LA Chargers Beat Raiders
Face Tough Browns Team This Week
October 11, 2018
Austin Ekeler was raised on a farm in Colorado and loves to go ice fishing. He played his college football at Western State Colorado University, a Division II school. There is nothing in his background that would indicate he was going to be an NFL running back. But Los Angeles Chargers national scout Tom McConnaughey liked what he saw of Ekeler and eventually the Charger management did as well.
The Chargers used a big play from Ekeler on Sunday to break a 3-3 tie late in the 2nd quarter and take a 10-3 lead against the Oakland Raiders. They never looked back after that to soundly defeat the Raiders 26-10 at the Stub Hub Center. The Chargers scored 23 unanswered points to take a 26-3 lead, before the Raiders finally ended the scoring drought with a late 4th quarter touchdown.
Ekeler, who made the Charger roster in 2017 as an undrafted free agent, made an exceptional play after Rivers bobbled the high shot gun snap. Rivers quickly recovered and with a blitz coming off the edge, quickly tossed a swing pass to Ekeler in the left flat. Ekeler eluded two Raider tacklers and was off to the end zone, picking up a key block from wide receiver Keenan Allen to finish the 44-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.
The play seemed to get the Chargers going. "We weren't really playing that great on offense. We were playing okay, and then (Ekeler's touchdown) kind of sparked the whole deal," said Rivers, who completed 22 of 27 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns. Rivers added regarding Ekeler: "He can really run. I think he's one of those where you don't realize how fast he's running until you have to chase him -- which I never have -- but I've seen a lot of guys do it. That was impressive."
Following a Raider turnover, running back Melvin Gordon scored the second Charger touchdown of the day on a one-yard run, to put the Chargers up 17-3. For the day, Gordon had 58 yards rushing and 62 yards yard receiving for a total of 120 yards in offense. Gordon is off to the best start of his four-year career, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and he is ranked 4th in the NFL in yards from scrimmage at 119 yards per game.
Melvin Ingram led an impressive Charger defense that sacked Raider quarterback Derek Carr three times and held the high-powered Raider offense to 10 points. Ingram finished the day with seven tackles, a sack, two tackles for losses and an interception. Ingram also lined up at fullback on a goal line play at the one-yard line and got the handoff but could not get into the endzone.
Charger Head Coach Anthony Lynn was impressed with the defensive performance, stating that, "I like that we got off the field on third downs. That was a powerful offense. That team has been scoring a lot of points, and we got them off the field for the first half. They were zero percent on third downs in the first half."
The special teams had a new look, with recently acquired Donnie Jones as the new punter and holder. Jones had a very good day punting, with all three of his kicks landing inside the twenty-yard line. In the first half, the Raiders started drives at their 18, 11 and 9-yard lines. This was due to the punting of Jones and contributed to the first half frustration of the Raiders and their offense.
The Raiders fell to 1-4 with the loss and despite their offensive talent, continue to struggle. Carr is a talented quarterback, but he needs to eliminate the mistakes. He leads the NFL in interceptions at eight and it was his eighth interception, on a first and goal from the Charger one-yard line, that ended any hope for a Raider comeback.
The NFL has become a matchup league. Offensive teams are looking for versatile players to exploit matchups. Players like Ekeler exemplify this. The Chargers can line him up in the backfield, in the slot or on the outside. He is a matchup nightmare for any defense.
The Chargers will need to find matchups that they can take advantage of when they meet the Cleveland Browns on the road this Sunday. The Browns have a good young team and their 2-2-1 record is deceptive. The five games the Browns have played in have been decided by four points or less. Three have gone to overtime, all five down to the last minute. The Browns will not be an easy opponent for the Chargers.