Culver City Observer -

By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

Chargers are rolling into the playoffs after their win against the Rams

 

January 5, 2023

GEORGE LAASE

Charger running back, Austin Ekeler breaks through the Rams defense and turns a second down and five into a 72-yards touchdown run last Sunday.

After a myriad of early season injuries, the Los Angeles Chargers are starting to get healthy again and it is beginning to show on the field. Just ask their cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Rams. The Chargers and Rams met last Sunday at SoFi Stadium and the Chargers easily defeated the Rams, 31-10. It was the fourth consecutive win for the surging Chargers, who are headed for the AFC playoffs.

The Chargers improved to 10-6 on the season with the victory and are currently the 5th seed in the playoffs with one week left on the season. The Rams slipped to 5-11 for the season. The defending Super Bowl champion Rams have also been hit hard by injures this season.

The Chargers had their best balance on offense this season since the Cleveland Browns game in Week 5, a game the Chargers had a season-high in rushing yardage with 238 yards in the win on the road over the Browns. In the Rams game, the Chargers rushed for 192 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown run by running back Austin Ekeler.

Ekeler rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries. Quarterback Justin Herbert completed 21 of 28 pass attempts for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Each touchdown pass went to tight ends, with the first going to starting tight end Gerald Everett and the second going to backup tight end Donald Parham. Ekeler was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 17 for his efforts against the Rams..

The Chargers ran 62 offensive plays, 31 running plays and 31 passing plays. Getting the running game going and getting a better balance to the offense will be important in the playoffs. Tight ends had caught two touchdown passes for the entire season going into this game. For Everett, it was his third touchdown catch of the season. For Parham, it was his first touchdown catch of the season. Parham has spent most of the season on the injured reserve list. The Chargers are finding their offensive rhythm at the right time of the season.

Charger head coach Brandon Staley talked about the importance of the offense finding a rhythm after the game. "I think you saw kind of a complete performance by our group from start to finish," Staley said. "I felt like our guys really played together today. I thought we played as hard as we've played on offense. I thought you saw that in the run game. We finished drives with touchdowns. We were three-for-three in the red area. We were able to get the ball to the deep part of the field."

Staley added that, "I really liked the way that we ran the football today. We rushed for 192 yards, and we had the big splitter. It felt like our tight ends were a big factor in the run game today. I thought we were able to mix it up, in terms of the types of runs, the types of personnel groupings. Credit to our offensive staff and credit to our guys for just playing really hard today."

The Chargers defense has played well over the past four weeks, and the special teams have played well throughout the 2022 season. The Chargers had three sacks in the game, one each from defensive end Morgan Fox, defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy. All three players were free agent acquisitions in the offseason.

When all three units are playing well, as was the case on Sunday, the Chargers are tough to beat. Parham has missed 14 of the last 19 games with a variety of injuries, but when he is healthy, he is a matchup problem at 6-foot-8 for a safety and too fast for a linebacker. At his Monday press conference, Staley talked about Parham.

"A tremendous story of perseverance, of will inside of a player," Staley said. "Football has tested his patience. I thought that he blocked extremely well yesterday, he was a factor in the passing game. To score a touchdown, a big red-area touchdown for us, it was a big moment for him. Everyone on the sideline, you could see it, the way that his teammates feel about him, his coaches feel about him. We have to continue to build off of that performance. Hopefully, he can continue to play with the confidence that you're seeing because he is a weapon for us."

The Chargers will keep a hold on the 5th seed in the playoffs if they defeat the Denver Broncos on Sunday, January 8th. The game will be played at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium and will begin at 1:25pm locally and will be televised on CBS.

If the Charger beat the Broncos or the Baltimore Ravens lose to the Cincinnati Bengals in an early Sunday game, the Chargers will be the 5th seed in the playoffs and will play in the wild-card round at either Jacksonville against the Jaguars or in Nashville against the Titans. The Titans will take on the Jaguars on Saturday Night in Jacksonville for the AFC South division title.

The Chargers will know the answer to some of those questions by the time they step onto the field against the Broncos. The Chargers want to win the game, but the important thing is to stay healthy heading into the playoffs.

The Broncos are 4-12, have fired their head coach, but are ranked 6th in total yardage per game allowed in the NFL and are always tough to score on, allowing just 20.7 points per game, which ranks 10th in the NFL. The Broncos have struggled offensively and are last in scoring offense at 16.0 points per game. It is never easy to win in Denver and this game should be no different for the Chargers.

 

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