Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Alex Katson

Studs and duds from Chargers’ victory over Rams

The Chargers beat the Rams on Sunday to improve to 10-6.

Buy Chargers Tickets

Here is a look at the good and not-so-good from Los Angeles’ victory.

Stud: Austin Ekeler

What a game it was for Ekeler, who had the longest run of his career on the second quarter 72-yard touchdown scamper. He also became the third running back to haul in at least 100 catches and score at least 15 touchdowns from scrimmage in a single season, joining LaDainian Tomlinson and Christian McCaffrey. Ekeler was virtually impossible to tackle all game, turning 14 total touches into 161 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. It was a stellar performance against a Rams rushing defense that came into the game ranked top ten in DVOA and had not allowed a 100-yard rusher the entire season.

Dud: Run defense

Giving up 6.4 yards per carry to a team with five offensive linemen on injured reserve that’s also starting a player they were trying to get rid of less than three months ago is…bad. What’s worse is that the defensive line was pretty frequently moved right off the ball when the Rams chose to run, which represents a disappointing downturn from the past few weeks. Cam Akers himself took 19 carries for 123 yards, good for a per-carry average of 6.5 that feels much more like Akers getting 6.5 every time rather than a few big runs with a few stuffs mixed in. The Chargers don’t have a high-quality run defense; this season has been evident of that at every turn. 

Stud: Mike Williams

Williams had maybe his best game of the season, converting ten targets into seven receptions for 94 yards. There was the trademark Williams plays, namely an astounding one-handed catch on the sideline that dropped the jaws of the collective football internet. But there were also new wrinkles: screens to the bigger receiver, deep curls where Williams juked defenders to generate extra yardage after the catch, etc. It was an all-around phenomenal performance that made the game feel, at times, as though the entire offense flowed through Williams and Ekeler. That’s a good sign for the Chargers, who seemed on Sunday to finally find a way to consistently get their stars the ball and score 30+ points for the first time since Week 5.

Dud: Kenneth Murray Jr.

Like we said earlier, much of the struggle with run defense on Sunday came from the push the Rams’ offensive line generated. Still, that doesn’t mean the second-level defenders are without blame, and Murray, in particular, seemed to have a rough go of things. When Akers found himself wide open in space only to have a throw bounce off his fingertips, Murray had fallen down trying to meet him in the flat. As with the defensive line, it’s a disappointing showing for the linebacker, who had strung together a few quietly fairly good games. Sunday, unfortunately, represented a coming back to Earth for the former first-rounder.

Stud: Morgan Fox

The book on Baker Mayfield is pretty widely distributed: make him feel pressured, and he will make mistakes. The Chargers were able to do that on Sunday, racking up three sacks and four QB hits, one of each of which came from Fox. The former Ram has continued to be perhaps the best free-agent acquisition of the year for the Chargers and perhaps across the entire league when you consider value. Fox is constantly disrupting the pocket and redirecting runners when given the opportunity to do so, and he’s proven to be a key cog in the Chargers’ defense.

Dud: Open-field tackling

One of the reasons Cam Akers was so successful was that he’s a bigger, more powerful running back who can break tackles with relative ease. Against players like that, you have to be sound as a tackler to limit them effectively. On Sunday, the Chargers were far from sound: every run from Akers seemed peppered with flailing Chargers defenders and ended with him dragging defenders a few extra yards. Tackling has been an issue for this defense dating back to the preseason, and those issues have continued to rear their heads throughout the year. Whenever Derwin James, who missed Sunday’s game with a concussion, is off the field, the deeper levels of the defense lose most of their teeth.

Stud: Offensive line

After a series of down games from the offensive line unit, Sunday’s performance was sterling. Justin Herbert was not sacked for the first time since the Falcons game. He was only hit twice, the lowest number since the Falcons game. The Rams presented a bounce-back opportunity as soon as Aaron Donald was ruled out, especially because the recent downturn in offensive line play had a lot to do with going up against elite interior pass rushers in recent weeks. On the ground, we’ve already given some credit to Austin Ekeler, but kudos are also for the group blocking for him. The Chargers could largely match the push the Rams got, giving Ekeler space to find a hole and then navigate from there, which is when he’s at his best.

Dud: Big play defense

The few times the Rams were able to move the ball down the field, it was primarily because they generated at least one big play on the Chargers’ defense. The 13-play, 81-yard field goal drive was catalyzed by a 42-yard Cam Akers rush. Baker Mayfield had a 39-yard completion to Van Jefferson on the ensuing drive. The Rams’ lone touchdown came on a 23-yard untouched run from Malcolm Brown. The Chargers were able to limit this tendency in the second half. Still, it’s concerning to give up those sorts of plays to an offense as anemic as the Rams when you’re staring down the barrel of an AFC gauntlet that includes Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson. It’s also a return to earlier versions of this defense, which gave up big plays routinely before finding solutions over the bye week.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.