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Mathews' stellar debut helps Chargers forget holdout woes -- for now

SAN DIEGO -- Ryan Mathews had an impressive debut, and the Chargers got along fine without holdouts Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill during a 25-10 preseason victory over the Chicago Bears on Saturday night.

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

It was the Chargers' first game since they took a face-plant in a 17-14 playoff loss to the New York Jets, which was Tomlinson's last game with San Diego. He was released in February and signed with the New York Jets. The Chargers were 13-3 last season, winning their fourth consecutive AFC West title.

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

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

Rivers played two series against the Bears and wasn't sacked. Backup quarterback Billy Volek was sacked once, midway through the second quarter. Brandyn Dombrowski, San Diego's first-string left tackle in McNeill's absence, played two series.

The Chargers had six sacks.

Mathews' first carry, a 3-yard gain, came on San Diego's second series. His longest run was 18 yards from the Chargers' 4. He was pushed back almost to the goal line, then bounced off a defender and broke free for the long run and a first down.

"Ryan's great," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "He said that things slowed down for him as it went on. Obviously, he's a guy who can break tackles and he's got great speed."

Rivers' TD pass to Naanee was set up by a 51-yard kickoff return by Richard Goodman, an undrafted rookie, after Robbie Gould's 38-yard field goal.

Chargers linebacker Brandon Lang, another undrafted rookie, had a big game. He blocked a punt late in the third quarter, and it rolled out of the end zone for a safety, and he sandwiched Bears second-string quarterback Caleb Hanie along with Antwan Applewhite during a play that resulted in a sack and forced fumble for Applewhite, with Paul Oliver recovering. Hanie stayed on the ground for a few minutes, but he walked off the field under his own power.

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

Hanie threw a 7-yard TD pass to Devin Aromashodu in the second quarter. It came seven plays after San Diego's Ryon Bingham was whistled for a neutral-zone infraction as Gould kicked a 52-yard field goal, giving the Bears a first down on the Chargers' 30. In the third quarter, Hanie left the field with what appeared to be a shoulder injury after being sacked.

The Chargers committed nine penalties for 66 yards in the first half. Right tackle Jeromey Clary was whistled three times for false starts, including on consecutive plays on the Chargers' second drive.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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