The Chargers had to overcome some crucial injuries to get past the Atlanta Falcons, and they did, winning 20-17. They leaned on the arm and decision-making of quarterback Justin Herbert and running back Austin Ekeler.
It wasn’t perfect by any means, but sometimes a win is a win, and this win improved the Chargers to 5-3 on the season. Cameron Dicker is the third kicker the Chargers have used this season and he hit the 37-yard field goal that won the game for Los Angeles.
Here are the takeaways from Sunday’s game:
- Justin Herbert was a maestro.
There has been a lot of negative talk about the Chargers quarterback lately. What is forgotten is that he is missing Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, one of the better duos in the NFL. Allen has missed the equivalent of seven football games (played one half versus Raiders and one half versus the Seahawks). Guys haven’t stepped up at times.
After those two, there is a notable drop-off at the position, so he has tried to win games with the pieces given to him. On Sunday, he was able to pass the ball around and was patient with Josh Palmer, Michael Bandy, and DeAndre Carter.
Herbert was able to move the ball at necessary times and made big plays to set up Cameron Dicker for the game-winner.
The Chargers quarterback went 30/43 for 245 yards plus one touchdown. He did have an interception, but that was after Palmer popped-up a pass that should have been caught.
It was a good performance from Herbert on Sunday that led the team to victory.
- Austin Ekeler is good again.
It took Austin Ekeler some time to get going. He had no touchdowns in the first three weeks of the season, and it seemed like he would be in a slump.
Since then, he has scored ten touchdowns in five games. He has been on a tear. He had 21 touches on Sunday for 71 yards, but he added two touchdowns. Ekeler has a nose for the end zone right now, and he is not slowing down.
He almost gave the game away with an untimely fumble late in the game but lucky for him, it slipped out of Ta’Quon Graham’s hands and into Matt Feiler’s. The Chargers will continue to need him to step up until reinforcements come back.
- Offensive players stepped up.
Without Allen or Williams, guys stepped up. This is the Josh Palmer that fans saw during training camp. This was his best receiving game in a victory this season, catching eight passes for 106 yards.
Palmer showed maturity and only had one crucial mistake; the popped-up interception. He should have seen that pass in before turning around to see who is behind him.
DeAndre Carter had multiple catches on third down and even one on a crucial fourth down. He had five catches for 53 yards. Herbert squeezed one between two defenders that Carter turned into a 23-yard gain.
Gerald Everett caught five passes for 36 yards. He was the victim of misfortune because he turned a screen pass into a big gain but unfortunately, left guard Matt Feiler was called for illegal man downfield. He also had a drop to start the third quarter.
- Defense got the offense to wake up but still struggled.
For the fourth straight game, the Chargers allowed an opponent to start the game with a 10-0 lead. The Falcons’ offense was mixing in the run and pass well, moving the ball up at will, which was impressive.
The defense settled down on the Falcons’ third drive, and on third down, Drue Tranquill came through and sacked Marcus Mariota. Thanks to that stop, the Chargers offense woke up. That led to an Ekeler one-yard touchdown.
They stepped up again when on the following drive Derwin James blitzed and got to Mariota. That led to a Herbert to Ekeler connection touchdown.
The defense did give up 201 yards on the ground, which is worrisome, especially with the Chargers getting ready to face Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel. They need to try to find ways to stop the opposing running game.
Some luck went into the victory also because there were some break downs in coverage by the safeties. Luckily for the safeties, Mariota couldn’t get his playmakers the ball.
- Injuries continue.
The Chargers lost defensive tackle Austin Johnson and right tackle Trey Pipkins during the game to two different injuries.
Johnson left the stadium in crutches, according to The Athletic’s Daniel Popper. Staley told reporters that they expect it to be an MCL injury.
No word on Pipkins. Will know more on Monday when the media speaks to Staley.