New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers before the game on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. Photo courtesy of the Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers were held scoreless after starting quarterback Philip Rivers left the game after two possessions in a 36- 7 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Saturday evening.

“I’ve never played a game where I’ve lost by that margin and feel so good about it,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.

“I love the way the first unit went out and played against one of the top rush teams in the league, and they held them to under 4 yards a carry the whole first half.

New Orleans ran for 58 yards on 16 carries in the first half, 3.6 yards per carries. The Chargers ran for 70 yards on 13 carries, including 50 by Austin Ekeler on six carries.

Lynn called the second half “a whole different story.”

“I thought our reserves got outplayed,” Lynn said. “We couldn’t convert on third downs. We couldn’t stop them on third downs. We have a lot of work to do right there.”

The Chargers converted on two of six second-half third-down plays, 33.3 percent, the Saints, four of six, 66.7 percent.

Undrafted rookie running back Detrez Newsome ran 5 yards for a touchdown on the Chargers second possession, completing an eight-play, 42-yard drive that followed Travis Benjamin’s 19-yard punt return.

Rivers completed five of seven passes for 29 yards.

“I hit the ground twice, which I like to get back in the groove,” Rivers said. “You don’t want to get too big of hits. I hit the ground twice and was able to spread the ball there a little bit, throw the ball down the field a few times. I feel good about where I am.”

Cardale Jones replaced Rivers on the Chargers first possession of the second quarter. Jones completed one of three passes for 13 yards in his two drives.

“We pulled Cardale early,” Lynn said. “He has a little groin strain, and I could tell it was bothering him when he was leaving the pocket. And I didn’t want him to hurt it any further because I want him to play next week and continue to compete for the backup spot.”

Geno Smith entered the game at the start of the third quarter, completing seven of 11 passes for 45 yards and had a pass intercepted by Marcus Williams early in the fourth quarter that he returned 58 yards for a touchdown.

“I thought he handled himself well,” Lynn said. “He threw some balls right on the money on third down and we dropped them.”

Nic Shimonek completed one of two passes for seven yards on the Chargers final possession in the NFL preseason game at StubHub Center.

New Orleans’ third quarterback, Taysom Hill completed seven of eight passes for 66 yards, including a 5-yard pass to Tre’Quan Smith with 5:26 left to play for the game’s final points.

Hill also ran 11 yards for a touchdown with two minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the third quarter, which he followed by a run for a two-point conversion that increased the Saints lead to 22-7.

Drew Brees completed seven of nine passes for 59 yards on New Orleans first three possessions. The first ended when Derwin James intercepted a pass.

“I forced it,” Brees said. “I got a little aggressive to start the game.”

The Saints were forced to punt on the second.

New Orleans drove 75 yards on 11 plays on the third, with Alvin Kamara running the final 2 yards for the touchdown.

The drive was extended was the ball was snapped to Hill, who was lined up to protect punter Thomas Morstead, and ran 5 yards for a first down on a fourth-and-3 play.

“I think as a player you dream of those situations,” Hill said. “I know it’s a preseason game but to be able to go out and add value to keep the chains moving and to give Drew the ball again just makes us really tough to beat when you can steal possessions that way

“I know that if we get the first down we’ll continue to call fakes.”

Brees completed a 26-yard pass to Michael Thomas on the next play that moved the ball to the Chargers 37-yard line.

Tom Savage replaced Brees, completing seven of 10 passes for 99 yards in three possessions in the second and third quarter, when the Saints (2-1) got a 25-yard field goal from Wil Lutz 1:46 before halftime and a 35-yarder from Lutz as time expired in the first half.

The Chargers (1-2) were outgained, 334 yards to 166, trailed 20-15 in first downs and 33:08-26:52 in time of possession.

The Chargers converted four of 11 third-down possessions, 36 percent, the Saints six of 13, 46 percent. The Chargers were unsuccessful on both their fourth-down plays. New Orleans was successful on both of them.

The game was a matchup of the quarterbacks who have started all but one regular-season and postseason game for the Chargers since 2004, Brees and Rivers.

Brees was chosen by the Chargers in the second round of the 2001 NFL draft and became the starter in 2002, lost the job to Doug Flutie midway through the 2003 season, regained it five games later, started all but one regular-season game in 2004 and all 16 in 2005.

The Chargers acquired Rivers in a draft-day trade with the New York Giants in 2004. After Brees signed with New Orleans as a free agent in 2006, Rivers became the starter that season and has started every regular-season and post-season game since then.

— City News Service