Chargers Take Home Opener in Overtime
Ekeler Scores Winning Touchdown
September 12, 2019
Touchdown celebrations are unique to many NFL players. Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler has developed his own signature air-guitar celebration and the celebration was on full display Sunday, as he scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime to lead the Chargers to a 30-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. With the win, the Chargers are 1-0 for the first time since 2015.
The Chargers survived their season opener at home in the friendly confines of Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson. The Colts proved to be a very tough opponent, coming from 15 points down in the 3rd quarter to tie the score at 24-24 with 38 seconds left in the game, forcing overtime.
After winning the overtime coin toss, the Chargers marched down the field, finally ending the game on a 7-yard touchdown run by Ekeler. Ekeler was the star of this Charger victory. An undrafted free agent, Ekeler rushed for a school-record 5,857 career yards at Division II Western State Colorado University.
He scored the Chargers first touchdown in the opening quarter on a one-yard pass from quarterback Philip Rivers, giving the Chargers an early 7-0 lead. Ekeler scored a second touchdown in the third quarter on a 55-yard swing pass from Rivers, shedding attempted tackles by Darius Leonard and Pierre Desir before sprinting down the right sideline. Leonard led the NFL in tackles in 2018.
The obvious question after the overtime win was, Melvin who? The Chargers are without their star running back Melvin Gordon, who is holding out for a better contract. As was the case last season, the Chargers win with or without Gordon. Ekeler had the look of an every-down back, rushing for 58 yards on 12 carries and catching six passes for 96 yards. Justin Jackson added 57 yards rushing on six carries.
By rule, Gordon would have to show up 30 days prior to the end of the regular season for his contract not to toll over to 2020. He needs to return to the Chargers sometime before their December 1st game in Denver against the Broncos to ensure that he will be a free agent in 2020. The Chargers want him back this season, but do they really want him back for next season? Probably not at his asking price.
The game against the Colts was a physical battle. The Colts came into the season with the goal of being a top five rushing offense and they certainly looked the part against the Chargers. The Colts rushed for 203 yards, led by Marlon Mack who rushed for a career-best 174 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. The Colts offensive line, led by All-Pro guard Quentin Nelson, pounded the Chargers defense in the 2nd half.
As Charger head coach Anthony Lynn stated: "We knew that game was going to take four quarters, but it actually took five. That team takes on the reflection of its head coach. They have a great leader over there in Frank Reich (Colts head coach)."
"They play hard and they never give up and our locker room is very similar, so it was a hell of a contest today. I'm just glad we came out on the winning side and trust me - it took every man in that locker room to get this done today."
Reich, who was the quarterback coach for the Chargers in 2013 and the offensive coordinator in 2014-2015, had a lot of nice things to say about Lynn and the Chargers as well, stating: "It was a tough loss. You go on the road against a team that was 12-4 last year, a very good football team with an elite quarterback, and they made the plays they needed to make to win. Anthony Lynn, I think the world of him."
Rivers had a good game as well, completing 25 of 34 passes for three touchdowns. Coach Lynn was pleased with Rivers' performance: "I thought Philip threw the football well. I thought he converted some critical third downs." Wide receiver Keenan Allen was the recipient of some of these passes, reeling in eight passes for 123 yards and one touchdown, a 28-yard touchdown pass from Rivers in the 2nd quarter to give the Chargers a 14-6 lead.
The Colts kicking game cost them seven points, with two missed field goals and a missed extra point. On the Charger side, rookie Punter Ty Long, filling in for injured kicker Michael Badgely, converted on all three extra point attempts and nailed a 40-yard field goal. Long became the first player since Miami's Olindo Mare in 1997 to have an extra point, field goal and punt in his first NFL game.
The Chargers are on the road this Sunday, September 15th, for a game in Detroit against the Lions. The game will start at 10 AM pacific time, with the Chargers shooting to start the season at 2-0 for the first time since 2012.