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2 winner, 2 losers from Chargers-Patriots

The Chargers got a big game from Khalil Mack but Austin Ekeler and the running game once again underwhelmed.

Los Angeles Chargers v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Chargers needed every bit of a monster performance from Khalil Mack and the pass rush to keep the Patriots at bay in a rainy and wet 6-0 win on the road in Foxborough. The Patriots were able to run it on command but struggled to sustain long drives as punter JK Scott kept them pinned deep in their territory. Once starting running back Rhamondre Stevenson was knocked out of the game by rookie Tuli Tuipulotu, they couldn’t muster enough momentum to ever break inside the red zone. Their fortunes weren’t helped much by young passer Bailey Zappe being harassed all game long by Mack and Co.

In the end, it was a boring, but much-needed win for the Chargers who moved to 5-7 on the year with five games to go.

Here are this week’s winner and losers.

Winners

P JK Scott

Scott’s performance against the Patriots might have been the best of his Chargers career. He consistently helped the Chargers win the battle for field position and on multiple occasions backed the Patriots up inside their own 10-yard line. His best play came in the second half when Scott pinned the Patriots at their own one-yard line with a perfect “coffin corner” punt. Unfortunately, the defense immediately let him down as New England gained 28 yards on their first play of the drive.

Overall, this was great to see from Scott who was essentially the only bright spot for the Chargers (other than our other winner) in their rainy, wet victory over the Patriots.

EDGE Khalil Mack

Prior to the 2022 season, there were many in the media and across the NFL landscape that believed Mack was too washed to be much of an asset to the Chargers.

How wrong they were.

After notching eight sacks in his first season as a Bolt, Mack is now up to 15 sacks following his two-sacks performance against the Patriots. That total ties his single-season career high that he set all the way back in 2015 as a second-year player in Oakland. As of the end of Sunday’s game, Mack now has 99.5 career sacks to his name. With five more games remaining this season, Mack has more than enough chances to set a new career high while also finally breaking through the 100-sack threshold for his incredible career.

Losers

TE Donald Parham

Parham was the author of multiple drops on Sunday afternoon, both of which seemingly slipped right through his hands. The first would have helped put the Chargers inside the red zone while the second came on a failed third-down conversion which ended a promising drive.

We’ve all come to love Parham as an underdog story. He’s been fun to watch when he’s used properly within the offense and it’s always exciting to watch him find the end zone. Unfortunately, he’s had a few too many outings where he’s only further cemented that he’s not meant to be much more than an accessory tight end and will likely never move into a true starting role in the NFL. These weren’t the first few drops from him this season, either.

I’d personally like to see Parham continue being a member of this offense past 2023 but he’ll have to have a strong end to the season to make sure he can stick around through a potential coaching chance this offseason.

Running Backs and Offensive Line

How long can this misery last?

The Chargers haven’t been able to run the football efficiently for the better part of the past decade and things are about as bad as they’ve been thus far in 2023. Since 2013, the Chargers have had just two seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher (Ryan Mathews in 2013 and Melvin Gordon in 2017). Gordon came near that number again in 2016 (997) and Austin Ekeler has been fairly close to the threshold the past two seasons (915 in 2022 and 911 in 2021). At the same time, the Chargers have averaged under four yards per carry in six of the past 10 years, four of which they averaged exactly 3.8 yards per tote.

This year, the Chargers are once again under a four-yard average at 3.9 but that number is also buoyed a bit by Derius Davis’ 8.2 YPC and Herbert’s 4.4. If you take just Ekeler and Joshua Kelley’s production this season, they’re combining to average 3.7.

Of the Chargers’ four best seasons in terms of rushing efficiency where they did top four yards per carry, it’s not surprising to see that the 12-4 2018 campaign sits at the top. The Bolts average 4.7 yards per tote as a team behind the duo of Gordon and Ekeler, both of whom individually averaged over five yards per carry. At the same time, Gordon led the team with just 885 yards, the fifth-highest total for a team leader in that span.

So while this isn’t all to say that the Chargers need to find a bonafide 1,000-yard rusher, simply being able to run the ball better on a weekly basis could go a long way in rectifying a lot of their “bad luck” most weeks. That starts with both sides of the coin here: the backs and linemen need to be better.