Oct 9, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) runs the ball for a first down against the Cleveland Browns during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

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Chargers, finally off and running, prepare for slumping Broncos

Showing more of the identity that was expected of them, the Los Angeles Chargers will play host Monday night to a Denver Broncos team searching for answers.

The Chargers have moved away from consecutive defeats, including one where they were dominated by the Jacksonville Jaguars, by earning consecutive victories. The latest was an impressive 30-28 showing on the road against the Cleveland Browns last week.

After working his way through a rib cartilage injury, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was an effective 22 of 34 for 228 yards and a touchdown. But the true star of the game was Los Angeles running back Austin Ekeler, who revived what had been a dormant rushing attack.

The Chargers entered last week with an NFL-worst 64.5 rushing yards per game. They changed all that when Ekeler rushed for a career-best 173 yards with two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving), while Los Angeles had 238 yards total on the ground. It was the team’s most in a game since 2018.

Out of the basement rushing-wise, the Chargers moved up 10 spots, now at 99.2 yards per game.

“It wasn’t anything crazy that we changed schematically,” said Ekeler, who was running behind an offensive line that was without Pro Bowler Rashawn Slater (biceps). “I think it was just we were starting to attack the weakness of their defense, which we felt like was in their interior. We were able to get those guys up front moving people.”

The adjusted line included rookie Jamaree Salyer, who earned rave reviews.

“It’s been a team effort,” coach Brandon Staley said. “It starts with that premise. It takes a team effort to play like that. It’s not just the O-line. It’s their coaches. It’s the skill players around them. It’s the protection plan, the run-game plan.”

The Broncos’ offense could use a premise at this point.

New quarterback Russell Wilson has not been the savior Denver was looking for, with the Broncos’ 12-9 defeat against the Indianapolis Colts last Thursday earning mockery and scorn for offensive ineptitude from both teams.

Wilson and new head coach Nathaniel Hackett remained at Wilson’s locker long after the game had ended, forming their own private support group.

“Let’s face it, the offense has had too many negative plays,” Hackett said this week. “Just too many things that have put us in rough positions.

“For the offense, we just have to put those basic things together and not have those things that are self-inflicted. Once we do that, I think it’s going to be a good football team.”

Despite a partially torn right lat that required a recent injection, Wilson is expected to play Monday as the Broncos use a 10-day window between games to their advantage. Denver guard Quinn Meinerz (hamstring) was one of 12 limited participants in practice but is expected to play. Running back Melvin Gordon III (neck, ribs), a former Charger, also was limited.

“One thing I know about myself is I’m going to respond,” Wilson said after last week’s defeat. “I don’t know any other way. I always believe in myself. I always believe in this team. I believe in what we can do. I believe in what I can do.”

After missing the last four games, Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (hamstring) was a limited participant in practice Thursday, as were kicker Dustin Hopkins (quad) and tackle Trey Pipkins III (knee).

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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