Many consider 4.0 yards per carry as the barometer of a successful ground attack.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Chargers more than doubled that number.
In fact, late in the third quarter the team was averaging 9.1 yards per carry. That means Melvin Gordon’s eight-yard run in the closing seconds of the quarter actually decreased the team’s average yards per carry.
Think about that for a second.
An eight-yard carry 45 minutes into the game brought down the team’s rushing average.
Running out the clock in the fourth quarter brought the team’s average down over two whole yards, but the Chargers still ended with an incredibly impressive 6.8 yards per carry.
Overall, the Bolts churned out 246 yards on the ground, making it the Chargers’ best day running the football in a decade. The last time they went over 240 yards rushing was December 28, 2008 vs. the Denver Broncos. Sunday was also the first time the team eclipsed 200 yards on the ground since Nov. 6, 2016 vs. the Tennessee Titans.
“We had a heck of a plan, and they executed it,” said Philip Rivers. “We talk a lot about balance, and I think that’s what helps some of those run actions. We haven’t had many days when we’ve ran more than we’ve thrown, from what I can remember. Those are fun. I’ll take those any time we can get them.”
Gordon led the way on Sunday with 18 carries for 132 yards, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. He also had three rushing touchdowns, giving him 24 for his career. That number is tied for the second-most in the NFL since 2006. He also moved past Ryan Mathews for the sixth-most career rushing touchdowns in Chargers history.
“I love the way he’s running,” Head Coach Anthony Lynn said. “I’m telling you, he’s inspiring our whole sideline with the way he runs.”
He’s also inspiring anyone who touches the rock.
In addition to Gordon, Austin Ekeler carried the ball seven times for 60 yards (8.6 ypc) while Keenan Allen had four rushes for 41 yards (10.3 ypc).
“The running game was clicking,” Lynn said. “The guys up front were knocking them off the ball. We were giving them some misdirection and keeping them off balance to try and keep the linebackers on their heels and off their toes. We just did a good job. (Chargers Offensive Coordinator) Ken (Whisenhunt) did a great job of calling that game today and just keeping them off balance.”
Gordon was also quick to credit Whiz for calling a perfect game.
“We’re hitting on all cylinders,” he said. “They didn’t know what is coming and we were all over them. We were on top of things today and that opened up the run game a lot.”
While Gordon and Ekeler will get most of the credit, they’re the first to tell you it’s the Bolts’ blockers who’re the real heroes.
For instance, while Gordon found the end zone three times, the first thing he did was laud the other 10 men on the field.
“It’s a credit to everyone around me,” the running back said of his three TDs. “Not just the offensive line, but the receivers and tight ends are blocking. Everyone contributed to everything. So, hats off to everyone…. (The offensive line) is playing well as a group. They understand the scheme and what’s going on. That makes it a lot better for me. The harder we run, the harder they block. We’re only getting better.”
“Shout out to the o-line and the receivers because when I was in the game, I wasn’t touched I was 10 yards down the field!” added Ekeler. “The o-line was incredible. They were on their game today, so props to them for being out there and showing out.”
At the same time, those doing the dirty work say they’re inspired by the Bolts’ backs because they know if they can give them an extra millisecond, that’ll be enough to break off a big gain.
“It’s awesome,” said Sean Culkin. “Runs that should be three or four yards turn into seven or eight-yard gains. Being involved in the run game, we’re just trying to hold those (blocks) as long as we can because knowing that if we do, we can assist an explosive playmaker.”