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Chargers-Texans Recap: Herbert, Ekeler lead Bolts over feisty Texans 34-24

Ekeler finally had his breakout game with three total touchdowns.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Houston Texans Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s final score should never have been as close as it was at the end, but a win is a win in the NFL.

The Chargers built a 27-7 lead entering half time before the Texans stormed back in the second half to make it uncomfortably close at 27-24. But when the Bolts needed a score the most, the offense got it done late in the fourth quarter thanks in part to a huge fourth-down conversion to keep their drive alive.

Coincidentally, the Chargers scored the game-sealing touchdown with the same play they used to convert the fourth down in which Justin Herbert hit Austin Ekeler in the right flat en route to making a successful diving effort at the pylon.

This game was truly a tale of two halves, but fortunately the Chargers ended up on the right side of this story.

Below you can check out the entire recap of today’s 34-24 victory over the Texans.

First Quarter

The Chargers won the coin toss and deferred to begin the game. It took the defense only three plays to make their first big play of the game as Nasir Adderley picked off Davis Mills before returning it to the Houston 25-yard line. The errant throw was forced by Khalil Mack who got into the face of Mills as he threw.

On the other side, it took the Chargers offense three plays as well to find the end zone. Gerald Everett beat outstanding rookie safety Jalen Pitre up the seam and Justin Herbert put the ball just over his head where Everett could snag it in stride.

Bolts were up 7-0 just minutes into the game.

Both teams traded punts with the Chargers going three-and-out on their second offensive possession.

The Texans pushed the ball into Chargers territory on the ensuing drive, going 42 yards in eight plays, but their kicker shanked it wide left and the Bolts took over at their own 36-yard line.

Before the end of the first quarter, the Chargers moved the ball 29 yards on five plays, highlighted by Joshua Kelley’s 11 yards on a pair of carries.

Second Quarter

The Chargers finished their drive in the end zone as they found paydirt on the ground for the first time this season. Austin Ekeler bounced back to run 15 yards on back-to-back plays, including a 10-yard score.

That put the Chargers up 14-0 early in the second quarter.

After forcing another three-and-out, the Chargers wasted zero time in finding the end zone for the third time in the first half.

On the second play of the drive, Herbert found Mike Williams with no one near him as number 81 rumbled untouched for a 50-yard gain. On the very next play, Ekeler took a handoff on a draw play untouched up the right sideline for a 20-yard score.

With 10 minutes in the second quarter, the Chargers led 21-0.

On the first play of their next drive, rookie running back Dameon Pierce broke off a massive 75-yard touchdown to bring the Texans back within two touchdowns. It was third run of 50+ yards that that Chargers have allowed in as many weeks.

The Bolts couldn’t respond with a touchdown of their own, but they did manage to convert a 23-yard field goal to keep their lead 24-7 with 4:35 remaining in the half.

The Texans pushed the ball into Chargers territory all the way to the 24. On a fourth-and-one, Davis Mills faked a handoff and rolled right before immediately being met with Khalil Mack who ended the play with his fifth sack of the season.

With a little over 90 seconds in the half, Herbert hit Michael Bandy for a 25 yard gain to begin the drive. They brought the ball all the way to the Texans 19-yard line before having to kick a field goal prior to the half. Dustin Hopkins made it 27-7 as both teams headed to the locker room.

Third Quarter

The Chargers received the opening kickoff of the second half but failed to turn it into much of anything as they went three-and-out. They had chances for converting on both second and third down, respectively, but a missed block by Matt Feiler and a dropped pass by Gerald Everett quickly ended the drive.

After trading several punts, the Texans find a groove on an eight-play, 87-yard drive capped off by a touchdown catch by Rex Burkhead. It was easily the worst defensive drive by the Chargers all game and it’s brought game with two scores as the Bolts clung to a 27-14 lead with 1:12 remaining in the quarter.

The Chargers ran two plays before the intermission and will face a third-and-four when play resumes on the other side.

Fourth Quarter

The Chargers managed to earn a first down but quickly punted afterwards. With the Texans backed up following a bomb by punter JK Scott paired with a penalty, the Chargers defense was in business at the Houston seven-yard line.

But, alas. This is the Chargers we’re talking about. The defense failed to put up much of a fight as the Texans went 93 yards in just five plays to bring the score within six points at 27-21.

That’s not where the nightmare would end, unfortunately.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Texans punched the ball loose from DeAndre Carter before recovering at the Chargers 16-yard line. Luckily the defense managed to hold firm, including a forced fumble by Jerry Tillery on Mills, but the Texans were able to recover and ultimately kicked a field goal to make it a three-point lead by the Bolts.

As fate would have it, the Charger did not fold on their “got-to-have-it” drive of the game. They gutted out several crucial first downs and marched down the field to the tune of 12 plays, 84 yards, and capped it with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to Ekeler to bring the lead back to 10. It was Ekeler’s third touchdown of the game and his first as a receiver this season.

The defense finished the game strong by harassing Mills into throwing his second interception of the game with this one being the game-sealer by Bryce Callahan.

That was all she wrote from Houston as the Chargers go home with a 34-24 victory.

Justin Herbert finished the day with 340 passing yards on 27-of-39 passing with two touchdowns.

Austin Ekeler finally saw the breakout game he’s been waiting for this season as he totaled three touchdowns, including the first two rushing scores for the Chargers this season. He took 13 carries for 60 yards (4.60 YPC) and also caught six passes for an additional 49 yards.

Mike Williams paced the pass-catchers with seven receptions for 120 yards. Gerald Everett joined Ekeler in catching a touchdown pass five receptions for 60 yards.

The defense was led by Drue Tranquill with 11 total tackles. Khalil Mack, Morgan Fox, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Jerry Tillery all recorded sacks while Bryce Callahan and Nasir Adderley each picked off a pass.

The Chargers are on the road again next week to visit the Cleveland Browns in week five.