Both teams went needed overtime to decide their Week 1 contests. The Chargers escaped a complete meltdown versus the resilient Indianapolis Colts, winning in overtime 30-24. The Lions, meanwhile, weren’t as fortunate. Detroit opened the season with an ugly 27-27 tie versus the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1 that has everyone [including me] pointing the finger at head coach Matt Patricia. Can Detroit bounce back with an upset over the Chargers in their home opener at Ford Field on Sunday?
“You probably don’t finally know the answers until next Sunday, I’d say,” Patricia said Wednesday. “I think you can go either way with it and write it however you want, but it is something that I do try to take observation of as we learn about this year’s team as we go forward.”
The Lions blew a 17-0 lead and were unable to put away rookie Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, resulting in a disappointing Week 1 tie. Leading 24-6 in the fourth quarter, Detroit’s defense folded down the stretch, allowing two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in the final six minutes. Head coach Matt Patricia has already come under fire from the local media, especially after Murray called the defense “tired” after the game. Running back Kerryon Johnson rushed for just 49 yards on 16 attempts, as the entire offense stalled when it mattered most. Matthew Stafford finished with 385 yards and three touchdowns, while highly-criticized first-round pick T.J. Hockenson flashed potential in his first NFL game, leading the team with six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.
According to NFL.com, holdout running back Melvin Gordon plans to report to the team between Weeks 6 and 8 this season. Gordon will be playing on a $5.6 million fifth-year option and must report by Week 10 to have this season count and qualify for free agency next year. The news broke just before the Chargers’ Week 1 contest versus the Colts, but Gordon might want to consider coming back earlier if he wants to cement his role as the lead dog in the backfield. Backup and change-of-pace back Austin Ekeler finished with 12 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown to go along with six catches for 96 yards and two more scores, including the game-winner in overtime to help Los Angeles escape with a win. Meanwhile, rookie Justin Jackson looked explosive, taking his six carries for 57 yards, proving he needs to be a part of running back rotation moving forward. Together, they combined for 215 total yards (115 rushing yards, 100 receiving) 25 touches, while averaging a healthy 6.4 yards per carry.
Chargers dealing with injuries heading into Week 2
The Chargers got some more bad news earlier this week, when it was announced that tight end Hunter Henry suffered a left knee fracture. According to a statement made Wednesday, Henry does not have a timetable for his return after suffering a tibia plateau fracture to his left knee, but the team believes he will be out about a month — a shorter timeline than if he were placed on IR. He had four receptions for 60 yards in last week’s overtime win versus the Colts. The team brought in three tight ends for workouts earlier this week, including former Oakland Raiders’ tight end Luke Wilson.
— NFL (@NFL) September 8, 2019
Henry’s absence will certainly hurt the Chargers’ offense, which is already dealing with the loss of receiver Mike Williams. Williams also sustained a knee injury last week, finishing with two catches for 29 yards before leaving the game. Williams is “week-to-week” with a sore knee and his status for Sunday’s contest remains in doubt. Head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters on Wednesday that he was “absolutely” concerned about Williams’ knee and the team added receiver Anthony Johnson to the practice squad to improve their depth at the position.
Tight ends Virgil Green and Sean Culkin will need to step up in Henry’s absence.
“In the tight end room, we’ve got to be one of the smartest guys on offense, next to the quarterback,” Green said. “So we take a lot of pride in our preparation and making sure if something like this does happen, the next man up is thrown in there and nothing drops off.
“Obviously, Hunter is a hell of a player and changes our vibe because he brings a lot of swag to our group. He definitely will be missed. My role each week is to be an enforcer — that’s how I made it in the league. There’s nothing pretty to it, I’m a grinder. But I think our coaches do a great job of putting us in positions to look good.”
If Williams is unable to go, expect more targets for Travis Benjamin and Dontrelle Inman, who have both contributed in the past. Inman had a career-high 810 yards and four touchdowns as a member of the Chargers in 2016, while Benjamin had 677 yards and four scores that same season.