SAN DIEGO-It was a good day for Keenan Allen in the San Diego Chargers season-opening win against the Detroit Lions. It was an even better day for the Chargers as they came way back from an 18-point deficit to record a 33-28 win against the visiting Lions. Allen had a lot to do with it. Well, let’s just say his hands were definitely in the mix of things.
The Chargers “White Hot Sunday” theme must have rubbed off on Allen because the third-year wide receiver wound up burning the Lions with one big catch after another. Allen caught 15 passes for 166 yards from quarterback Philip Rivers on the afternoon, and put the Lions secondary on checkout notice every time he came across the middle to make a reception.
To say the least, Allen was piping hot. Allen was so hot that he matched Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow’s franchise record of receptions in a game. That would date all the way back to Oct. 7, 1984, when Winslow punished the Green Bay Packers with 15 caught passes. Allen’s performance against the Lions, however, didn’t seem to catch coach Mike McKoy off guard.
“It’s not surprising at all,” McKoy said after the game. “We talked about him all training camp long, what great shape he came in. It doesn’t surprise me at all the way he’s played. That’s Keenan Allen.”
It was more than a spectacular day for Allen, who caught 77 passes for just 783 yards last season. He played like he has something to prove this year. It could be that Allen wants to upgrade his totals from last season after catching 71 passes for 1, 046 yards and eight touchdowns his rookie year. If that is the case for the rest of the season, Chargers opponents should beware. His teammates have certainly taken notice.
“He’s lighter, faster and looking a lot more mature,” wide receiver Malcom Floyd said. “I have been saying that since the beginning of spring. He’s just playing awesome. He tied the record today (Sunday, Sept. 12), and he’s going to break mine soon. I’m glad we have him and Stevie Johnson.”
A couple of more games like the one he put up against the Lions and Allen will have surpassed his output from last season midway in the football calendar year. Allen wasn’t the only Chargers player to play hot at Qualcomm Stadium. Rivers was voted as one of the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week, along with Carlos Hyde of the San Francisco 49ers, for completing 35 of 42 passes for 404 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions.
After trailing 21-3, Rivers, Allen and the rest of the Chargers went to work, scoring a 30-0 blitz that effectively delivered a TKO on the Lions. With starting tight end Antonio Gates out the first four games of the season, Allen put up a dominant performance that just might be his calling card this year. The Chargers have great wideouts across the board in Floyd, Johnson, Danny Woodhead and backup tight end Ladarius Green.
But all things considered, Allen just may be the go-to guy for Rivers until Gates gets back into the fold.
“I feel like I would have ran the same way and tried to do the same thing,” Allen said. “He (Rivers) probably looked at me more for those reasons. Ladarius (Green) came in and played great. Stevie (Johnson) played great. Malcom (Floyd) played great. Danny (Woodhead) played great. We’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays.”
With Rivers orchestrating the Chargers high-flying offense, making plays is essentially second-hand to Allen and the other receivers on the team. They’re going to happen. When asked if the Lions’ game was a way of saying that he was back, Allen replied to the question with an open-ended answer.
“I guess so,” Allen said. “I’m back. I don’t think I ever left. But just feeling good, feeling comfortable. The offense played great. Started off a little shaky, but we kept fighting. [The] defense kept getting stops, and we just went out there and fought together.”
Allen’s performance against the Lions may be a case of a great player evolving and coming into his own. Allen was Mr. Electricity his rookie year. He fell down a notch during his NFL sophomore campaign. And now he’s come out with a bang to his third season with the Chargers. Allen sees it as a learning curve.
“Just learning, trying to be a pro,” Allen said. “We appreciate every day being a pro. It’s your job. When you have fun like we did today, it doesn’t feel like a job.”