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Los Angeles Chargers: How offensive players fared in big games

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - DECEMBER 13: Wide receiver Mike Williams #81 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches a two-point conversion with 4 seconds remaining in the game to put the Chargers up 29-28 on the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 13, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - DECEMBER 13: Wide receiver Mike Williams #81 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches a two-point conversion with 4 seconds remaining in the game to put the Chargers up 29-28 on the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 13, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
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Following the 2018 season, let’s take a look at which Chargers players show up (and who disappears) when the spotlight is the brightest…

The Los Angeles Chargers boast a number of stars on their roster, all capable of dominating any given opponent. However, I want to look at how they did on the biggest stages, in the team’s most crucial moments. Who performs when the team needs them?

The seven games I am referring to are all from the regular season, and are as follows:

  • Week 1 vs Chiefs
  • Week 3 at Rams
  • Week 7 vs Titans (London)
  • Week 9 at Seahawks
  • Week 13 at Steelers
  • Week 15 at Chiefs
  • Week 16 vs Ravens

All division match ups are important, but the Denver Broncos and certainly the Oakland Raiders were never good enough to be considered “big games”. Those seven games highlight something different, whether that be a tough opponent, a prime time contest, or a game played far away from home. Each player will be evaluated based on their performance in those games, though not all made appearances in all seven. Players with minimal impact, like Travis Benjamin and Virgil Green, will not appear on this list.

How did the most important Chargers players fare on offense? Let’s take a look!

WR Tyrell Williams (Seven games)

Playing in all seven contests, Tyrell Williams averaged 2.57 catches, 38.28 yards, and 0.43 touchdowns per game. While exploding for 118 yards and a 75-yard touchdown against the Tennessee Titans, Williams also posted games of eight yards, 22 yards, and 14 yards at home against the Chiefs, on the road facing the Rams, and on the road versus the Steelers, respectively. No. 16 was frequently absent during the Chargers’ biggest games, something that should give the team pause while considering giving their developed receiver a big contract.

Grade: D

RB Melvin Gordon (Four games)

Unfortunately, injuries kept star running back Melvin Gordon from playing in three major contests (TEN, PIT, KC) in 2018, in which the team surprisingly won all three games. However, in the four big games he was able to play, No. 28 posted an average of 106.75 total yards and 0.75 touchdowns on 18.25 touches per game.

It is difficult to evaluate Gordon’s appearance at home against the Ravens, as he was coming off of an injury that kept him out for three weeks. In his other three games, Gordon gashed opponents for 373 total yards, but was held to just 54 against Baltimore. His injuries, combined with a tough Ravens defense, keep his total numbers low.

Grade: B

Keenan Allen (Six games)

Yes, he did start in all seven games, but an early injury against the Chiefs disqualifies that appearance. In his six games, Keenan Allen out-played Tyrell Williams: 6.3 catches 92.33 yards, and 0.33 touchdowns per game. Allen showed up to ball as every No. 1 receiver should, posting double the catches and yards of his WR2 counterpart.

No. 13’s biggest moment came against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which he caught a whopping 14 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown. He was unstoppable.

Grade: A-

Austin Ekeler (Five games)

As the proclaimed strongest pound-for-pound player on the team, Austin Ekeler demonstrated that he is the perfect complimentary back to Gordon: 56 touches, 342 total yards, one touchdown. They aren’t elite-back totals, but the average demonstrate his potential; at 6.11 yards per touch, his average exceeds that of Gordon’s and includes games of 7.8, 11.8, and 7.0 yards per touch in 2018 in three of those big games.

Ekeler’s numbers, unfortunately, are hampered heavily by his lackluster starting performances against the Titans and Steelers, in which he was held to just 3.17 yards per touch. Play-calling seemed to fail him in those games, but it nevertheless does impact his final grade.

Grade: B-

Mike Williams (Seven games)

A year removed from missing multiple games to injury, Mike Williams went on to have a highly productive season with the Chargers, often demonstrating the potential that made him the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

In seven games played (of which only one was an official start), No. 81 averaged 3.14 catches, 54.57 receiving yards, and one touchdown per contest. His seven total touchdowns (six receiving, one rushing) in big games led all receivers by a large margin, highlighted by a dominant three touchdown performance in the team’s biggest win of the year on the road against the Chiefs.

Often the second or third option at wide receiver, Williams edged Allen in yards per catch and averaged a score in every major game. If not for the entire offense’s poor performance at home against Baltimore, the former Clemson receiver would have had even better numbers.

Grade: A

Philip Rivers (Seven games)

This one comes with the most stats:

  • 159-244 (65.16 percent completion)
  • 1,977 yards (282.43 per game)
  • 13 touchdowns (1.85 per game)
  • Five interceptions (0.71 per game)
  • 101.3 average rating

Philip Rivers was an early-MVP candidate for a reason, and those stats nearly reflect that. The standard for most quarterbacks is simple: Complete two thirds of your passes, have at the very worst twice as many touchdowns as interceptions, and win games. At 65.16 percent, a 13:5 TD:INT ratio, and a 4-3 record, Rivers represents something near that standard. In the three losses, Rivers still averaged 277 yards, 1.67 touchdowns, and a 87.03 rating per game.

Grade: B

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