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Chargers Fading; Watson Dominates in LA

The Los Angeles Chargers fell for the second week in a row to another dominant QB performance, this time at the hands of QB Deshaun Watson Sunday.

QB Deshaun Watson looked capable and driven to lead his team in Los Angeles to a tightly contested win, and did so decisively.

Sep 22, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) looks to pass during the second half against the Los Angeles Chargers at Dignity Health Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Houston May be AFC South Favorite

The Houston Texans have bright spots shown through in most facets of their game-plan. Head Coach Bill O' Brien should be credited for this. Last week they out-muscled Jacksonville. This week, QB Deshaun Watson looked capable and driven to lead his team in Los Angeles to a tightly contested win, and did so decisively. With young pieces surrounding WR Deandre Hopkins, their offense is going to only grow and compete on an even higher level through the season, complemented strongly by a top 10 pass rushing rotation. J.J. Watt is looking like his old self again, and despite contributing greatly by taking double team blocks and chops all season long, his numbers are starting to show up on the stat sheet as well. With two sacks on the day, he’s surely excited about what 2019 holds for his fully healthy defense, and his counterpart Whitney Mercilus back in the rotation. With the Texans’ strong showing on Sunday, several weaknesses in the Chargers were exposed more deeply.

Sep 22, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) works against Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Sam Tevi (69) as he rushes quarterback Philip Rivers (17) during the third quarter at Dignity Health Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers losing ground

A sound first half of defense for the Los Angeles Chargers was erased in the third quarter, after Deshaun Watson drove the Texans down on consecutive touchdown scoring drives. An inability to close out close games has prevailed as a more pressing issue than formerly assumed for the Chargers this season. This may derail a what was presumed to be a promising 2019 from Los Angeles who finished just one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs last season.

Although the Chargers’ offense has a wealth of contributors and dynamic weapons at virtually every skill position, their failure to execute in the final minutes of close games has cost them two wins in a row. QB Phillip Rivers and company have had substantially less success since their season opener win against an Andrew Luck-less Colts’ team. Their third down rate was an abysmal 5/15 (33%) on the day, and the Texans’ ability to rally and tackle proved pivotal to slowing the Chargers’ high volume of mid-range passing. In an offense heavily reliant on the air attack, it’s unusual to expect a big game from a fill-in RB.

Austin Ekeler, Melvin Gordon’s relief in a contract holdout, had his first sub 100 yard game of the season, which was more of a tribute to the Texans’ defensive performance than a lack of touches. Considering his last two weeks of production, this lack of contribution will be an outlier(surely?) on the season. With no contract close in sight, expect to see Ekeler continue to be the featured back, spelled by Justin Jackson on longer drives and specific down & distances.

Sep 22, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) avoids a tackle by Houston Texans strong safety Justin Reid (20) to score a touchdown during the first half at Dignity Health Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
With HB Austin Ekeler’s lack of production, WR Keenan Allen picked up the slack, and continued to establish himself as a top five WR in the NFL.

Reeling in 13 catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns, his consistency to game-break in key match-ups will prove his position as a crucial asset in the closing stretch of the season. Regardless of his individual success, wins are all that matters in the NFL, and right now the Chargers aren’t winning. It’s difficult to point to a weakness by position (despite their slue of injuries including starting S Derwin James) because the Chargers have drafted and collected a bounty of talent. If the Chargers can rally, and perform as a cohesive unit they may be able to stop their 2019-2020 season from slipping away. They need a spark now.

No Shenanigans, Just Football.

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