Just as soon as the first #VictoryMonday came and went, our first #NotVictoryMonday is here now.
The Chargers dropped a heart-breaking road opener to the Detroits Lions at Ford Field 13-10, in traditional, kick-in-the-balls fashion.
The lowlights of the game include a goal line fumble by Austin Ekeler, two touchdowns nullified by penalties, tow missed field goals, and a Philip Rivers interception thrown to end the game while the Chargers were in field goal range down by 3.
There was a lot of bad. There was still some good. It’s hard not to point towards the nullified touchdowns as the main culprits in this loss since they would have caused the Ekeler fumble and Rivers INT to have never happened should either of those scores have counted.
Both penalties were EXTREMELY ticky-tack. When Justin Jack scooted up the right sideline for a 66-yard touchdown, Dontrelle Inman had a handful of Lions jersey that, to me, was released when Jackson ran by the defender.
The next touchdown, a 22-yard screen pass to Ekeler, was negated by a block-in-the-back penalty on right tackle Sam Tevi. On the play, Tevi put his hand on the defender with “most” of his back turned towards him as Ekeler scooted by. I would argue that he got enough of his “side” or shoulder to warrant a non-call but the refs thought differently.
Again, both were horrible, touch-calls that could have easily not be thrown.
Alas, we move forward.
Here are this week’s Surge and Static players from week two.
WR Keenan Allen
The best match-up of the day on Sunday was Keenan “The Slayer” Allen versus Darius Slay. On an individual level, the advantage went to Allen as he snagged eight passes for 98 yards. He also caused Slay to receive a pair of holding penalties, as well as a pass interference call.
In the end, however, the Lions’ Slay got the last laugh as he picked off a Rivers’ pass in the end zone that was intended for Allen.
Either way, this column is about individual performances, and “THE” Slayer most definitely got the better of Detroit’s star cornerback.
In the first two games, Allen has compiled 16 catches for 221 yards and a single score. His 16 game pace currently puts him at a 128-1,760-8 stat line, which is cool to see, but obviously it’s far too early to get into those predictions. I still expect him to get peppered with targets without Hunter Henry, as his looks jumped from 10 to 15 with no receiving threat at tight end.
CB Casey Hayward
After failing to record a single interception during the entire 2018 season, Casey Hayward notched his first takeaway of 2019 after displaying some elite body control and hand-eye coordination.
From he LAC 36-yard line, Stafford launched one intended for Kenny Golladay near the left sideline in the end zone. Like me on top of a decent charceuterie board, Hayward was locked-in on the big-body receiver and managed to gain better positioning on the pass. In an attempt to cause an incompletion, Golladay yanked Hayward by the jersey, but the veteran still managed to keep the ball off the ground as it bounced around his chest before being secured.
It stopped a potential tying score from the Lions and gave Chargers fans just enough hope that the team could finally start to put this one away.
Regardless, it was still awesome to see Hayward get back into the interception column, because Lord knows we’ve missed that.
WR Mike Williams
By no means did Williams final stat line blow anyone away, but it was the type of catches and the specific situations they came in that had the team and fans, alike, jumping for joy.
With 11 seconds left in the first half, the Chargers were attempting to get into field goal range in order to snag a two-score lead heading into the half. With the clock winding down, Rivers launched a pass towards a streaking Williams down the left sideline, who fully-extended before crashing to the ground, ball in hand.
— PFF (@PFF) September 15, 2019
Mike Williams making the highlight reel catch!#LACvsDET
It was one of the biggest plays of the day, for either team. Williams also caught a couple more passes, all of which exemplified his selflessness to give up his body for the betterment of the team, even when he was apparently still nursing a knee injury.
He’s only averaging 2.5 catches and 56 receiving yards per game through two weeks, but expect those numbers to pop when that leg gets right.
RB Austin Ekeler
Just like last week, Ekeler trotted out onto the field and put together another phenomenal performance that forced Chargers fans, once again, to say, “Melvin who?”
The third-year back took 17 carries for 66 yards and a score whiling hauling in another six passes for an additional 67 yards, marking the second game in a row that he finished with more receiving yards than rushing yards.
Melvin would never.pic.twitter.com/mfQlEoCWiV— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) September 16, 2019
But, no matter how many yards Ekeler was able to put up, his biggest blunder on the day could have turned the tides and kept the Chargers from entering into the loss column so early into the season.
On a 1st-and-1 on the goal line, following the two aformentioned “nullified” touchdown plays, Ekeler attempted to leap over the pile in the same manner as his first rushing score. But rookie linebacker Jahlani Tavai managed to meet Ekeler in the air and punched the ball out of his hands, leading to a fumble recovery by LB Devon Kennard.
In a game that seemed to punch the Chargers repeatedly in the gut, this play was the cherry on top of it all.
This particular fumble will be focused on that much more due to Ekeler’s similar fumble he had near the goal line during the team’s first preseason game in Arizona. It’s now officially a “fumbling problem” for Ekeler and it’ll be interesting to see how the coaching staff handles his touches going forward, especially near the end zone.
K/P Ty Long
Look, it’s not really fair to Long to put this loss on him. He was signed to be the team’s punter and has been forced to be their kicker, as well, adding just that much more pressure on his shoulders. But at the same time, he was a pretty good kicker in the CFL and it’s not that crazy to believe he should have made at least one of those two missed field goals.
He did a phenomenal job punting the ball and many thought he would earn himself another AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after knocked home his first FG before halftime. While the Chargers tried and tried to increase their lead from 10-6, Long went on to miss a 39-yard kick that banged off the upright and another 41-yard kick on the very next drive.
We can hope and pray that Michael Badgley will be healthy and active next week, but if that hope doesn’t come to fruition, I will be VERY worried about the team’s tilt against the Texans this Sunday.
WR Travis Benjamin
I hate giving Travis Benjamin anymore screen time than he deserves (this is a little personal, yes) but he keeps finding a way into the Static section time and time again.
I get it. He had the HUGEEEEE and CLUTCH catches against the Chiefs last year that led to the team’s first win in Arrowhead in five years. I know, I know. He rightfully deserved to stick with the team through the offseason after doing that. But guys, it’s time to let someone else play third-fiddle to Allen and Williams in this offense.
After two games, Benjamin has two catches for 12 yards on four targets. On his only target against the Lions, Benji allowed the ball to bounce off his chest incomplete. The play was a third down and Benjamin was running uncovered over the middle about three yards past the sticks.
It was just another reminder of why he isn’t, and will never be, a real contributor in this offense. Henry’s absence instantly downgrades the viability of two tight ends sets and a third receiver NEEDS to step up. Inman could very-well be that guy, but any snaps with Benjamin on the field will further be considered a waste of space.