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Ekeler Leads Bolts Offense with 3-Touchdown Performance


Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Bandon Staley, running back Austin Ekeler, quarterback Justin Herbert and others after a Week 4 win in Houston.

Ekeler shines with 3-score performance

After scoring 20 touchdowns last season, running back Austin Ekeler went the first three weeks of the 2022 season without finding the end zone. In Week 4, Ekeler and the Bolts run game sparked back to life against the Houston Texans, as Ekeler scored three total touchdowns in route to a 34-24 win.

After the Chargers win, Ekeler talked about how good it felt to make his return to the endzone.

"Oh man, it felt so good," Ekeler said. "I was deprived over here I was. Like, 'I have to get in there at least one time, I know I can get in there.'

"Had a few opportunities today, was able to capitalize," Ekeler added. "That's one week, so now it's let's do it again."

Ekeler showed off his versatility on Sunday by scoring two rushing touchdowns in just under three minutes early in the second quarter with a 10-yard rushing touchdown followed by a 20-yard rushing touchdown.

Ekeler's three scores accounted for 18 of the Bolts 34 points on offense, and his 14-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Justin Herbert late in the fourth quarter put the Bolts up by 10 points and helped seal the Week 4 win. That touchdown catch was also the 25th touchdown catch of his career, making him the youngest running back in the common draft era to reach 25 touchdown catches.

Head Coach Brandon Staley gave Ekeler a game ball for his standout performance and noted how important it was to have that type of performance from No. 30 to get the win in Houston.

"To get him going today was big," Staley said. "I felt like he played like a captain today. Beyond Austin's performance on the field, I felt like he really led our football team on offense, just played with the energy that he's known for and just a complete performance by Austin."

Salyer steady in NFL debut

Week 4 proved to be a big week in the life of rookie offensive lineman Jamaree Slayer. With starting left tackle Rashawn Slater officially added to Injured Reserve earlier this week, the Bolts were in need of a new left tackle.

Staley announced Wednesday that Salyer would make his NFL debut as the Bolts starting left tackle in Week 4.

In Slayer's debut he not only stepped up with little reps at left tackle, but he stood strong in his first NFL test. The offensive line as a whole had a strong outing, allowing zero sacks as veteran center Corey Linsley returned as well.

Ekeler took notice of the rookie's performance in protecting quarterback Justin Herbert and blocking in the run game.

"The rookie coming in and holding it down," Ekeler said. "For the most part he was holding it down, helping him chip just making sure, but he was solid.

"Really good to see, for him stepping in and playing at a high level. Looking for him to do it again now," Ekeler added.

Herbert also had high praise for Salyer, calling his performance "outstanding" during his post-game press conference.

"He stepped in there and I felt the time that I had back in the pocket. For a guy to be able to step up, first NFL game, first time playing, I thought he did an incredible job," Herbert said.

After the game, Staley gave Slayer one of two game balls for his performance and noted the type of player he showed he is in his first test as a NFL starter.

"He's a stud, calm, poised, strong. His teammates did a great job for [Jamaree] too. I'm really proud of [Jamaree]. He can build off it," Staley said. "He's really hard on himself.

"He's going to look at the tape and realize he can play better, but now that's been out there, you know, Jerry Hughes is a really quality rusher," Staley added. "To be able to go out there and hold his own, good start for him."

Bandy rises to the occasion in Houston

With Chargers wide receiver Jalen Guyton out for the season and veteran Keenan Allen ruled out for Sunday's game, the Bolts elevated second year receiver Michael Bandy from the practice squad on Saturday morning.

Bandy has familiarity with Houston as he made his NFL debut there last season when the Bolts needed depth at the receiver position.

Bandy, who was a standout at training camp and scored two touchdowns during the preseason, stepped up when his number was called and accounted for two big plays down the field.

In the second quarter Herbert connected with Bandy for 24 yards. A few plays later, he hauled in a 25 yard catch to help set up a 37-yard field goal for the Bolts to end the first half.

After the game Staley talked about the type of teammate and weapon Bandy is.

"Yeah, Mike has been ready. He's stayed ready," Staley said. "Very confident there in the two-minute drill at the end of the half. Able to locate him. He does what he always does.

"He's assignment-sound. He's a reliable target," Staley added. "He's got really good feel. Again, you got to show the depth of your team when some guys go out and I thought that him and Jason Moore stepped up and did a really good job for us today."

Herbert, who threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, recognized how important it is to have a receiver like Bandy make big plays in the absence of starting players on offense.

"To lose a couple guys here and there and be able to replace them and have some guys that maybe weren't expecting to play a ton make some huge plays in some big-time games, that's great to see and we'll keep doing that," Herbert said. "We're going to keep getting those guys ready, whoever's out there we're going to go play."

The Bolts now travel home with a 2-2 record and prepare to face the Cleveland Browns on the road in Week 5.

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