The Los Angeles Chargers are in the playoffs for the first time since 2018. Given the injuries, this is definitely not a sentence I thought I would be writing this season, and frankly, I’m freaking stoked.
The theme of Brandon Staley’s press conference last night was “toughness.” The toughness of the players they’ve drafted, added in the off-season, and of the ones that have been holding it down. And there’s nothing that encapsulates this team more this season than “toughness.”
Let’s take a look at some takeaways from a game that was not always perfect, but still made for a really good football game.
The One With All The Quarterback Sacks
This game was defined by quarterback sacks. The defense sacked Nick Foles seven times for a total of 39 yards lost on Monday night. Their blitzing attack was on point. The defense kept penetrating the pocket time and time again.
Defensive lineman Morgan Fox was credited with two sacks and the rest of them were committed by Khalil Mack, linebackers Drue Tranquill and Kenneth Murray, and outside linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Chris Rumph. Last night was like an Oprah episode where she gives away prizes and everyone got a sack added to their stat sheet.
Keenan Allen is Back
Wide receiver Keenan Allen had a heck of a game on Monday night, with 104 receiving yards and 11 receptions. Though he didn’t score a touchdown, his receiving yard number marks the most he’s had all season. Besides the unfortunate pass that was meant for Allen that got tipped by Zaire Franklin, leading to an interception by Rodney Thomas, Allen was the perfect complement to Justin Herbert.
In addition to helping the Bolts get several first downs, he also got 25 yards after a catch and a run up the sideline during the second quarter, after receiving a pass on a flea flicker from Herbert. Though Mike Williams was playing, we were definitely back to our regularly scheduled programming of the Allen and Herbert show, and after a season of change, it was great to be watching something familiar.
Michael Davis Has Been Playing His Best Football
Brandon Staley has said this about cornerback Michael Davis, and it’s so true. He’s been a real bright spot for this team. He had his first interception of the season during the first quarter of this game and had the second-most combined tackles of the team with seven.
Altogether this year he’s already had 58 combined tackles, four more than his previous season, and is on par to have as many as he did in 2020 with 64. He’s been everywhere in this secondary these past few weeks, going head to head with running backs like Derrick Henry and really carving out a place in this team.&amp;nbsp;&amp;nbsp;&amp;nbsp;
This Defense Can Survive Without Derwin James
Now, I’m not saying that they should survive without Derwin James, as there’s always just that extra layer of security when James is in, but after a weird helmet-to-helmet collision with Ashton Dulin, and James’ subsequent ejection from the game, the Chargers defense didn’t miss a beat.
In addition to holding the Colts to a field goal all game, there was an interception by way of Asante Samuel Jr, their run defense was on point, and there was constant pressure on Foles. I’m excited to see the defense at full strength with James in position, but have enough faith in the others like Fox, Van Noy, Davis, Samuel, and Tranquill, to get the job done regardless of who’s in.&amp;nbsp;
The Chargers Offensive Line Needs Some Retooling
Justin Herbert was sacked four times last night and only had 235 passing yards, rarely having time to make some of the big time throws that we’re used to seeing from him. The right side of the offensive line, in particular, was an issue.
For instance, there was a play during the third quarter where DeForest Buckner forced Zion Johnson into Hebert and caused him to fumble, leading to a Kwity Paye fumble recovery . Though four sacks is not the highest that Herbert has endured, it’s not great, so I’m really hoping that these rookies can pull it together, and perhaps we’ll get Rashawn Slater back for the playoffs, which will really give us all some peace of mind.
Austin Ekeler Is Still Winning
Though the run game hasn’t exactly been stellar this season, I’d say that Austin Ekeler is still winning. He’s had 16 touchdowns this year, including two last night, and is four shy of his 2021 season, which was the most he’s had since joining the league.
He’s also warped into a hybrid receiver/running back, having had 99 receptions this year, the most of any season he’s played. He’s doing a little bit of everything and his rushing yard total is still at 759, which isn’t too far off from his 911 yards from last year. Even if Ekeler isn’t doing what the position dictates, he’s always such a contributor to this team, and it’s better when he’s out there than when he’s not.