The LA Chargers ran the ball exceptionally well in their 16-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Here’s Austin Ekeler’s grade for the game.
With what was a pretty lackluster LA Chargers offensive playbook Week 1, Austin Ekeler still established himself as a good ball carrier in Cincinnati.
Ekeler had himself a great day rushing the ball, considering how awful the offensive game plan looked altogether. Ekeler’s final stat line for the day was 19 carries for 84 yards (averaging out to 4.4 yards per carry) with no touchdowns. Through the air, he had just one reception on one target which went for a measly three yards.
So what grade do I give Ekeler for his performance against the Bengals? I think a B is about right, and here’s why.
Breaking down Austin Ekeler’s B grade:
When the ball was in his hands, Ekeler did what he needed to do and he did it well. However, the ball was not in his hands enough even though that is no fault of his own. However, I cannot say he played an A+ game without cracking even 100 scrimmage yards and not finding his way into the endzone.
The biggest positive from this game for me is that Ekeler continues to prove that he can be a feature back for the LA Chargers. He is not just a change of pace type of player as we previously thought when Melvin Gordon was the team’s primary ball carrier (what a time that was).
He could get 20-25 carries in a game, and I do not feel there is any problem with that. However, as a running back with almost 1000 receiving yards last season, he must get the ball in his hands more.
MUST-READ: Grading the team’s position groups in its dramatic win over the Bengals
When trying to think of anything negative about Ekeler’s play, there was really nothing whatsoever that stuck out very clearly. As stated before, when the man touched the ball, he was pretty damn good with it. He didn’t turn it over, and didn’t have any drops as he was only targeted once in the entire game.
The only thing preventing Austin Ekeler from earning an A grade for this game was the play calling of Shane Steichen. Tyrod Taylor should be the perfect quarterback to get Austin Ekeler the ball in the open field and let him do his thing against the opposing defense.
The LA Chargers can certainly go back to the drawing board before they line up against the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs at SoFi Stadium. Get your best players the opportunity to make the plays they’re capable of making, and Austin Ekeler could for sure see a bump in his grade regardless of the outcome of the game.
3 things we learned from the Panthers’ loss at the Bucs
The dust has now settled on a second consecutive defeat to start the season for the Carolina Panthers.
Little was expected of the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium against the Buccaneers, who are aiming for big things in 2020 after a number of eye-catching acquisitions in free agency. A disappointing first half left them too much to do after the interval. But the number of mistakes made on both sides of the ball was also telling.
This is a work in progress for this young group. They didn’t have much time to adjust to one another prior to competitive action getting underway and this has really come across in their first two fixtures.
We have been saying for a while now that things might get worse before they get better in Carolina. Their expectations going into the campaign were at an all-time low. But if this concerning trend continues throughout the season then it might actually be even more problematic than first feared.
There is much work to be done before the Panthers make the long trip to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers next weekend. Anthony Lynn’s men looked hugely impressive against the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs or Sunday. So it will be another stern test of Carolina’s credentials.
Let’s take a look at some of the big things we learned from the Panthers’ perspective during their 31-17 reverse at the Bucs.
Darnell Mooney ascends to second WR in Chicago Bears win
It took two games, but the Chicago Bears may have a new Wide Receiver Two
The ascension of Darnell Mooney has been exciting. If you have been reading our blog, you would know that we highlighted Mooney as a potential Taylor Gabriel replacement back before the NFL draft. Now that the Chicago bears have drafted him, the role is starting to come to fruition.
While we assumed that no offseason for a rookie would mean a slow start, Darnell Mooney has had anything but that.
Mooney has been targeted six times this year, hauling in all six passes. He has 74 receiving yards, and a touchdown. Not a bad start for the young rookie.
What is even more impressive is how quickly he ascended up the depth chart. In week one, he was behind Anthony Miller, Ted Ginn and even Javon Wims on the pecking order.
On Sunday, he was second amongst wide receivers in snaps. Yes, that means more than Anthony Miller, who many assumed was the number two wide receiver.
This has essentially turned into plug and play when it comes to replacing Gabriel. Gabriel has jumped out, and Mooney is slowly but surely taking all of the snaps from Gabriel last year.
After a performance with a touchdown, and a few key downfield blocks, the idea would be that Mooney will only see more snaps week three, not less. With that in mind, the cat seems to be out of the bag and it will be hard to put Mooney back in.
Looking at how Mooney has produced compared to Gabriel through two weeks, it is almost as if the Bears did not lose anything.
Rece Rece Rece Rk Player Rec Yds TD 1 Taylor Gabriel 3.8 41.6 0.2 2 Darnell Mooney 3.0 37.0 0.5
Expect Mooney to stay in the Gabriel and continue to be the Chicago Bears second outside receiver. This will keep Anthony Miller in the slot, and keep the Bears offense looking similar to what Matt Nagy had envisioned when he signed Gabriel.
