New look Chargers play Kansas City on Sunday
September 17, 2020
The days of the "Grip it and Rip it" passing game are gone for the Los Angeles Chargers. The Philip Rivers era is over and the Tyrod Taylor era has begun. Rivers was willing and unafraid to push the ball downfield, and at times reckless. Taylor is the opposite: conservative and risk averse. For this group of Chargers, Taylor is the better fit.
On Sunday, Charger fans got their first look at Taylor's conservative passing style, in a 16-13 victory over the Bengals in Cincinnati. Taylor was successful because the Chargers did not turn the ball over. The Bengals committed two turnovers, both in the second half. The Chargers do not have that explosiveness offensively that they had under Rivers, but they can win with Taylor.
The game plan for the 2020 Chargers is to run the ball, play good defense, win the turnover battle, and maybe get a little bit lucky. They got all four elements in the win in Cincinnati. The Chargers rushed for 155 yards, held the Bengals to 13 points, won the turnover battle 2-0, and got lucky when Bengals kicker Rady Bullock shanked a 31-yard game tying field goal attempt with seven seconds left in the game.
The Bengals took a 7-6 halftime lead behind rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, who scored on a nifty 23-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Burrow, the first pick overall in the 2020 NFL draft, looked good for a player in his first NFL game action of any kind. Since all preseason games were canceled due to the coronavirus epidemic, Burrow had not been seen since the FBS Championship game against Clemson, which his LSU team won in January.
The Chargers got contributions from a couple of rookies. Joshua Kelley, a fourth-round draft pick from UCLA, rushed for 60 yards on 12 carries, including a 26-yard run. Joe Reed, a fifth-round draft pick from Virginia, had a 46-yard kick return that set up the Chargers at their own 45-yard line. That led to a 55-yard offensive drive, culminating in a five-yard touchdown run by Kelly, tying the game up at 13-13.
Charger head coach Anthony Lynn was pleased with the outcome, stating: "I was happy as hell when he missed the field goal. We're 1-0. Football games are hard to win in this league. I think it's a good thing when you can win under these circumstances. But there were several times when we could have closed this game out. I felt like we just didn't have that killer instinct."
Taylor completed 16 of 30 passe for 208 yards and no turnovers. He took few risks and relied on the running game and the defense to lead the Chargers to this victory. It was the correct formula for the win over the Bengals. It was not pretty, but as Taylor added, "Regardless of what it looked like throughout the game, we were able to still stay focused and win."
Lynn added that, "It would have been hard to win that game without Joshua today." The contributions from Kelly and Austin Ekeler, who led the Chargers with 84 yards rushing, were keys to the victory. Tight end Hunter Henry had seven receptions for 73 yards. The Chargers were without their two best offensive lineman, guard Trai Turner and center Mike Pouncey. Turner missed the game with a knee injury and Pouncey missed the game with a hip injury.
Defensively, Casey Hayward had 12 solo tackles and two passes defended, Joey Bosa had a sack, two tackles for losses and three quarterback hits, and Melvin Ingram had a huge fourth quarter interception to end a Bengal offensive drive in Charger territory. Hayward was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
The Chargers open their new SoFi Stadium home on Sunday, September 20th, against the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The game starts at 1:25 PM locally. There will not be any fans in attendance, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the game will be available locally on the CBS television network.
The Chiefs bring a potent offense that will be a challenge for the Chargers, defensively. Led by Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, and All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs have weapons all over the field, offensively. They added rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who rushed for 138 yards and one touchdown in the opener against the Houston Texans. The Chargers will need to be at their best on Sunday.