That was a close one! The Los Angeles Chargers were able to gut out a long, tough game against the division opponent Denver Broncos at home on Monday Night. It took getting to overtime to accomplish the goal, but they got the job done on a night when Justin Herbert was playing more like Alex Smith than Justin Herbert.
It was an ugly game with a lot of places to improve on, but a win is a win in the NFL, especially in the division.
Corey Linsley was inactive on Monday night with an illness that we later found out was food poisoning. In his place, Will Clapp got the start. Clapp played most of the game, minus 7 snaps when he got hurt and had to be helped off the field but came back to finish the game and overtime. The offense overall was pretty bad, and it’s pretty easy to see that it has to do with Corey Linsley not being on the field. The Chargers really need to get something figured out to be able to operate better when he isn’t out there.
At running back, Austin Ekeler played a season high 66% of the snaps, which, due to time of possession and overtime was a full 14 more snaps than in any other game this season, this week due in large part to Joshua Kelley going down with an injury early and not returning. This also meant that Sony Michel played 30 snaps, 13 more than in any other game this season for him. Michel made the most of his snaps in this game and grinded out extra yards on multiple carries, many of which netted 1st downs. It was his best game of the season.
Mike Williams had 6 targets which resulted in only 2 catches for 17 yards on the day, despite playing 87 offensive snaps. The Broncos defense, which is very good, locked Williams up for the whole night. It is disappointing to see the team’s $20M wide outs produce a stat line like that, but the offensive scheme and supporting cast weren’t doing him any favors last night against a great defense with one of the best corners in football in Patrick Surtan II.
Donald Parham continues to work back from injury and played 19 snaps last night in which he caught all 3 of his targets for 53 yards. He was a safety valve for Herbert a few times and it’ll be exciting to see his work load continue to increase.
Nasir Adderley returned to the starting role at safety after being benched in favor of Alohi Gilman last week. He doesn’t show up on the stat sheet but the good news is that of the explosive plays the Chargers gave up in the first quarter, according to Brandon Staley, none of them were on Nas this week. Let’s hope he can continue to play well enough to not stand out for being beat again.
The big change here from the previous 5 games is at corner. In weeks 1 - 5, only 3 CBs got snaps on defense each week. This week, we have 4 CBs with significant snaps. Why the change? JC Jackson was benched at halftime and Michael Davis came in to finish the game.
As I mentioned above, after the game Staley was asked about two of the big deep plays the Chargers gave up in the 1st quarter, and he flat out said both of those were mistakes by JC in who/where he was supposed to be covering. It was enough that at half time Staley, and presumably the other defensive coaches, made the call to put Davis in the game and put JC on the bench.
That change, along with any schematic changes they implemented, were the best halftime adjustment that Staley and his staff have made all season, and possibly since he’s been with the Chargers. After giving Russell Wilson his best quarter as a passer this season in the 1st quarter of last night’s game, they turned it on and locked everything down. In the second half and overtime, Wilson was 3/11 for 15 yards and 0TDs. It was a fantastic performance from this defense and very encouraging to see some halftime adjustments happening and working.
Everyone reading this, please take a moment to stand up and give a round of applause for Dustin Hopkins.
Hopkins said after the game that on his first extra point attempt he felt a “pop” and then pain when he made the kick. He was grabbing his hamstring on his kicking leg and grimaced when you watched the replay. They had J.K. Scott handle kickoffs after that, but Hopkins pushed through what sounds like pretty excruciating pain to make 4 field goals, including a 39 yarder to win in overtime. Just an amazingly tough performance from the Chargers Kicker.
Let’s also give it up for Ja’Sir Taylor who had one of the most heads up plays I’ve seen from the Chargers on special teams when he took advantage of JK Scott’s hangtime and a Broncos player to force the Broncos punt returner to muff a punt in overtime to set up the field position that had them in range for the game winning kick. Absolutely stellar play.