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Week 13 Game Recap: Los Angeles Chargers 33, Pittsburgh Steelers 30
What you need to know
was absolutely dominant from start to finish. He hauled in three receptions on the team's opening drive, and never let up from there. By the end of the game, he had posted a game-high 14 receptions, a team high 148 yards, scored a touchdown, added a two point conversion, and basically showed the Steelers he was uncoverable at times. Fantasy owners who remained patient with Allen through the season have been richly rewarded in recent weeks.
benefitted from some really good fortune on his two touchdown passes (one of them came on a missed penalty, and the other was a deflected pass). But that shouldn't take away from yet another stellar performance in what is shaping up to be an MVP-type campaign. He continues to put up huge stats while also remaining wildly efficient, and he put the team on his back yet again despite almost zero contributions from the running game until late in the second half.
The running back tandem of Austin Ekeler
and Justin Jackson
filled in admirably for Melvin Gordon
, though nearly all of the key production came courtesy of Jackson. The duo combined for 125 yards and a touchdown on 27 touches, although 82 of those yards and the score despite being out-touched 18-9.
The Pittsburgh Steelers showed up against the Chargers after two down offensive weeks. Week 13 was a tale of two halves, missed opportunities, and missed calls for the Steelers. The Steelers seemed to right the ship in the first half of the game. Not with a balanced offense, but with offensive efficiency and big plays. Ben Roethlisberger
was accurate enough to all levels of the field, James Conner
received consistent touches throughout drives, and the offensive line was dominating at the attack point. Things began to derail for the Steelers in the third quarter. The Chargers were getting more pressure on Roethlisberger, the Steelers were running the ball less, and the Chargers began running the ball more effectively. The Chargers had taken almost all the air out of the Steelers sails after a punt return for a touchdown. On the final field goal of the game the Steelers were called offsides twice before the Chargers kicker made the game winning field goal.
Los Angeles Chargers
|QB Philip Rivers, 63 offensive snaps, Pass: 26 - 36 - 299 - 2 TD / 0 INT|
Rivers continues to enjoy an MVP-type campaign. He extended his streak of being the only quarterback in the league to throw at least two touchdown passes in every game this season, and nearly went over 300 yards again in the process. He started off hot, picking up right where he left off last week. One week after completing, he completed 10 of his first 11 passes in this one. Included in that group was a very suspect touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin
. It appeared the Chargers had committed a false start penalty, but the officials all missed it. Rivers took advantage, lofting a bomb down the sideline to Benjamin, who waltzed into the end zone for a 46-yard score. The offense slowed a bit later in the first half, as Rivers completed just 3 of his next 9 pass attempts. But in the second half, the Chargers caught fire once more. Rivers almost exclusively leaned on Keenan Allen
any time he was looking for a big play, and time and time again Allen got open and came down with the football. An astounding 14 completions went to Allen, out of a total of 26 in the game. On the rare occasions he ventured elsewhere, good things happened (the Benjamin touchdown, and he was 4-4 on first down conversions on passes completed to Tyrell or Mike Williams
). Rivers' second touchdown pass may have been even luckier than the first one. He threw a bullet to Keenan Allen
into double coverage in the end zone. The pass appeared destined to be intercepted, until two Steeler defenders collided with one another. The impact popped the ball up in the air, and Allen managed to snag the spinning football out of mid-air and keep control on his way to the ground for the score. He then floated a perfect touch pass to Antonio Gates
in the corner of the end zone for the two pointer. Following a punt return touchdown by the Chargers, Rivers then found Allen for yet another two pointer. This one took considerably longer to convert, but once he broke into the open it was a perfect pass. With the game tied at 30, Rivers made two crucial completions to keep the drive alive. The first was a flip to Austin Ekeler
while under heavy duress that resulted in a first down, and the next (also under pressure) was a pass to Allen on 3rd and 4 to convert another first down. Those two plays helped extend the drive and set up the eventual game-winning field goal.
