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Chargers Week 9 ‘Surge or Static?’: Austin Ekeler scores twice while Joshua Palmer sets up game-winning kick

Palmer broke out for his first career game with over 100 receiving yards.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

For the fourth-straight first quarter played by the Chargers, they found themselves down by 10+ points. That allowed them to join a small group of teams — three, to be exact — that have ever been outscored by 10 or more points in four-consecutive opening periods in NFL history.

There’s just something about this franchise and bad history, you know?

Despite this unfortunate streak, it didn’t stop the Bolts from ultimately fighting back to take a 14-10 lead heading into halftime. They managed to hold that lead until late in the third quarter when the Falcons took advantage of an unlucky interception off the hands of Joshua Palmer.

Ultimately the Chargers kept the Falcons off the scoreboard the rest of the way, and they certainly got a little luck on a 50-yard field goal attempt that Atlanta’s Younghoe Koo pushed wide right at the end of the quarter.

But luck is simply what it is and a win is also a win, no matter how many times they come down to the wire like they have for the Chargers this season.

And hey, with a large portion of your star power and talent sidelined by injuries, you’re going to take them any way you can get them.

As always, below are two players I believed surged forward this week while two others stayed static following their latest performance.


RB Austin Ekeler

Another game, another multi-touchdown performance by Ekeler.

The Chargers RB1 recorded a touchdown through both the air and on the ground to raise his season total to 10 over the past five games after he failed to record a single score through the team’s first three games.

He ended Sunday’s contest with just 71 yards from scrimmage, but scoring the team’s only two touchdowns on the day will unsurprisingly fast track you to the winners section.

I’m not sure how much longer Ekeler can keep this hot streak going, but as long as both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are out, he’ll be leaned upon heavily.

WR Joshua Palmer

When Justin Herbert and the Chargers offense needed him the most — down both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams for the foreseeable future — the second-year wideout recorded a career-high 106 yards on eight receptions, including a 22-yarder that helped set up Cameron Dicker’s game-winning field goal.

Palmer and Herbert’s chemistry looked suspect at times during the earlier parts of the season, but their latest performance showed exactly what fans have been expecting from these two, if they were ever given an opportunity like this one.

There’s still room for growth, but Palmer has all the makings of a long-time player for this franchise.


EDGE/LB Kyle Van Noy

Van Noy playing edge opposite Khalil Mack was abused early and often by the Falcons, especially in the first quarter when they ran for over 90 yards, including yet another rush of over 40 yards. He struggled to set the edge and sustain containment on the plethora of outside runs used by Atlanta. Van Noy is doing his best, but he’s not a full-time edge player and that’s being reflected when asked to hold up at the point of attack.

The veteran finished with an abysmal 29.3 game grade, which somehow was only the second-worst game grade for a Chargers defender.

LB Kenneth Murray

Murray has been consistently one of the worst-graded defenders on the Chargers through the first half of the season and that version of him showed up early against the Falcons.

On the 44-yard run by Falcons rookie Tyler Allgeier, Murray was tasked with scraping over the top to his left as Van Noy attempted to set the edge. If Van Noy fails to hold up contain — which is what happened — Murray was responsible for coming “around the horn” to reset that edge. Instead, it honestly looked like a magnet on Murray’s chest took him straight into the Falcons tight end who kept him from attempting a tackle on Allgeier as he ran by.

One of Murray’s biggest shortcomings is his ability to sift through traffic to make a tackle on a ball-carrier. That’s especially the case when he’s asked to strafe and pursue on runs outside the tackles.

Most of the interior defensive line played a rough game, but Murray is one of the only players in the box who hasn’t been able to put together a noteworthy performance this season. So far his highest grade of the year came in week one when he was graded out at 58.1. For context, a 60.0 is considered “average.” He has four games below 50.0 and a season-low of 28.4.