The LA Chargers moved to 2-2 on the season with a 34-24 win over the Houston Texans. The Bolts were coasting in the game but a pretty poor second half allowed Houston to get back in it and provide a scare to the Chargers. At the end of the day, a win is a win.
This is the most points that the Bolts have scored all season and they did so with Keenan Allen still being out of the picture. Not only that, but they did so with a rookie starting his first NFL game at left tackle in Jamaree Salyer, who looked fantastic in his opportunity.
Granted, Houston is a less talented defensive team than some of the other teams that the Chargers have played but it became clear what is at the root of the team's offensive success in Week 4 — and it might not be what you think.
Running the ball is the key to unlocking the Chargers offense.
The LA Chargers came into this game as the worst rushing team in the league and they put together a much better showing in Week 4. Austin Ekeler found the endzone three times (two via the ground) and the Bolts finished with a season-high 86 rushing yards from their backs.
That still might not seem like a great number but when the Chargers were humming offensively it is when they relied on the run game. The first half was great for the offensive side of the ball as the team was getting Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley involved to jolt the offense.
In the second half, up until that last drive, the Chargers did not run the ball very much. Granted, when they did run it in the second half it was mostly with Sony Michel, who should not be part of this gameplan moving forward. It has become abundantly clear in four weeks that Michel cannot cut it.
The advanced analytics will tell you that the Chargers had more offensive success on average when they pass one early downs, even in this game when they ran the ball well. While that is true, that also goes to the nature of throwing the ball with an elite quarterback vs. running the ball. EPA is always going to lean towards throwing it.
However, what is important to note is that the Chargers had the best EPA in early passing downs in this game because of the run. In the first three weeks of the season, teams didn't have to respect the run game at all. Play-action passes were not respected and defenses could drop back into coverage.
But when you are running the ball well and the other team has to respect that it opens up the field and these play-action crosses that we saw Herbert throw to in this game. Do you want the Chargers to have more chances to go deep instead of throwing passes just in front of the line of scrimmage? They need to run the ball more on early downs.
That being said, the Chargers cannot afford to run the ball a high number of times if they are performing as they did in the first three weeks. Houston is the worst run defense in the league so it was no surprise that LA succeeded. Now the team has to find a way to translate that into other matchups so they can better maximize their offense.