The Los Angeles Chargers traveled to take on the Houston Texans on Sunday and jumped out to a 27-7 lead – and almost blew it, but a late lead-extending drive helped them win 34-24, bringing their record to 2-2. A big part of this game was getting the running attack going, which had been last in the league so far. The team had zero rushing touchdowns; even Austin Ekeler had not gotten much traction going in the first three weeks. However, while there are still some concerns with the rushing attack, Ekeler himself finally had a big day and was one of the main differences on offense against the Texans.
Austin Ekeler Finally Has Big Game in Los Angeles Chargers Week 4 Win
Nose for the End Zone
This game pitted the team with the fewest rushing yards against the worst rushing defense in the league. Thus, something had to give… or so you would think. Yardage-wise, this was not necessarily the breakout the team would have hoped for, as they compiled 86 rushing yards – which is underwhelming against a run defense as poor as the Texans. That said, Ekeler still made the most of his opportunities for the most part – he had a handful of plays that went nowhere, but he still put up 60 yards on 13 carries, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
More importantly, Ekeler was a frequent visitor to the end zone. He had two big burst plays that resulted in touchdowns in the second quarter for 10 and 20 yards, respectively. This helped them build up the big 27-7 lead early on. He had one more touchdown later in the game – at a point when it mattered most.
In the fourth quarter Austin Ekeler made a couple more game-changing plays – this time as a receiver, where he had struggled to make an impact as well early on this season. At this stage, the Texans had made it a 27-24 game, and it was beginning to feel like one of the typical heartbreaking Chargers second-half collapses. However, on 4th & 1 near the 50, the Chargers went for it – the kind of aggressive call we’ve come to expect from Brandon Staley – and as Justin Herbert did a bootleg rollout, Ekeler got wide open as for some reason the Texans neglected to cover that side of the flats – and picked up a 21-yard gain that put them in field goal range.
Then, with two and a half minutes left to go, the Texans neglected to recover the flats again – and Herbert tossed another short pass Ekeler’s way – who raced past the lone defender in his way for a 14-yard touchdown, which ultimately put the game away.
ek hat trick 🤠🤠🤠@AustinEkeler | 📺 cbs pic.twitter.com/XaXx9olw0G
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) October 2, 2022
Remaining Running Back Concerns
As good as a day as Ekeler had, there are still remaining concerns about the Chargers running attack. Even Ekeler did not make much happen outside of the few big plays – he just made those big plays count (and did they ever). However, the fact that they only put up 86 yards total on the ground against the league’s worst run defense – even with a bigger lead – is troubling. Also troubling is the continued touches Sony Michel gets when Joshua Kelley seems to be the better RB2 so far (surprisingly). Case in point, in this game Michel had six carries for only 11 yards – while Kelley had four carries for 15 yards. Meanwhile, Isaiah Spiller remains a healthy scratch through all four games.
While the passing attack remains the more important aspect of the Chargers offense (with good reason), it’s not good if they’re too one-dimensional. Unfortunately, it seems like the run blocking has taken a step backward this year – which means these guys may have to make some plays on their own at times. Ekeler reminded us he can do that in this game – and will hopefully do so more often going forward. But someone else is going to have to step up as well.
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