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Week 12 Game Recap: Arizona Cardinals 10, Los Angeles Chargers 45


What you need to know

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals lost their grip on an early lead against the Chargers, turning into a blowout loss. Arizona’s defense was mostly to blame, rarely presenting a challenge for the Chargers, but the offense did little on their own accord as Josh Rosen was under pressure on key plays and the passing game did not stress the defense downfield. Arizona looks like a team playing out the string with little hope of a late-season uptick.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers shredded Arizona, putting on an efficiency showcase. Philip Rivers set an NFL record for completions to start a game and tied Ryan Tannehill for the most consecutive completions overall. Mike Williams was in his element with two jump ball touchdowns. Melvin Gordon was red hot until a third quarter hit to his knee sidelined him for the rest of the game. Justin Jackson and Austin Ekeler both performed well behind Gordon.

Arizona Cardinals

QB Josh Rosen, 47 offensive snaps, Pass: 12 - 19 - 105 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - -1 - 0
Rosen was off to a hot start against the Chargers. However, the positive trend was short-lived as the Cardinals’ offense did little beyond the opening drives and turned into a blowout loss. Rosen was pressured on many obvious passing downs, shrinking the field to within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Rosen added an interception as the game unraveled in the second quarter, throwing woefully behind the fullback. By the mid-third quarter Rosen was in full catch-up mode down 25 points, but even garbage time production was an uphill journey. With minimal downfield presence in the passing game and a struggling offensive line, Rosen is in a tough situation finishing out the season.

RB David Johnson, 37 offensive snaps, Rush: 17 - 63 - 0, Rec: 2 - 16 - 0 (3 targets)
Johnson saw 19 touches despite the blowout road loss to the Chargers. The Arizona offense struggled mightily outside an opening touchdown drive. Johnson showed nice balance on his two best rushes of the game, but did not pad his stats through garbage time, which was most of the second half. Johnson enjoyed great blocking on one screen reception, but was stuffed on the other. Johnson had no touchdown opportunities with Arizona’s offensive deficiencies and propensity for stalled drives.

WR Christian Kirk, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 41 - 0 (6 targets)
Kirk had a hot start against the Chargers with two receptions in the opening minutes. Kirk corralled a contested comeback target as his highlight play. Kirk had a big play opportunity with a deep sideline target, but the pass was tipped away by tight coverage. Kirk added a long punt return. On an otherwise depressing offensive showing for Arizona, Kirk did lead the team in targets and receiving yards.

WR Larry Fitzgerald, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 30 - 1 (2 targets)
Fitzgerald got Arizona off to a strong start against the Chargers, capping an impressive opening drive with a touchdown. Fitzgerald pivoted away from a defender on a deep in-cut, surging to the end zone for the score. Fitzgerald did not see another target until the closing minutes of the blowout loss, being stuffed on a slot screen. With only 19 passes for Arizona in the game, Fitzgerald’s touchdown was arguably the lone highlight in the lost offensive effort.

TE Ricky Seals-Jones, 19 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (2 targets)
Seals-Jones was invisible against the Chargers in the blowout loss. Seals-Jones’ lone opportunity for an impact play was an end zone target broken up in tight coverage. Seals-Jones has lost snaps to Jermaine Gresham and Arizona’s tempered passing game shifts down weekly expectations for the Seals-Jones, who has a mere 10 receiving yards over the past two games.


Los Angeles Chargers

QB Philip Rivers, 56 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 29 - 259 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 3 - 0
Rivers had a record-breaking day against the Cardinals in the blowout home win. Philip Rivers set an NFL record for completions to start a game and tied Ryan Tannehill for the most consecutive completions overall. Rivers was surgical at times with his accuracy and pocket pressure was the lone element to slow down the Chargers offense throughout the game. Rivers’ best throws including intermediate throws to Sean Culkin down the sideline plus multiple high-point touchdowns to Mike Williams. Rivers even scrambled away from goal line pressure to find Keenan Allen for a toe-dragging touchdown. Rivers’ lone incompletion did not come until the mid-third quarter an Rivers was out of the game by the early fourth with a huge lead. Rivers has thrown multiple touchdown passes in every game this season and has a pivotal road matchup with Pittsburgh next week.

RB Austin Ekeler, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 35 - 1, Rec: 10 - 68 - 0 (11 targets)
Ekeler was red-hot against the Cardinals, especially seeing a team-high 11 targets and fueling a touchdown drive in hurry-up mode to close the first half. Even before Melvin Gordon’s mid-third quarter injury Ekeler was seeing a myriad of snaps, including as a slot receiver and motioning before the snap. Ekeler had five receptions on the late-second quarter drive alone and commonly made the first defender miss on his touches. Even with Melvin Gordon out for most of the season half, Justin Jackson saw most of the traditional running back carries, not Ekeler. With a blowout game script as the Chargers bled the clock and even pulled Philip Rivers for most of the fourth quarter, there was not clarity on how the running back snaps would be distributed in a more competitive game script.

RB Melvin Gordon, 27 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 61 - 2, Rec: 2 - 5 - 0 (2 targets)
Gordon injured his knee in the third quarter, absorbing a huge hit on a reverse. Gordon did not return, but was distraught on the sideline when being evaluated. Gordon was contained in the passing game, but churned out two touchdowns, one with a strong spin move at the goal line post-contact. Gordon also had a chunk touchdown with a well-blocked lane to the perimeter. Austin Ekeler was a highlight player even before Melvin Gordon was injured and Justin Jackson saw more time in Gordon’s later-game absence.

RB Justin Jackson, 13 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 57 - 0
Jackson saw an uptick in snaps and touches in the blowout win against the Cardinals. Melvin Gordon sustained a knee injury in the third quarter, opening up an opportunity for Jackson in mop-up duty. Jackson showed nice burst on two perimeter runs of note, breaking an arm tackle on one of them. Jackson had average-at-best long speed, but runs hard for his diminutive size. Jackson would mix in with Austin Ekeler if Melvin Gordon were to miss time.

WR Keenan Allen, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 72 - 1 (7 targets)
After a two-month drought without a touchdown, Allen has now scored in three games straight. Allen had two highlight catches, one a deep out route with a toe tap down to the goal line. Later, Allen hugged the sideline on a goal line touchdown, maintaining his balance through the catch. Allen, like most of the Chargers’ starters, had his production front loaded with the offense taking their foot off the pedal in the fourth quarter of the blowout win.

WR Mike Williams, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 25 - 2 (4 targets)
Williams took full advantage of his four targets, turning two into touchdowns. Williams is at his best on high-point opportunities and converted both against Arizona. Williams has struggled to separate with most of the route tree, but with the ball in the air, Williams excelled this week. Williams is up to seven touchdowns on a mere 24 receptions on the season, a disappointing volume for the second-year receiver drafted in the top-10. This week had Tyrell Williams out, which did not aid Mike Williams in terms of volume. Williams has not seen more than four targets in a game since Week 3.

TE Antonio Gates, 26 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 18 - 0 (1 targets)
After a red-hot Week 11 performance, Gates saw just a single target against Arizona. The Chargers passing game dominated this week, but Gates’ only involvement was breaking a tackle on a hitch route for a rare yards-after-catch opportunity. Secondary tight end Sean Culkin made the highlight play of the Chargers’ tight ends against the Cardinals with a high-point catch down the sideline.