The Chargers host the Chiefs in Mexico City, where a victory will require a near-perfect game. Will they be able to use their running backs effectively?
There’s an issue at offensive tackle, and the Chargers have failed make any significant move to address it. Not only will that hurt Philip Rivers, but it will limit their running backs in the process.
On Thursday night, the Chargers struggled mightily to protect their quarterback, a result of both poor play and inexperience at the tackle position, particularly when Russell Okung was forced to miss the majority of the game with a groin injury.
For now, assume (unfortunately) Okung will miss the clash with the Chiefs, as he has not practiced at all and is currently a game-time decision.
Sub-par offensive tackles have not always prevented the Chargers from finding their running backs before:
Austin Ekeler refuses to stop scoring touchdowns
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) October 27, 2019
But, against the Raiders, it did. Austin Ekeler only caught two passes, and Melvin Gordon just one (for an average of 18 yards per reception). Rivers was under duress all game, but for a quarterback to throw 31 times but only get three passes off to his running backs is inexcusable. The problem: The running backs were asked to help out along the offensive line, rather than making a play.
Nowhere is this more apparent than on the team’s final drive of the game, where Ekeler was forced to chip a defender to help either Scott or Pipkins before attempting to leak out as a safety blanket option for Rivers. Of the eight plays ran, Ekeler had to block first six times, and by the time he turned around to try and give Rivers another option, the play was likely over. Only twice was he given a chance to run a route.
So in come the Chiefs, who are sixth in the league with three sacks per game. The Raiders, even with five sacks of Rivers on Thursday night, are still at 2.2 per game and ranked 24th. A better offense that can score more points paired with a defense that statistically has been better at getting after the quarterback is a recipe for disaster with this team. If the Chargers are forced to move away from their running game early on, or have to ask Ekeler or Gordon to help their struggling tackles, the best part of their offense will be limited.