Smith came in for one play, which ended up being an option handoff to the running back - nobody was fooled on the play.
|RB Austin Ekeler, 49 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 21 - 0, Rec: 5 - 22 - 0 (8 targets)|
Ekeler had almost no room to run whatsoever, getting swarmed by Pittsburgh defenders nearly every time he got near the football. The defense softened up just a bit in the second half, allowing him to at least get some positive yardage gains, but still found mostly tough sledding. It's important to note that Ekeler had 18 touches to Justin Jackson
's 9, but it's equally important to note that Ekeler's 13 carries resulted in just 21 yards whereas Jackson's 8 carries resulted in 63 yards (including an 18-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter). Late in the game, Ekeler took a huge hit on an attempted screen pass out of the backfield. It was ruled that he never fully had possession on the play; otherwise, it would have been ruled a fumble. Finally, Ekeler contributed a positive play late in the game when he was the bailout option for Rivers just before he was about to get sacked. But otherwise, it was an uninspiring performance as the team's de facto featured back. This was the second time this season Ekeler has gotten an opportunity to be the lead guy, and it was the second time he underwhelmed. It is also noteworthy that it was Jackson and not Ekeler who was in the game on the potential game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter.
|RB Justin Jackson, 14 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 63 - 1, Rec: 1 - 19 - 0 (1 targets)|
With Melvin Gordon
out with a knee injury, most observers felt that Austin Ekeler
would be the go-to guy and that Jackson would provide backup depth or perhaps work as a change of pace. While it's true that Ekeler out-touched Jackson by an 18-9 margin, Jackson greatly outpaced Ekeler in terms of production. Running behind the same line and against the same defense that Ekeler struggled to gain 1.6 yards per carry against, Jackson averaged a whopping 7.9 yards per carry. He looked shifty between the tackles, hitting holes with smoothness. Some of that can perhaps be attributed to the Steelers focusing on taking Ekeler away and not giving Jackson as much attention, but he still pushed ahead for yardage and found holes that Ekeler could not. On one swing pass, he looked like he was going to run out of bounds but instead toed the line and turned up field for close to 15 yards. He capped his afternoon with a phenomenal inside run, side-stepping a defender and taking it up the gut for an 18-yard score. It was very telling that with the Chargers driving for the go-ahead score, it was Jackson in the backfield and not Ekeler. And he was given the all-important carries to get the Chargers into field goal range for the game-winning kick. There are some whispers about Gordon possibly returning as soon as next week, but until he does it would appear that there is still value in both Charger running backs.
|WR Keenan Allen, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 14 - 148 - 1 (19 targets)|
Allen had his best game of the season by far, dominating the Steelers throughout the contest. They appeared content to cover Allen with a linebacker for the majority of the afternoon, but 14 receptions for 148 yards later shows that that may not have been the best strategy. Allen caught three passes on the opening drive, and never let up from there. On the opening drive, he showed off his remarkable concentration and athleticism simultaneously on a diving grab. He slipped to the turf, got up and somehow re-located the football, then made a lunging grab just shy of the first down marker. That play was one of a small handful of missed opportunities. He was targeted on a deep crossing route near the sideline later in the half, but it was just out of reach. And he also dropped a pass earlier in the half when he tried to run before he had secured the ball. But that's about it as far as negatives. In the second half, it was total domination by Allen. He picked up a big gain in the flat, beating a tackle to pick up a few yards after the fact. Then he added his touchdown, which was equal parts luck and skill. The pass from Philip Rivers
appeared headed for an interception in the end zone, but two Steeler defenders collided with one another, sending the ball spinning in the air. Allen remarkably maintained concentration and snagged the ball, keeping control of it as he went to the ground for the score. He stood up grinning, perhaps knowing that it was a bit more luck than skill on that particular score. Following a punt return touchdown early in the fourth quarter, Allen broke free on a crossing route for the game-tying two point conversion. It was the first of his many key contributions that quarter that put the Chargers in position to win. With Steeler fans loud and trying to swing momentum back to their side following a big hit of Austin Ekeler
, Allen calmly hauled in a key reception over the middle to quiet the crowd. He then added an amazing diving grab of a seemingly errant pass from Rivers, picking up the first down and possibly saving an interception in the process. And then on the final scoring drive, Allen had perhaps the key reception in the game when he converted a 3rd and 4 just past the sticks to pick up a first down and keep the drive alive. That drive would eventually result in a game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock.
|WR Travis Benjamin, 28 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0, Rec: 2 - 44 - 1 (2 targets)|
Benjamin was the recipient of some good luck (or poor officiating, depending on how you look at it) late in the first half. With the Chargers trailing 13-0, a lineman appeared to commit a false start penalty. The Steeler players all pointed to it, and perhaps let up a bit on the defensive end, expecting a flag that never came. Benjamin took full advantage, racing past the defense down the right sideline, where Philip Rivers
lofted a perfect pass right in his hands. Benjamin hauled it in for the 46-yard touchdown to get the Chargers on the board. Aside from that long pass, Benjamin's other reception was a short swing pass that he juggled for a loss, and he had a jet sweep handoff attempt that only gained a yard.
|WR Mike Williams, 34 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 52 - 0 (3 targets)|
Williams made two nice sliding grabs over the middle to convert first downs, one in the first half and one in the second. The first one set up the long Travis Benjamin
touchdown. His last reception of the game was probably his most impressive, going high in the air to pick up 18 yards on a third and 14 with the Chargers trailing 23-7. He appeared to be injured on the play and was looked at on the sideline for quite awhile. So while Williams didn't get a heavy volume of passes thrown his way, he more than made up for that on the degree of difficulty.
