The Los Angeles Chargers were backed into a corner after two weeks of play, needing to scratch and claw their way back into the fold with a strong passing game. Against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3, The Chargers had to beat them at their own game. The Chargers did just that, creating the 28-24 victory the entire city of Los Angeles desperately needed.
Chargers Passing Attack Dominates, Leads Way to Week 3 Win
How the Passing Game Became the Running Game
In a must-win game, the Chargers were without their lead back, Austin Ekeler. This amongst other key defensive injuries, the Chargers needed a different style of offense. A way to maintain time of possession, stay ahead of the chains, and keep the defense honest without relying on the running game.
The Chargers had a grand total of 30 yards rushing, a full 100 less than the league’s fifth-worst rushing attack. So, how did they end up winning the game with a nonexistent running game? The passing game became the Chargers running game. Along with the running game not working, the Vikings forced the hand of the Chargers, blitzing Herbert 40 times out of 50 dropbacks, a whopping 82%.
With the pressure recognized by Herbert, he knew he had to get the ball out fairly quickly. He threw 37 passes within ten yards of the line of scrimmage. Many will argue that this is a fault of Herbert’s, but this week it was needed. These short passes became an extension of the run game, staying ahead of the chains. Keeping the Vikings honest, Herbert and company eventually dialed up shots downfield, having touchdowns of 49 yards and 30 yards.
Kellen Moore dialed up enough screens to give Herbert flashbacks to his college days at Oregon, but against the Vikings’ aggressive defense, it worked to perfection. Herbert averaged 2.26 seconds to throw, which led to the Vikings only having one sack during the contest. Even Keenan Allen got involved in the passing game, throwing a strike to Mike Williams down the sideline on a double pass trick play- which looked just like a screen they ran plenty of times that game. Keeping the defense honest was the name of the game for the Chargers in week three.
In a game against the game’s best receiver, Keenan Allen made his case for the throne. During the course of Week 3, Allen proclaimed his ability to take the short passing game to a whole new level. In this new offense, Allen has been the main focus. With the Vikings blitzing on what felt like every play, the former third-round pick tore the secondary alive with his crisp routes.
Justin Herbert and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore dialed up the game plan to ensure a constant movement of the chains. That plan flowed through the former All-Pro receiver. Herbert targeted Allen twenty times, showing that having a veteran safety blanket is crucial against an aggressive team like the Vikings. During this twenty-target game, Allen had one of the best games of his entire career, totaling 18 catches, 215 yards, and a 49-yard passing touchdown.
This dominant performance truly proves that even with his age, Allen is not slowing down, and can still be extremely productive. Look for Allen to continue his dominance against the Raiders in week four.
There is not a victory or a stud receiver without the near-perfect play of Justin Herbert. The Charger quarterback showed his excellence in reading defenses by continuously using the Viking’s aggression against them, dealing quick screens and efficient short routes. Without Ekeler and a run game, the Chargers relied on Herbert’s arm and efficient decision-making to be the extension of the run game.
Herbert was pretty much asked to be the run-and-pass game, and Herbert did both with ease. The former Oregon quarterback totaled 405 passing yards and three touchdowns on 47 attempts. This combined with an efficient 85% completion percentage and 11 yards on the ground led to a field day for Herbert. According to Benjamin Solak, That’s the best single-game completion percentage for any quarterback with at least 45 pass attempts in league history.
Justin Herbert ends the day completing 40 of 47 passes — that's 85%.
That's the best single-game completion percentage for any quarterback with at least 45 pass attempts in league history.
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) September 24, 2023
Justin Hebert was a complete stud in Week 3 against the Vikings, really showing that he can carry this team.
Justin Herbert just became the second player in NFL history to pass for over 400 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a completion percentage of 85% or higher in a single game. pic.twitter.com/2glHAnfK1q
— Jason Reed (@EatYourReedies) September 24, 2023
The Chargers didn’t just go through Allen and Herbert, as other Charger playmakers stepped up quite well. The first names that come to mind are Mike Williams, Joshua Palmer, and Donald Parham Jr.
Mike Williams exited the game with a leg injury and is likely to miss significant time. Before his injury, Williams had seven catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. He was also the recipient of the double pass trick play from Keenan Allen.
Joshua Palmer had a crucial fumble early in the game, which was the Chargers first turnover of the season. Palmer made up for his early game mistake with a strong performance. On four catches Palmer had 66 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was a 30-yard reception that came off a tipped near interception from Vikings cornerback, Akayleb Evans. That touchdown was Herbert’s only mistake of the night, and it was a touchdown. Some will call it lucky, some will say it was the evening out of the referee’s blatant missing of an obvious fumble from earlier on in the game.
Donald Parham Jr. had a very… well- Donald Parham Jr game. This means he was strictly used as a red zone threat, scoring two touchdowns on two catches. These catches totaled four yards. The Chargers offensive coordinator seems to be the first coordinator in Parham’s tenure to understand his skillset. Setting Parham up for success, and giving the Chargers a very good red zone receiver.
Conclusion – Is This Sustainable?
It would be wishful thinking to think that this type of offense is sustainable. Ekeler is going to be back from his injury sooner rather than later. With the lead rusher back, the Chargers will go back to a traditional style of offense.
This combined with teams likely not daring to blitz Herbert after Sunday’s masterclass, the Chargers will likely be searching for the middle ground between being the NFL’s leading rushing team after Week 1, and the NFL’s current third-best passing team in Week 3.
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