Man, after a game like that, a post like this becomes much more difficult to write out.
There was a plethora of players that found themselves worthy of the “surge” section, which makes it terribly difficult to narrow it down to just a pair of deserving players. It also makes the “static” section a bit more complicated as I’ll have to dig fairly deep to nitpick on who played bad enough to be deemed having taken a step back.
I mean, obviously when a game like that occurs, with an outcome like that, the last thing I ever want to do is be the slightest bit negative because what’s the point? Let’s all just be joyous over the victory and keeping the positivity train chugging along.
But if you’ve ever spent much time in the sports world, either on a team or in individual sport, I’m sure you have been told more than once that there is always something to get better at, no matter how grand of a win you just had.
That being said, let’s take a look at who made the final cut for this week’s Surge nomination and who were the unfortunate weak links during the team’s dramatic come-from-behind victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
RB Justin Jackson
The rookie out of Northwestern was the biggest breath of fresh air that the Chargers desperately needed when they found themselves headed into the locker room following a first half that saw the team manage just TWO rushing yards over the first thirty minutes of the contest.
Justin Jackson flashed elite potential last night (86.5) with just 14 total snaps played.— PFF LA Chargers (@PFF_Chargers) December 3, 2018
He nearly broke the scale with a 263.9 elusive rating as he avoided 5 tackles on 8 attempts. ⚡️ ️ pic.twitter.com/3HBgEQwuWf
Jackson wasted zero time getting into his groove he popped off runs of 9, 11, and 18 yards en route to his 18-yard touchdown scamper to give the Chargers the lead in the fourth quarter. That score also ended up being the first of his career.
Through the last two weeks, Jackson has vastly outproduced Austin Ekeler on the ground which is obviously a bit surprising given all the love Ekeler has garnered leading up to his last two starts. Ekeler limped through the first half, barely gaining a single rush yard before the break. He eventually found “room” to run in the second but only managed 23 rushing yards on the night. He has just 56 yards and a score on 18 carries over the last two games.
Jackson has a really nice 15-120-1 line since the Arizona game and that obviously stands out for a player that wasn’t even on the active roster following the preseason. Going forward, Jackson’s performance has allowed the Chargers the ability to keep resting Melvin Gordon in hopes of getting their starter back prior to the Thursday night tilt with the Kansas City Chiefs on December 13th.
WR Keenan Allen
Prior to Sunday night, Allen had only gone over the 100-yard receiving plateau twice this season while failing to record double-digit catches in any of his team’s first 12 games. On Sunday night, Allen made it three games of over 100 yards as he reached a season-high in yards (148) and catches (14). His 14 catches signaled his first game of double-digit catches since December 3rd of last year when he caught 10 balls for 105 yards and a score against the Cleveland Browns.
The #Chargers took home a massive win on a national stage Sunday night! Top 5 grades vs the #Steelers:— PFF LA Chargers (@PFF_Chargers) December 3, 2018
1. Derwin James - 90.0
2. Keenan Allen - 88.4
3. Desmond King II - 86.6
4. Russell Okung - 82.9
5. Philip Rivers - 81.5
Allen’s impact on the game went far beyond the box score as the Slayer went to work in between the 20’s, almost single-handedly moving the chains time and time again. It also helped that offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt consistently found ways to get mismatches against the defense as Allen, more often than not, found himself matched up with linebacker L.J. Fort, a former FCS player at Northern Iowa.
As you could probably guess, it never ended well for Fort.
After the first 13 weeks of the season, Allen has 83 catches for 996 yards and 5 touchdowns. His yardage is good for 13th in the league, just behind the Rams’ Brandin Cooks (1,026) and the Steelers’ Antonio Brown (1,028).
CB Casey Hayward
It continues to be a steep fall from grace for Hayward who suffered a rough start to the game after he allowed back-to-back completions to Antonio Brown to set up the first of James Connors’ two rushing touchdowns on the night.
Brown’s first catch was just a simple out route on the sideline that took advantage of Hayward’s soft coverage. With the team running Cover 3, Hayward was going to give AB that space anyway. On the very next play, the Steelers took advantage of the match-up once again.
After motioning Juju Smith-Schuster over from the left to the right, AB was left alone on the left (boundary) side while #19 and a pair of tight ends were on the right. The motion caused safety Jahleel Addae to shift towards the strength of the formation which gave AB all kinds of room to work with. After the snap, AB ran a simple Go route and beat Hayward in a foot race. It was a heck of a pass by Big Ben which was aided by Addae being just far enough to have zero impact on the play.
In the second half, Hayward’s play visibly improved as the impact from Brown was almost non-existent following his explosion in the first. The adjustments by Hayward were awesome but a faster start out of the gate will go a long way down this final stretch of the season.
OLB Melvin Ingram
It’s a been a quiet past few weeks for Ingram ever since Joey Bosa came back into the fold. If you would have asked me several weeks ago, I would have told you that the presence of Bosa would spell good things for Ingram because teams could no longer gameplan for just one talented edge rusher. In their first game back with each other, Ingram recorded a sack against the Oakland Raiders but has failed to have much of an impact in the following two games.
Against the Cardinals and Steelers, Ingram has failed to record a sack while collecting just three total tackles. It’s been an odd season for Ingram who has been mostly boom-or-bust this year. He has five games where he had only a single tackle and nothing else. In all other games where he had multiple tackles except the Steelers game, Ingram has also recorded either a sack, forced/recovered fumble, or an interception.
So far this year, the consistency has been all over the place and the team will need Ingram to dial it in if they hope to make an aggressive playoff push.