Williams caught just one pass in the game, going high over the middle with defenders surrounding him. He took a big hit right as he caught the ball, then another almost simultaneously as he descended. But impressively, he managed to hang on to convert a third and 10 at a key moment to keep the Charger drive going. Like most Chargers, he took a distant back seat to Keenan Allen
, who hauled in 14 of Philip Rivers
' 26 completions.
Gates' first target of the game didn't come until late in the third quarter. It was a huge reception at the time, converting a critical third and 4 when Rivers found him wide open across the field for a big gain. But the play was negated by a holding penalty. He did get into the scoring column late in the third quarter when he hauled in the two point conversion attempt from Rivers following a Keenan Allen
touchdown. Gates went straight to the corner while Rivers perfectly floated it over the defender to convert the conversion and cut it to an 8-point game. So Gates managed positive fantasy production despite not recording a single reception in the game.
For a majority of the game Roethlisberger enjoyed strong offensive line play on passing downs against the ferocious pass-rush of the L.A. Chargers. The problems came when Roethlisberger was being deceived in coverage. Roethlisberger's worst play came in the second quarter. Roethlisberger saw his tight end streaking down the field and thought he had him for an easy touchdown. Roethlisberger underthrew the ball and Drewin James grabbed the easy interception. Roethlisberger's best throw of the game came right before the half. The ball was snapped, and the pressure was surrounding Roethlisberger. He slid to his left in the pocket and stepped into a rope down the middle of the field to Antonio Brown
perfectly on target. In the second half, the Steelers were not able to sustain drives and were held scoreless in the third quarter. It wasn't until the Steelers final possession of the game that Roethlisberger was finally able to drive the offense down the field.
|RB James Conner, 49 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 60 - 2, Rec: 3 - 14 - 0 (4 targets)|
On the National television stage, and with huge running lanes available, Conner was not able to get into a rhythm. Conner benefited from two first quarter trips to the 1-yard line where he converted two of his three goal line opportunities into touchdowns. Conner's highlight run showed his two best traits, reading his blockers and strong burst through the line of scrimmage. On Conner's final run of the night he twisted his ankle and was taken back to the locker room. The severity of his injury will at least keep him out for Week 14.
|RB Jaylen Samuels, 17 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 5 - 0, Rec: 3 - 20 - 1 (3 targets)|
Samuels came up for the Steelers in the most crucial situation of the game. James Conner
injured his ankle and the Steelers needed a big play to tie the game. Samuels ran a shallow crossing route and broke the defender's angle on him. Samuels has stepped out as the next man up for the Steelers in the backfield.
|WR Antonio Brown, 67 offensive snaps, Rec: 10 - 154 - 1 (13 targets)|
This was a flashback to dominant Antonio Brown
. He was winning with strong moves at the catch point with excellent body control, dominated one on one coverage, and beat double coverage. In addition to his ten receptions, Brown's season-high total, Brown had a reception turned over because he didn't get a second foot down. Brown's highlight catch came against double coverage. Brown ran an in-breaking post route which broke the coverage of two defenders and Brown was found in the endzone for a touchdown.
Smith-Schuster had a workman-like game. The Chargers were not going to let Smith-Schuster beat them with big plays after the catch. Smith-Schuster did excel when Ben Roethlisberger
needed a conversion. Smith-Schuster's most critical catch came on the final drive of the game for the Steelers. Smith-Schuster caught the ball for a nine-yard gain and allowed the Steelers to continue their drive after James Conner
converted a critical fourth down.
McDonald had another quiet game in Week 13. Even with Roethlisberger over 40 pass attempts McDonald is only able to account for four receptions, his lower total since Week 8, and 28 yards. In fact, Vance McDonald
has averaged 30.2 receiving yards over his last five games. While McDonald's recent yardage has been low, he has an optimistic upside.