How long can the Kansas City Chiefs get away with winning ugly?
The Chiefs need to get some things cleaned up if they want to keep rolling.
The Kansas City Chiefs pulled out a thrilling overtime victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. It was a very ugly game, but the Chiefs managed to find enough magic late in the game, and Harrison Butker was as clutch as any kicker in history. That was enough to get the job done.
Last week I wrote that the NFL should be terrified of the Chiefs because they dominated the Houston Texans despite not having their “A” game. While being 2-0 is fantastic, and the way they pulled out the win on Sunday was thrilling, at some point the Chiefs are going to need to actually play up to their potential.
Don’t misunderstand me. I was on cloud nine after Butker made that third overtime field goal attempt. I was yelling and cheering and jumping around my living room. It was fantastic. It was much the same when Patrick Mahomes broke out the “Mahomes Magic” on an unbelievable 54-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill. This was certainly a much more exciting win than the win over the Texans, where they basically just cruised through the game.
The problem is that next week the Chiefs face arguably their toughest opponent of the 2020 regular season in the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have looked flat out dominant in their first two games, and if the Chiefs want to move on to 3-0, they are going to need to find a way to actually win by putting forth their best effort. They won’t be able to coast along on cruise control like they did against Houston, and they certainly won’t be able to play bad football for three quarters like they did against Los Angeles.
Now, it’s still a good thing that the Chiefs are such a talented team that they can be sitting at 2-0 despite not having played a really good game yet. It also shows a lot of determination to pull a game like Sunday’s out and have a quarterback and a kicker that are clutch enough to get the job done. However, there are three things that I believe the Chiefs absolutely must clean up if they want to beat the Ravens that were glaring issues against the Chargers.
First, the offensive line has to clean up the protection. Patrick Mahomes was harassed all game long, and for three plus quarters ,it really took the offense out of their rhythm. Mahomes was having to get rid of the ball so quickly that it felt like it took an eternity to complete a pass to a wide receiver.
While we’ve always known that the interior of the Chiefs line was a little susceptible to pressure, the tackles were exposed at times in this game as well. That is not something that we’ve come to expect in recent years.
Pressure can be a drive killer ,and if the Ravens are playing ball control offense, the Chiefs can’t afford protection problems to kill drives and put the ball right back in the Ravens’ hands.
Second, the costly penalties have to be cleaned up. The Chiefs are really lucky that the numerous penalties they had late in the Chargers game didn’t cost them the win. The Chiefs ended the game with 11 penalties for 90 yards and several of those came at awful times late in the game.
There was the roughing the passer penalty on Chris Jones that almost allowed the Chargers to get in the end zone in regulation. Then there were the two holding calls on the Chiefs final drive of regulation that likely prevented them from winning the game before overtime. There was also the false start on the game-winning field goal that made Butker have to kick two more 58-yard field goals. Overall, the Chiefs were very fortunate the penalties didn’t cost them the game.
Third, the defense simply must tackle better next week. Period. The Baltimore Ravens are a smash-mouth team that ran the ball 37 times for 230 yards on Sunday. The Chargers showed on Sunday that the strategy of extending long clock eating drives and keeping the Chiefs offense off-the-field is a good strategy to beat them, they just couldn’t quite pull it off.
The Ravens are a significantly better team than the Chargers, and if the Chiefs tackle as poorly against the Ravens as they did against the Chargers, the Ravens will dominate the time of possession. That will prevent the Chiefs offense from having enough opportunities to get the score high enough to make a Chiefs victory possible.
I don’t know on how many drives the defense allowed to be extended because of extra yards the Chargers picked up after a missed tackle on Sunday, but it was a significant amount. Nobody tackled well—not the defensive line, not the linebackers, not the secondary. It was a major issue that has to be better next week if the Chiefs want to assert themselves as the clear frontrunner in the AFC.
If they allow the Ravens to physically dominate them all game long and come away with a head-to-head win, it will be an uphill battle to reclaim the top spot in the AFC and the lone first round bye in the playoffs this season. A huge part of preventing that will be better tackling on defense.
The Chiefs pulled off an exciting comeback win on Sunday. Mahomes once again showed that he is the most amazing quarterback in the league and no lead is ever safe against him. Butker made a strong case for being the best kicker in the league. The bottom line is that the Chiefs are 2-0. That’s all that really matters today,
However, next Monday, when they line up against the Ravens for their first true test against a fellow NFL powerhouse, the time for “cruise control” and “ugly wins” is over. The Chiefs have had two weeks to knock off the rust and cobwebs. Next week they need to finally play like the dominant Super Bowl favorite that we all think they are—otherwise they run the risk of losing that title to the Ravens.
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