Chargers Look to Steal Win from Raiders
Team is ‘Juiced’ after Victory Against 49ers
October 4, 2018
Big Win over One of the things that the Los Angeles Chargers liked about safety Derwin James before the 2018 NFL draft was his versatility.
As Charger Head Coach Anthony Lynn said, “There's a lot of versatility. We can use him as a linebacker. We can use him as a strong safety, a free safety. We can rush him off the edge. He's a good tackler in space and an outstanding coverage guy.”
That versatility has been on display in every game this season and Sunday’s game at the Stub Hub Center in Carson against the San Francisco 49ers was no exception.
Late in the 4th quarter, James delivered a blindside hit on 49er quarterback C.J. Beathard as he was releasing a pass. The ball fluttered in the air and was intercepted by Isaac Rochell.
The interception sealed a 29-27 win for the Chargers over San Francisco to even L.A.’s record at 2-2.
For the game, James ended up with seven tackles, three passes defensed, three quarterback hits and a sack. The sack was the third in four games for the rookie, making him the first defensive back in NFL history to record three sacks in the first four games of his career.
For the season, James leads the Chargers in tackles, passes defensed, sacks and is tied for the team lead in interceptions.
Another Slow Start
The Chargers needed the play of James to overcome another slow start.
The 49ers jumped to a quick 7-0 lead on an errant pass from Charger quarterback Philip Rivers, whose pass was intercepted by 49er safety Antone Exum and returned 32 yards for a touchdown.
The Chargers drove into 49er territory, but the drive stalled at the 36-yard line. A 54-yard field goal attempt missed wide right, leaving the 49ers with good field position at their own 44-yard line.
Beathard took the 49ers 56 yards in six plays, with the drive culminating in a two-yard touchdown pass to 49er wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, giving the 49ers an early 14-0 lead over the Chargers.
The Chargers stormed back with a couple of touchdown passes from Rivers and a 45-yard field goal to from Caleb Sturgis, to tie the score at 17 at halftime. The first touchdown came on a five-yard pass from Rivers to a wide-open Antonio Gates. For Gates, it was the 115th touchdown of his long career at tight end for the Chargers.
The second touchdown came on a 22-yard touchdown pass to backup running back Austin Ekeler. On the play, Ekeler lined up at wide receiver and was covered by 49er linebacker Fred Warner.
Rivers saw the mismatch and with no safety help on the play had an easy 22-yard touchdown pass to Ekeler. The Chargers have been using Ekeler very effectively, taking advantage of his versatility by moving him around on offense.
Half Belongs to Gordon
The second half offensively belonged to Melvin Gordon. The Charger running back gained 87 yards in the second half on eight rushing attempts, breaking multiple tackles to end up with 104 yards rushing for the day. He also caught seven passes for 55 yards in the game, including a six-yard touchdown reception from Rivers in the third quarter.
Gordon’s effort was inspiring, and the Chargers needed it. Rivers was impressed: “He was awesome. Credit to him. I think when he runs like that, it gives juice to the huddle and the offensive line when they see him running back there and scrapping for yards like he was. I think it gives juice to the whole team. It was an all-around gritty performance by him.”
The Chargers added a field goal to take a 26-17 lead, but the 49ers came right back on an 82-yard pass-and-catch to tight end George Kittles for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 26-24.
The 49ers took the lead in the 4th quarter on a 33-yard field goal from Robbie Gould. The Chargers came right back with a 9 play, 72-yard drive that stalled at the 49er 3-yard line.
Sturgis kicked a 21-yard field goal to give the Chargers a 29-27 lead with 7:41 left in the game. The Chargers defense shut out the 49ers from there to hold on to the victory.
Improvements Still Needed
The Chargers ended the first quarter of the season 2-2, an improvement over their 0-4 start of last season. But the Chargers need to put some wins together. They need to get above .500 and stay there if they want to make the playoffs.
The defense needs to continue to improve and they need to get defensive end Joey Bosa back. He is out for the month of October with a foot injury.
One player that will be returning is defensive tackle Corey Liuget, who is coming off a four-game suspension. At press time, he was expected to be available for the Chargers home game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, Oct. 7.
One player who will not be on the team is punter Drew Kaser, who was cut by the Chargers and replaced by veteran punter Donnie Jones, who was with the Philadelphia Eagles last season.
Kaser’s issues with holding for kicks was the apparent reason for getting cut. Sturgis missed two extra-point attempts against the 49ers.