Los Angeles Chargers got their first win of the season with a 31-20 victory in Orchard Park over the Bills. However, as Philip Rivers said post game, there were “lots of positives on a long road trip but enough negatives to be a little unsatisfied.”
Let’s look back on some key points of yesterday’s win.
First Half Dominance
After a poor first series on offense, the Bolts came out of the traps on fire on defense. Stopping LeSean McCoy in the run game and sacking Josh Allen; both of those trends continued for most of the afternoon with Shady limited to 39 yards on the ground and Allen taken down 4 times.
Once L.A. got the ball back, Rivers orchestrated a drive that resulted in the opening touchdown for the game, and of the career of Mike Williams. Williams plucked a well thrown ball out of the air, in the middle of a couple of Buffalo defenders, taking a shot shortly after; that’s the sort of thing Chargers fans want to see and that’s the sort of ability that got Williams drafted 7th overall. Williams later took in a huge third down grab on a 3rd & 12 play over the middle to keep a drive alive. It was great to see Williams in his element and with a smile on his face! That drive then resulted in a 20 touchdown run for Melvin Gordon, on a nicely drawn up counter run that caught the Bills cold. The first of 3 first half TD’s for Gordon as the Chargers threatened to run up another huge score on the Bills.
The lone dark cloud in the first half was when Desmond King drew an unsportsmanlike foul just as the Chargers got the Bills off the field. Like Rivers said, just enough negatives to be unsatisfied… one man who was unsatisfied was Coach Lynn and man, King knew about it when we went to the sideline.
Chargers Gonna Charger?
However, after the Los Angeles raced into a half time lead, they seemed to let the foot off the gas in 2nd half. Lynn said post game that the Chargers “came out a little flat” in 2nd half, which I would tend to agree with and I feel most will do too.
In the wake of the game, ex-Chargers center Nick Hardwick offered up the suggestion that this was with the intention of not putting too much on tape for other teams to study. An interesting point.
Nevertheless the momentum was in danger of swinging back to the Bills after the break and perhaps with a more experienced QB for the home side, the Chargers would have been punished.
The Chargers played a largely mistake free game… but was this because they were being too safe after mistakes last week? Is this why they took the foot off the gas? Or was it that the Bills made some adjustments?
One thing that I was personally dumbfounded with was the decision to punt as opposed to kicking what would have been a 53 yard field goal. The weather was good at New Era Field and there was barely any wind. To me, it seemed negative and like the coaching staff don’t completely trust Caleb Sturgis. Definitely something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
All this just meant that sneaky suspicion was creeping in that the Chargers were somehow going to let the Bills back in when they should have been putting them out of sight.
Young Bolts Leading the Way
Public Service Announcement:
Derwin James can PLAY!
The first round rookie was all over the field on Sunday. Playing much closer to the line of scrimmage and causing Buffalo headaches at regular intervals. James registered 7 tackles (1 assist), 2 for loss, a sack and a pass deflection. This is exactly how I expected James to be used by Gus Bradley; always putting #33 in a position to make a play.
Whilst we’re talking about rookies that can play, well, so can Kyzir White! The linebacker showed everyone why he has been my player to watch for L.A. this season. Like James, White filled the box score in multiple ways; 4 tackles, 3 passes defended with 1 take away. Outside of the statistics, White showed his impressive range and coverage skills. These things don’t show up on paper but are big reasons why the Chargers drafted him to play their hybrid linebacker/safety role.
Finishing off an impressive day for first year guys was Uchenna Nwosu. Nwosu played well too, getting a sack on the first series of the game and helping out with 2 further tackles.
Lynn noted post game that all 3 rookies “looked better in practice this week” and are “learning the system”.
All three will be on the field a lot for the rest of the season and Philip Rivers used part of his post game press conference to praise the rookies saying that they’re all the future of the team.
Getting the W
It was good to get the victory and get off the mark, although it wasn’t all about the Rookies; Melvin Ingram got pressure on Josh Allen throughout the game and he’s off the mark in terms of sacks having helped himself to 1.5 and almost had another on the play which resulted in Adrian Phillips’ interception. Head Coach, Anthony Lynn said the pressure created by the whole team was “good” overall.
It’s a game of three phases and after last week’s debacle the Bolts were much better on special teams on Sunday, which I’m sure is music to everyone’s ears.
Caleb Sturgis nailed his only field goal and Drew Kaser punted well for the most part and there were no errors in fielding the ball… there wasn’t much of a return game either but you know, baby steps.
Shout out to Michael Davis, who I thought was the best player on special teams as a gunner. He really impressed me and managed to force a muffed punt which maybe could have led to a safety and 2 points for Los Angeles… less said about the zebras the better in that one.
My final key to victory is that the Chargers coaching staff picked on rookie Mike linebacker Tremaine Edmunds over and over again. Gordon, Ekeler, Allen and Tyrell Williams all profited on runs or throws underneath which singled out Edmunds in coverage. It was a real welcome to the NFL game for the young man out of Virginia Tech. Great game planning by Coach Lynn and his staff.
L.A. Hold On
The fight back that the Bills threatened early in the second never truly materialized and even though the Chargers only registered 3 points in the second half, they easily did enough to hold on to the lead.
So L.A. are 1-1, but face a must sterner test next week against their cross town rivals. We’ll see how they follow up this win next Sunday.
– Lee Wakefield is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @Wakefield90