Brandyn Dombrowski played well at left tackle but the real test will be when the games start counting. Two-time Pro Bowler Marcus McNeill won’t be ending his holdout anytime soon and we will get the true barometer on Dombrowski in September.

–The defense was brutal by giving up 552 total yards with 423 coming through the air. You would have thought Ted Cottrell snuck into the Louisiana Superdome and served as defensive coordinator. Obviously, the Saints have a terrific offense and Drew Brees is one of the top three quarterbacks in the game but that was one stinker of a performance.

–Antoine Cason had some coverage issues that need to be shored up. The Chargers will sink and swim with him with journeymen Donald Strickland and Nathan Vasher as the options at cornerback. Seven different Saints caught passes of 21 or more yards. New Orleans receivers were open so often it almost seemed like 1985 all over again when the cornerback trio of Danny Walters, John Hendy and Wayne Davis were smoked all season long.

–Rookie strong safety Darrell Stuckey had a horrible sequence on a play in which New Orleans running back Chris Ivory caught a swing pass and turned it into a 76-yard touchdown. Ivory flattened Stuckey at the beginning of the play and then Stuckey couldn’t keep Ivory out of end zone at the end of the play.

–Shawne Merriman was absent with an Achilles’ tendon injury. His ill-advised holdout and injury issues make you wonder how efficient he will be when the Chargers open up with the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 13. Merriman needs to have a big season to recover his past reputation as a top-flight linebacker.


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