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Austin Ekeler’s career-high rushing performance pushes him among the season’s best

It’s about time the ground game got going.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Under the bright lights of Monday Night Football, Austin Ekeler put together his best rushing performance of the season with a career-high 117 yards with one touchdown on 15 carries.

Despite being one of the best all-around running backs in the NFL, he’s similar to the Saints’ Alvin Kamara in that 100-yard performances aren’t all that common. They’ll record 18-20 touches per game but when almost half of those opportunities are in the passing game, they usually reach that 100-yard threshold through total offense, not just rushing. With this in mind, he’s not too often included among the league’s best pure runners.

But after this week’s performance, the folks over at Pro Football Focus have elevated Ekeler amongst the league leaders (minimum 50 attempts) in rushing grade with an 82.2. That currently is the second highest among qualifiers behind only the Bengals’ Joe Mixon.

On several occasions over the past few weeks, Brandon Staley has made it known that he wants his team to be more efficient in running the ball, specifically in the red zone. Instead of two to three-yard gains, he’s wanted more four or five-yard runs in the red zone which only helps in putting six on the board as opposed to three.

When they faced the Chiefs in week three, the Chargers scored touchdowns on four-of-five trips to the red zone and came away with points every time. Against the Raiders, they were a perfect four-for-four. The red zone woes have officially been fixed and you have to think the improved run game has had something to do with it.