Week two is going to cause a lot of fans’ anxiety, as it reminds them of the PTSD of the Anthony Lynn days. Filled with classic Lynn mistakes, fans and myself have got to be wondering if the Chargers are back to their old ways. Penalties, turnovers, missed kicks, and good old-fashioned bad run defense absolutely killed the Chargers.
To say the loss was ugly would be an understatement, as the Cowboys were not much better. However, this game was a dud all around. Despite their lackluster play, the Chargers were in the game until Dallas eventually finished the game with a field goal.
Herbert wasn’t as sharp as he could have been, but still made some spectacular throws and was solid throughout most of the game. Bryan Bulaga was still hurt from the previous week, and there is no doubt that having Storm Norton back in the starting lineup was a huge downgrade. As we watched a few drives stall out, Herbert couldn’t direct the offense the way he wanted to because Micah Parsons was in his face all game. All that said and done, it was an ugly loss. Let’s take a look at the winners and losers for week two.
I was tough on Ekeler last week, and rightfully so. Without his presence, the Chargers offense just doesn’t have enough playmaking to be a threat. While he didn’t resound in a big way, he was more than solid enough for me to believe he fit the bill. He totaled nine rushes for 54 yards, averaging six yards a carry. A really solid number that shows effectiveness while running the ball. This was especially shown when he ripped off a twenty-yard run. Clearly, he just wasn’t given the ball a lot on the ground, but he effectively put an end to the Larry Rountree should start truthers.
The Chargers even found a way to fit Justin Jackson back into the conversation again, which I actually thought helped Ekeler as he didn’t have to be the only person the defense focused on.
More important than his ground game though was the nine targets, nine catches, and sixty-one yard day that Ekeler had in the air. It’s not much of a secret that Ekeler is primarily a pass-catching back, but last week I beat up on him because he needs to be a part of the passing game. He lived up to it this week, constantly making himself a quick outlet for Herbert to get to when the pocket collapsed. He showed why he is so explosive in the open field when he was able to get the ball in his hands. All around, a really solid game and a huge step forward from where he was just a week ago.
I put Mike Williams in the winner’s column last week because he had a nice week 1 after a lot of speculation about his contract next year in the offseason. He made his presence felt in the absence of Hunter Henry last week, but this week he was just spectacular. Getting a whopping 10 targets, and turning it into ninety-one yards and a touchdown.
Consistently being Herbert’s go-to guy when he needed a play. RIpping off first down after first down, especially when Herbert was getting flushed out of the pocket. Williams had the lone touchdown for the offense on the day. Is it because of the new looming contract? Is it because he is getting more of a target share with Henry gone? Or is it that Williams is finally healthy? We’re not exactly sure yet, and time will tell. But right now, no one is complaining.
Dallas has a vaunted offense that has been priming itself to be an explosive unit for a few years now. With Dak at the helm, seemingly healthy again, the Cowboys are a serious threat to throw forty to fifty times a game and have four hundred yards of passing offense. With CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and some solid tight ends and slot receivers, this Dallas offense is not short of weapons for Dak’s disposal. Not to mention Pollard and Zeke have both shown a solid propensity for being able to catch the ball and make plays in open space.
With so much working against them though, I would say that the Chargers secondary came out on top in this one. Holding Dak to two hundred and thirty-seven yards, and no touchdowns. They even caused a turnover from the elite quarterback. While Lamb had a decent day with eight catches for eighty-one yards, no one else got going in this game at all. Most surprising was Amari Cooper and his twenty-four yards. While Cooper did get hurt, that was towards the end of the game and he seemed mostly just shaken up from it. Nasir Adderley was particularly impressive last week; he had eight tackles to lead the team on the day. Asante Samuel Jr. was impressive too, grabbing an interception and registering a 72.6 PFF rating for the day.
No doubt that the worst part of Sunday’s game was the frustrating lack of discipline shown by the Chargers. Giving fans flashbacks of the Lynn era, the Chargers did as much as they could to hurt themselves all game. On the first drive of the afternoon, the Chargers gave up a massive fourth and one pass-interference that eventually led to a lengthy drive that saw Dallas score a touchdown.
The most destructive of the penalties, being the touchdown that Jared Cook had called back due to a fairly weak illegal motion call. The Chargers were constantly relying on Herbert to make huge chunk plays down the field to fix all of the penalty calls, and oftentimes he did respond well. Throwing a number of dimes to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams to save busted drives.
Taunting, offsides, holding, and pass interferences, the Chargers had 12 penalties and gave up 99 yards. That is just not going to get it done on any level of football, and fans have to be hoping this is just a one-off game, rather than a habit-forming one.
I remarked last week how it seemed that when the Chargers front seven was rotating for subs, teams were just absolutely pounding them with the rock. Last week it just seemed to be the backups, but this week everyone not named Bosa was the culprit. Missed tackles leading to tons of extra yards was an issue across the defense, but especially in the run game.
Tony Pollard, the Dallas backup, ran for one hundred and nine yards, with a touchdown on only thirteen carries. Ezekiel Elliott, the star running back, on the other hand, ran for seventy-one yards on sixteen carries. While not nearly as efficient as Pollard, we watched the two of them gash the Chargers front seven over and over again. The Cowboys rushed for a whopping two hundred yards, while only having two hundred and twenty in the air. That should tell you the whole story. To have the same amount of yards on the ground as in the air, just can’t happen.
This is two weeks in a row now where opposing running backs have been allowed to have their way with the defensive line of the Chargers. With the Chargers’ worst five PFF grades on defense all coming from their front seven. Kyzir White, Eric Banks, Kenneth Murray, Jerry Tillery, and Linval Joseph all had grades under forty. Last week, it was the backups. This week, everyone stunk it up. The Chargers need to make tackling a priority this week and possibly may want to make changes on the line before this develops into a week-to-week issue.