Los Angeles Chargers rookie quarterback Easton Stick ran 31 yards for a touchdown with seven minutes, 23 seconds remaining in a 17-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals Thursday evening.
The Chargers never got the ball back after Stick’s touchdown, with the Cardinals picking up four first downs under Harvard-Westlake School alumnus Charles Kanoff to run out the clock.
Stick completed seven of 11 passes for 78 yards with one interception in the preseason opener for both teams at Glendale, Arizona. His pass on the two-point conversion attempt was dropped by Malachi Dupre in the end zone.
The fifth-round draft choice out of North Dakota State also ran for a game-high 51 yards on two carries.
“He made some nice throws,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.
Stick’s touchdown came one possession after he had a pass intercepted by undrafted rookie safety Tyler Sigler and returned 52 yards to the Chargers 28-yard line.
Undrafted rookie Wes Hills from Slippery Rock ran 7 yards for a touchdown four plays later to give Arizona a 17-7 lead with 13:49 left in the fourth quarter.
With Philip Rivers given the night off, Tyrod Taylor started at quarterback for the Chargers and played the first two possessions, completing all six of his passes for 72 yards.
Taylor completed both his passes on the first drive for 21 yards and Austin Ekeler ran four times for 21 yards, as the Chargers drove 73 yards to the Cardinals’ 2-yard line, where Ekeler fumbled, with linebacker Jordan Hicks recovering for Arizona.
Taylor was four-for-four for 51 yards on the second possession, where the Chargers drove 87 yards on nine plays, with Justin Jackson running 4 yards for the touchdown with 13:33 left in the first half.
“I thought those were two efficient drives,” Lynn said. “If they covered us, then Tyrod was able to use his legs and come out and run a bit to extend some plays.”
The game was Taylor’s first with the Chargers. He signed a two-year contract March 14 as a free agent, reuniting him with Lynn, who was on Buffalo’s coaching staff as running backs coach, assistant head coach and offensive coordinator from 2015-16 when Taylor was the Bills starting quarterback.
Taylor started each of the Cleveland Browns first three games in 2018, then suffered a concussion and only played three more plays as No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield took over Cleveland’s offense.
Cardale Jones quarterbacked the Chargers for the next four possessions, three of which ended in punts and the fourth with time expiring in the first half. Jones completed four of six passes for 47 yards.
“I thought Cardale made some nice throws,” Lynn said. “He’s got to learn to step up in the pocket versus going backward.”
Jones has not played a regular-season game since being acquired by the Chargers on July 26, 2017, from Buffalo in exchange for a conditional draft choice in a trade that also reunited him with Lynn.
The Chargers outgained the Cardinals, 357 yards to 289, and led 20-19 in first downs and 31:05-28:55 in time of possession before a crowd announced at 60,146 at State Farm Stadium.
Quarterback Kyler Murray, the first choice in the 2019 NFL draft and 2018 Heisman Trophy winner, played on Arizona’s first possession, completing six of seven passes for 44 yards, as the Cardinals picked up three first downs and drove 43 yards before punting.
Former UCLA standout Brett Hundley replaced Murray, completing 10 of 14 passes for 104 yards, including a 22-yard pass to Trent Sherfield for a touchdown with 29 seconds left in the first half.
Undrafted rookie free agent Drew Anderson from Murray State quarterbacked Arizona on its first three possessions of the second half, completing three of seven passes for 29 yards with one interception.
Zane Gonzalez kicked a 55-yard field goal for Cardinals for the third quarter’s only points.
Kanoff completed all four of his passes for 42 yards on Arizona’s final two possessions. Kanoff signed with the Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent last season out of Princeton, but never played a regular-season game.
Chargers tight end Andrew Vollert suffered a knee injury in the third quarter. He was claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals May 23.
The game was the first in the Arizona organization for coach Kliff Kingsbury, who was fired in November after six seasons as Texas Tech’s coach.
Kingsbury’s hiring as USC’s offensive coordinator was announced Dec. 5, but he was hired as the Cardinals’ coach on Jan. 11.