The Los Angeles Charger took care of business in Buffalo. It wasn’t exactly what you’d call a picture-perfect win, but they made the cross-country trek, played a solid first half of football, and rode a 22-point halftime lead all the way to a victory.
On the one hand, the team bounced back from a humiliating loss to Kansas City by winning a game we all expected them to win. They controlled it from the jump, scored 28 first-half points, and got Austin Ekeler more involved. That, in and of its self, is encouraging.
On the other hand, the offense did nothing in the second half, the offensive tackles struggled a great deal, and the team failed to put the game away when it was presented with a first-and-goal from the one-yard line following a fourth-quarter interception by Kyzir White. In other words, they still have plenty to work on.
With that said, let’s look at my top offensive takeaways – good and bad – from Sunday’s game:
- Rivers was on point: Philip Rivers was 23/27 for 253 and three scores and, unless I missed something, all four incomplete passes were balls he threw away. He got his team into the right plays, made the correct reads, and never missed a throw he didn’t intend to miss. There is no telling what he might have done had his protection held up a little better.
- Austin Ekeler>Melvin Gordon: Roll your eyes all you want, but Austin Ekeler is currently the Chargers second most dynamic skill position player behind Keenan Allen, and that gap may not be as big as you think it is. Ekeler’s vision, burst, surprising power, and versatility make him extremely dangerous and even more valuable, and it’s time for his snaps, and his touches, to increase in a big way.
- The first half game plan was nearly flawless: At least from a game plan perspective, the Chargers did almost everything right on offense in the first half. Ken Whisenhunt repeatedly isolated Tremaine Edmunds on Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler in open space to significant effect, got Virgil Green involved and found ways to spring Mike Williams free for two vital intermediate throws early in the game, including his first NFL touchdown. You know the game plan is good when the Chargers put up 31 points on the road without having to lean on Keenan Allen.
- Mike makes it happen: I’m not going to get too worked up over a two catch, 27-yard performance against a pretty average and depleted secondary, but I was encouraged by the fact that both of Mike Williams receptions were what I’d call impact catches; with one going for a touchdown and the other converting a critical 3rd-and-12 play. While most fans seemed to get fired up about his touchdown grab, I thought his third-down catch on the team’s third possession was arguably his best play as a Charger because it was the best route I’ve seen him run and he made the catch while having his helmet ripped off. I’d still like to see him get open more consistently, but Sunday was an encouraging step in the right direction.
- Rough day for the LA offensive tackles: Most fans were concerned about Sam Tevi going into Sunday’s game, but the truth is: both Tevi and left tackle Russell Okung struggled mightily in Buffalo. The Bills star pass rusher, Jerry Hughes, was just too quick for LA’s tackle tandem, with both men looking at least a full step too slow all day. I realize it was loud at New Era Field, and that certainly didn’t help matters, but they did not play well.
- Antonio Gates a non-factor: Future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates was a non-factor on Sunday despite a very favorable matchup against a defense that struggled to defend the Baltimore tight ends last week. After playing in 33 snaps against the Chiefs, Gates was only on the field for 11 snaps against the Bills and drew but one target in a game in which the offense raced up and down the field in the first half. In other words, he wasn’t really part of the game plan, and that doesn’t inspire much confidence for the rest of this season. Fans may have to recalibrate their expectations for Antonio this season.
That pretty much does it for my offensive take-aways. Unlike last week, I thought Ken Whisenhunt did a masterful job of creating and exploiting favorable matchups for his best skill position players from the jump, and I’m especially encouraged by the way he’s expanding Austin Ekeler’s role. The lack of second-half production notwithstanding, I was pretty happy with how the Chargers attacked the Bills in scoring 28 first-half points and feel like there is enough there to build on moving forward.
What are your offensive takeaways from the Bills game? Let me hear them in the comments section below.