On Sunday, the Los Angeles Chargers had the opportunity to become the sixth team in NFL history to produce three 1,000-yard receivers in the same year. Pro Bowl wideout Keenan Allen entered the weekend with more than 1,110 yards under his belt while third-year pros Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler needed just 87 combined to complete the triad.
Williams held up his end of the bargain. Early in the second quarter, Williams caught his first pass on a 16-yard out route. Three plays later, he bullied Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Bashaud Breeland for a 22-yard reception, putting him over the 1,000-yard threshold for the first time in his career.
Yet, despite double-digit targets, Ekeler did not reach 1,000 receiving yards himself. The multipurpose running back finished the day with nine catches for 43 yards, just 7 short of the mark.
In a cruel twist of fate, Ekeler's first reception ultimately doomed him to finish short of the goal. On the Chargers' opening drive, quarterback Philip Rivers checked down to Ekeler to avoid a sack. Already behind the line of scrimmage, Ekeler tried to turn upfield before Kansas City linebacker Anthony Hitchens took out his feet. The play officially went down as a catch for minus-7 yards, the exact amount needed for the running back to hit 1,000.
Missing the mark shouldn't diminish Ekeler's accomplishments in 2019. The former undrafted free agent became a featured weapon in the Chargers offense and established himself as one of the most dangerous skill-position players in the NFL. He finished the regular season ranked ninth in yards from scrimmage (1,550) and eighth in total touchdowns (11). As a restricted free agent this offseason, Ekeler will become a highly coveted target for other teams if the Chargers don't adequately protect him this offseason with a high tender or multiyear contract.
Still, with the chance to make history, the Chargers fell just short, an outcome which typifies their season.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH