The Chargers smacked the Broncos 34-13 to keep their playoff hopes alive heading into a “win-and-in” game against the Raiders. That game was officially flexed into the Sunday Night Football slot so we all get the pleasure of watching this season conclude — or get extended — under the bright lights in Las Vegas.
Plenty of the Chargers’ top players enjoyed notable performances, including some of the unsung heroes across the offensive line.
So, let’s go ahead and get into this thing. Here are this week’s players who either “surged” forward or stayed “static” with their play against the Broncos.
QB Justin Herbert
If you make franchise history, you know damn well you’re going to end up on this side of “Surge of Static?”
With a 45-yard touchdown to Mike Williams early in the fourth quarter, Herbert passed Philip Rivers in team annals as the franchise’s all-time leader in single-season passing touchdowns with 35. This is a team that had both Rivers and Dan Fouts for many years and it only took two seasons for Herbert to pass them both.
Overall, Herbert threw for 237 yards on 21-of-33 passing with two touchdowns.
RB Austin Ekeler
It didn’t take Ekeler all that long to find his groove after missing last week’s game with COVID. The team’s RB1 punched in a short touchdown run on the team’s first drive of the game which pushed his season total to 11 rushing scores and 18 total touchdowns overall.
Ekeler looked so incredibly natural as he glided in and out of his breaks, sifting through the mess between the tackles with ease. After coming into the league as an undrafted free agent, it’s been an incredible ride for a guy who may have some of his best football still ahead of him.
Austin Ekeler opens up the scoring in LA! pic.twitter.com/68kNdJX1Y7— PFF LA Chargers (@PFF_Chargers) January 2, 2022
OT Rashawn Slater
Slater was a monster against the Broncos in both the run game and the screen game on Sunday afternoon. He recorded a pancake block outside the box (which shows his elite athleticism) and helped spring Ekeler’s big catch-and-run up the left sideline which converted a needed third down.
He ended the day as the Chargers’ highest-graded player by Pro Football Focus with an elite 94.8 overall grade. That grade is good for the Chargers’ highest mark for any player for the entire 2021 season.
S Derwin James
I loathe having to put James here, but I can’t take back the number of mistakes the defensive play-caller had against the Broncos. In the first quarter alone, James dropped two different interceptions with the second one being as easy of a takeaway as they come.
Later in the game with the Broncos riding some momentum on offense, the Chargers got the Broncos into a third down inside the red zone. The Bolts would go on to force an incomplete pass and set up a fourth down. However, James committed two separate penalties on the play: He hit Drew Lock “high” after the pass for an unnecessary roughness but only after he lined up offsides.
At the same time, I’d be wrong not to mention that James was tackling extremely well all game long and was most-certainly a factor in the team’s stellar defensive performance against Denver, especially on third downs.
I’ll take the mistakes when it comes to the team’s star players, but this was definitely an unusually-off performance for the former All-Pro.
CB Michael Davis
Davis had himself a down game in coverage against the Broncos as he allowed four completions in five passes thrown his way which turned into a team-high 85 yards allowed, including a 44-yarder to rookie Seth Williams. He finished with a team-low 37.3 overall grade and the team’s worst coverage grade at 30.1.
Davis will need to tighten things up against the Raiders next week as the team fights for a playoff berth in primetime.