Here’s what we learned, what we heard and what comes next after the Chargers’ 34-24 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday, which evened their record at 2-2 going into next Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns:
TAKEAWAYS = VICTORIES
It can’t really be that simple, or can it?
The Chargers had three interceptions and no turnovers while defeating the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1. Justin Herbert’s interception was the lone turnover during their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. Herbert was intercepted once and fumbled once in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3.
Defensive backs Nasir Adderley and Bryce Callahan had interceptions early and late during the Chargers’ victory over the Texans in Week 4 at NRG Stadium, making up for DeAndre Carter’s fumble on a kickoff return. Adderley’s interception set up the game’s first touchdown and Callahan’s sealed the game.
What’s more, Adderley’s interception was especially important because it set an early tone for the Chargers, who built leads of 21-0 and 27-7 before the Texans rallied to make a game of it in the fourth quarter. Herbert completed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Gerald Everett for the first of his two TD passes.
“It was big because we went down there and scored,” All-Pro safety Derwin James Jr. said of the interception on the Texans’ opening possession and Herbert’s touchdown pass to Everett on the Chargers’ first possession.” It was like we got the ball first. (Adderley) made a play on it and we went in and scored.
“That was big.”
So, to review: Takeaways are good and giveaways are bad.
So, the Chargers didn’t exactly make anyone forget LaDainian Tomlinson when they rushed for 81 yards on 27 carries, with touchdowns of 10 and 20 yards by Austin Ekeler in the second quarter against the Texans. After all, Houston’s Dameon Pierce gained 131 yards on 14 carries all by himself.
But the Chargers did find a way to get Ekeler involved in a bigger way Sunday than in their first three games of the season. Ekeler’s rushing touchdowns were the Chargers’ first of the season. He also scored a game-clinching touchdown on a pass from Herbert in the fourth quarter Sunday.
“I’ve got some catching up to do,” Ekeler said, referring to the fact that he scored 20 touchdowns (12 rushing) last season. “It’s a start. It’s not where we’re trying to get to. We need to continue to build. It starts with one game and getting some type of production. So that’s where we are right now.”
Ekeler gained a season-high 60 yards on 13 carries against the Texans, topping his previous best of 39 yards on 14 carries against the Chiefs.
Jamaree Salyer made the most of his first NFL start while replacing injured left tackle Rashawn Slater. Salyer was on the field for all 70 of the Chargers’ offensive snaps on Sunday, including 41 while blocking in protection of Herbert. He didn’t allow a sack, a pressure or a hurried throw.
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Salyer earned a league-best 90.4 pass-blocking grade among all offensive tackles in Week 4 from the folks at PFF, who grade out players at each position each week. Salyer moved from left guard to left tackle after Slater was injured in the Chargers’ loss to the Jaguars.
“Yeah, yeah, the rookie coming in and holding it down,” Ekeler said of Salyer’s debut after he had only played on special teams in the season’s first three games. “He was solid. It was really good to see him stepping in and playing at a high level. Looking for him to do it again now.”
WHAT COMES NEXT?
The Chargers (2-2) head to Cleveland to face the Browns (2-2) with Herbert emerging relatively unscathed Sunday in his second game since sustaining fractured rib cartilage in their loss to Kansas City on Sept. 15. Herbert was sacked once while throwing for 340 yards and two touchdowns against Houston.
“It’s getting better,” he said. “Thankful for the offensive line for keeping me upright.”