Is anyone else still feeling some residual stress from last night’s game? I’ll be honest, I certainly am.
It was way, WAY too close for comfort but by golly, this just isn’t your father’s Chargers team anymore. Despite a horrendous special teams job that saw another long kick return and a blocked punt, the defense stepped up when it mattered most to keep the Steelers out of the end zone just enough to come away victorious.
Justin Herbert had a hell of a game. Austin Ekeler had an equally, if not more impressive of an outing, and I’m just so glad both of their efforts weren’t for nothing.
Curious which other players are worthy of praise? Alright then, let’s go ahead and check out this week’s “Surge or Static” players from week 11.
RB Austin Ekeler
This was the Austin Ekeler game if there ever was one.
Ekeler scored four total touchdowns against the Steelers, rushing for two and catching another two from Justin Herbert. His third touchdown set his new career-high for scores in a season at 12, but then he went and added his 13th score in the fourth quarter. Overall, he finished with 115 total yards of offense on 17 touches.
What’s even crazier? He became just the second player since the 1970 merger to score six rushing touchdowns and six receiving touchdowns in his team’s first 10 games of a season. He joined Kareem Hunt who did it during his 2018 rookie season with the Chiefs.
Man, sometimes I feel like the Chargers don’t deserve Ekeler, but goodness am I glad he’s on this team. The high level of culture and play he brings to this team cannot be understated.
QB Justin Herbert
Have a day, Herbert.
The Chargers’ second-year quarterback bounced back from his lackluster performance a week ago to put together one of the greatest offensive performances by a quarterback in NFL history. Yes, I’m actually serious.
With a career-high 93 rushing yards on Sunday night, Herbert became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 350 yards and rush for over 90 yards in the same game. He also tossed three touchdowns, as well.
Even after the Steelers took the lead with a field goal late in the fourth quarter, Herbert didn’t flinch. All he did was a launch a perfect ball to Mike Williams to exploit a blown coverage for a massive 53-yard strike to reclaim the lead.
The young defensive linemen
Without the likes of Linval Joseph, Christian Covington, and Jerry Tillery, the Chargers were forced to play several of their young guns at defensive tackle against the Steelers. Second-year Breiden Fehoko got the start at nose tackle and immediately started the game with a tackle for no gain on Najee Harris. Joe Gaziano chipped in three tackles, including a fourth-down stop and a batted-down pass at the line of scrimmage. Heck, even Forrest Merrill — who didn’t record a tackle on the night — had one of the most-impressive pass rushes when he bull-rushed center Kendrick Green into the lap of Ben Roethlisberger.
To be quite honest, this defensive front looked more impressive in regards to stopping the run than when the group is healthy. This wasn’t your father’s Pittsburgh offensive line, but this defensive line played with great energy and showed some real sparks.
I don’t know how Brandon Staley will proceed with the group going forward, but at least one of more of these players deserves some more looks, that’s for sure.
P Ty Long
Long struggled with speeding up his process on multiple occasions last year and that problem seemed to rear its’ ugly head again on Sunday night in what essentially was the beginning of the (almost) end for the Chargers in primetime.
The Steelers ran a stunt around the long snapper and defensive back Miles Killebrew snuck between Matt Overton and Drue Tranquill to block a punt which rolled back inside the five-yard line. Several plays later, the Steelers scored to begin a 17-point surge that would give Pittsburgh a three-point lead with around three minutes left in the game.
Now I’m not an NFL punter, but I did actually punt for an FCS school in college. We’ll never know what Long is told in the special teams meetings, but there’s no way I’m going to believe that Long is incapable of reading the pressure in front of him and expediting his process to get the ball out of there before a rusher can make a play on it.
TE Jared Cook
Cook recorded multiple drops on Sunday night, both of which were very ill-timed. If it wasn’t for the immense brass ones on Herbert, who seems unflappable in most moments, Cook’s errors may have ended up costing the Bolts the game. While the veteran free-agent signing has looked to pay off in other games, Cook’s recent struggles with drops have gone on a bit too long for anyone’s liking. As of Monday morning, the Chargers are one of the top teams in the league in drops with 24. Cook has been a big part adding to that number in recent weeks.