The Chargers needed to find their offensive balance Sunday if they were to keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and the 7-1 Green Bay Packers, a team the Bolts hadn’t beaten since 1984. Not only did the Chargers’ running backs produce their best performance of the season, but defensive dominance from Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram helped defeat the Packers 26-11 from ROKiT Field at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“I feel like if we play clean football, we can go toe to toe with anyone,” running back Melvin Gordon said. “We’re just coming out here playing great football. Football has different momentums, switching back and forth, but I feel like if we play how we’re supposed to, we can stay in any game.”
Gordon, who finished the game with a season-high 80 yards rushing and two rushing touchdowns, says that entering the second half of yesterday’s game, he started to feel like his old Pro-Bowl self again.
“I’m getting in a groove,” Gordon said. “Before the first half, I felt like I was kind of sluggish. I felt like I was kind of slow and I was like, ‘I have to pick it up.’ I knew we had a chance to run the ball. We were chopping five yards here, five yards there and we had a chance to actually seal the game.”
Fellow running back Austin Ekeler, who amassed 93 total yards himself, said that he’s glad to see Gordon performing at his best.
“Just like last year, (we saw) a little glimpse of… the 1-2 punch that we’re used to seeing,” Ekeler said. “So, I’m glad (Gordon) was feeling himself today. Before the game he was like, ‘You know I got my four games in,’ that was his preseason. Now, it’s time to row, get the old Melvin Gordon back.”
Head coach Anthony Lynn concurred, stating that his and new offensive coordinator Shane Steichen’s focus on heading into Sunday’s matchup was to improve the running game, while also establishing a “fast-paced offense.”
“I thought he did an outstanding job,” Lynn said of Steichen. “He really did. He prepared well all week and the players have a lot of confidence in him and the coaching staff.”
Lynn went on to say that Steichen’s “energy and passion” for the game is contagious around the offense and that the newly minted OC has a bright future ahead of him.
“He’s going to be around for a long time,” Lynn said.
Meanwhile, the Chargers put forth their most comprehensive defensive performance of the season thus-far, limiting the Packers offense to 184 total net yards as well as zero points through the first two-and-a-half quarters.
“You have to give the Chargers all the credit in the world,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said. “They came out and they came ready to play. They were well prepared. They definitely coached better than we did today... That’s life in the National Football League. You better come and bring your A-game each and every week, or you’ll have a performance like we had today.”
Rodgers, who was leading the NFL in passing yards over the past two weeks, couldn’t muster any offensive production due to Bosa and Ingram.
Bosa’s sack of Aaron Rodgers on the Packers’ opening drive of the game halted Green Bay’s offensive momentum right from the start.
Meanwhile, Melvin Ingram was also a force to be reckoned with, tallying his 44th career sack for the Chargers, a total which pushed him ahead of Shawne Merriman for sixth in team history.
While stopping Rodgers had the defensive end feeling accomplished, Ingram wasn’t surprised that the defense was able to contain one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
“That’s a Hall of Famer on the other side of the ball — so, it’s always good to go out and get a victory,” Ingram said. “We expect to play like that. It’s not a surprise — it’s what we expect to do. We work day-in and day-out and know what type of players we have on this team, so we expect to play like that.”
Rodgers finished the afternoon 23-of-35, amassing a mere 161 passing yards.
The Chargers’ defense was aided by the return of kicker Michael Badgley, who had missed the entire season thus far due to a groin injury. The “Money Badger” reminded everyone of what they were missing, going 4-for-5 in field goal attempts and compiling 14 total points on the day.
“It was a surreal feeling to get back out there,” Badgley said. “Just one of things where (I was) just waiting each week trying to get better and better, and then finally to go out there and just play and help the team out … and just (being) able to run on the field again felt awesome.”
When asked if he’s the key to the team’s success, Badgley wouldn’t go that far.
“I don’t know,” he said, laughing. “Did you see our defense play today? It looked pretty good. We’re gonna keep that rolling and keep the special teams and offense going, start the second half of the season off right.”
Besides Badgley, the Chargers offense was once again anchored by quarterback Philip Rivers, who leading into this head-to-head matchup with Rodgers, said that games like these have “special meaning.”
“It was a collective effort,” Rivers said with daughter Anna in hand. “We weren’t perfect by any means. To me, the keys today were not turning (the ball) over and scoring in the red zone and sustain drives. Don’t give these guys the ball too much, don’t let [Packers QB] Aaron [Rodgers] be on the field too much. That was a combination of our defense doing a great job and us staying on the field, getting first downs.”
Rivers would finish the game 21-of-28, with 294 yards passing.
“We don’t have much time to wait. On to Oakland, as I’ve heard someone say, famously. On to the next one.”
The Chargers kick off against the Raiders from the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Thursday at 5:20 p.m. PT.