After two consecutive losses, the Chargers bounced back in Week 4, beating the Texans 34-24 Sunday at NRG Stadium.
Here are five takeaways from the Chargers' second win of the season:
Austin Ekeler finds his stride
The Chargers rushing attack, led by Austin Ekeler, entered Sunday's game having struggled to get going early on this season. They ranked last in the NFL in rushing yards per game and had yet to record a rushing touchdown in the first three weeks.
But against the Texans, the ground attack got rolling. Ekeler looked like the 2021 version of himself where he totaled 20 touchdowns just a season ago. Ekeler received 19 touches for 109 yards and three touchdowns.
"To get him going was big," coach Brandon Staley said of Ekeler. "I felt like he played like a captain today. Beyond Austin’s performance on the field, I felt like he really led our football team on offense, just played with the energy that he's known for and just a complete performance by Austin."
Ekeler's counterparts, Joshua Kelley and Sony Michel, combined for 26 yards on 10 carries. As a team, the Chargers finished the contest averaging three years per rushing attempt.
"I loved our commitment to it," Staley said of the running game. "I thought that that allowed our line to really get into rhythm, which I think helped our passing game. We didn't get any big splitters today, but I thought we had a lot of productive runs, kind of stayed out of the negative runs, and it felt like we ran the ball really well when we needed to."
Jamaree Salyer shines in first career NFL start
In wake of Rashawn Slater undergoing surgery on his biceps and being placed on injured reserve, the Chargers turned to sixth-round pick Jamaree Salyer.
Salyer, in his first career NFL start, recorded a 90.4 pass block grade and didn’t allow a pressure across 41 pass blocking snaps against the Texans, per PFF.
"He stepped in there and I felt the time that I had back in the pocket," quarterback Justin Herbert said of Slayer. "For a guy to be able to step up, first NFL game, first time playing, I thought he did an incredible job.”
Salyer played left tackle at Georgia his final two years in college, but since being drafted by the Chargers, he's primarily played left guard. In moving back to his natural position, Salyer looked like a seasoned veteran against the Texans' defensive front.
"He's a stud, calm, poised, strong," Staley said of Salyer. "His teammates did a great job for him too. I'm really proud of him. He can build off it because he's really hard on himself."
Chargers offense finds the big plays
The Chargers entered Sunday's game with 11 explosive plays in the NFL through the first three weeks, marking the fewest in the league.
Against the Texans, they were able to connect on multiple deep shots and pickup sizable chunk yards when running the ball. The Chargers recorded 10 explosive plays against Houston's defense, coming close to passing their season total in the Week 4 game.
“You got to have them in the NFL," Staley said of the explosive plays. "That's where it's at. I felt like we were able to really access Mike [Williams] in the deep part of the field today, Gerald [Everett] in the seams. We were able to hit [Michael] Bandy, [Joshua] Palmer. We had a couple keepers that went a long ways."
The Chargers totaled 419 yards with 340 of the yards coming through the air. Williams was on the receiving end of the Chargers' longest play of the game, logging a catch-and-run of 50 yards.
“Mike has done an incredible job," Herbert said. "He's certainly worth everything that we're paying for him. To have a guy like that, who just goes and competes and wants to be the greatest, it's awesome to have a guy like that, being able to throw to him.”
Williams finished the game with seven catches for 120 yards. It's the second time in four games he's gone over the 100-yard benchmark.
Defense bounces back
A week removed from allowing 38 points to the Jaguars, the Chargers defense responded in a big way. The Chargers collected four sacks, two interceptions, five pass breakups and once forced fumble.
“It's always huge when your defense gets some turnovers, especially when they're playing as well as they are," Herbert said. "It helps us a ton on offense. And anytime that we're able to get some turnovers and get good field position, you got to take advantage of that.”
Khalil Mack, now playing without Joey Bosa lined up opposite of him following a groin injury, still made his presence felt. Mack had two tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack and two quarterback hits.
Chargers finish game without suffering further injuries
After last week, losing three players for several weeks, and in some cases for the remainder of the season, the Chargers got out of the Week 4 game without a large injury pileup.
Palmer left the game with a minor injury, got his foot taped up and returned to the field. Defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day banged his hand/finger on a play late in the fourth quarter, but it doesn't appear to be anything significant.
Staley said after the game that both players are expected to be ok.
Herbert, still playing through a fractured rib cartilage, only took two hits all game and wasn't sacked thanks in part to the offensive line's strong outing. Herbert said after the game his injury is improving.
“It's getting better," Herbert said of his rib injury. "Thankful for the offensive line for keeping me upright.”
More from Charger Report
- Chargers Secure Second Win With Bounce Back Game, Outlast Texans 34-24
- Live In-Game Updates: Chargers at Texans Week 4
- Chargers at Texans Week 4 Inactives
- Pregame Report: Chargers at Texans Week 4
- Chargers at Texans Game Day Betting Odds: Week 4 Point Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under
Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.