The Los Angeles Chargers, outside of a fluky 46-yard touchdown that was greatly aided by an uncalled false start penalty that surely affected how the defense would play, looked like they were going to have a rough night on offense by halftime. Part of the reason for that was because they weren’t able to move the ball on the ground at all.
Absent Pro Bowler Melvin Gordon, who suffered a minor injury in the Chargers’ last game, Los Angeles couldn’t get anything going on the ground. With Austin Ekeler at the helm, they managed just two net rushing yards by halftime, which was the third-fewest the Steelers had allowed at Heinz Field history.
And one of those yards came from wide receiver Travis Benjamin on an end-around that was snuffed out by L.J. Fort.
Ekeler’s first two carries went for no gain on their first two drives before he managed a pair of one-yard gains on the Chargers’ third possession, bringing his total to two. It stayed at two on his fifth carry when he was stuffed by Stephon Tuitt and Mike Hilton, and then he was hit for a loss of three yards by Cameron Heyward and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi. He finished with just one more carry for one yard by halftime.
So what the hell happened after that? He would pick up 20 more rushing yards on five second-half carries, but it was rookie Justin Jackson who seemingly came out of nowhere for the Chargers, rushing for 63 yards on just eight carries. He also had a big reception of 19 yards.
Jackson was asked about what the difference was after the game, and rather than credit himself, he said that it was due to a halftime adjustment, saying that they made some corrections in their blocking schemes and how they attacked the defense.
It obviously worked, as they went from averaging .25 yards per carry in the first half to well over six yards per carry in the second, gaining 83 yards on the ground through the third and fourth quarters. It was a bit of a flip of the script from the Jacksonville Jaguars game two weeks ago in which if was the Steelers who made the halftime adjustment to shut things down over the final 30 minutes.
And you can be sure that it had a big impact in how the game played out, as the Chargers scored 23 unanswered points to go up 30-23 and then authored a game-winning field goal drive as time expired. Their two go-ahead drives featured a lot of running, the first culminating in an 18-yard Jackson touchdown run.
Every time you think you’ve whacked your last mole, another one surfaces and rears its ugly head. The Steelers probably felt that they had this game well in hand at several points before letting is slip away, and one of many reasons for that was because they allowed the running game to get out of hand in the second half.