Chargers can’t stop Lions’ run game

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The Los Angeles Chargers played defense well enough against the Chicago Bears and New York Jets to come away with two straight wins. That was not the case against the Detroit Lions. 

The Chargers kept Chicago’s offense in check by holding the Bears to just 13 points in a 30-13 victory. The Chargers were even more dominant against the Jets, recording eight sacks in a 27-6 Monday Night Football win. 

Against Chicago, the Chargers held the Bears to 73 yards rushing. They limited New York to just 64 yards on the ground.  

Detroit Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs (26) picks up some of the 77 yards he gained against the Los Angeles Chargers during his team’s 41-38 win at SoFi Stadium on Nov. 12, 2023. Photo credit: Sammy Saludo/News4usonline

That dominance dissipated against Jared Goff and the Lions as the Chargers surrendered 533 yards in total offense to Detroit. Goff passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers. The Lions bled the Chargers’ defense for 200 more yards in a 41-38 road win at SoFi Stadium. 

“We were well prepared coming into this ballgame. They just executed better than we did,” Chargers linebacker Morgan Fox said. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to make plays, make routine plays. It’s at every level, front seven and back half. They just came in and executed better than us today.”

Detroit had 177 yards on the ground by halftime as they ran out to a 24-17 advantage. Afterward, Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. said the team didn’t do what was needed to earn a win. 

“I’m frustrated because we didn’t come out and get the job done, especially defensively,” James told reporters. “In the NFL, you can’t allow the run game anymore. That’s what sets up the play-action, it sets up where you got to defend the screen, the play-action and everything. You got to be able to stop the run, especially early in the game. We didn’t get that done…we didn’t play well at all on defense.” 

David Montgomery, who busted a 75-yard touchdown run just before halftime, was the main point of emphasis for the Detroit ground game. Montgomery rushed for 102 of his game-leading 116 yards. Jahmyr Gibbs rushed for 72 of his total 77 yards in the first two-quarters of play as Detroit registered a net gain of 307 yards. 

Detroit head coach Dan Campbell ushered high praise for both of his running backs and the way they played.  

“Listen, that, to me, this is part of the vision coming alive now. Those two back there, the two-headed monster. They both deliver something different. They’re both very unique and they’re dangerous, both of them. It’s good to see that,” Campbell said. “Gibbs continues to grow, and it’s great to have David back. He played at a high level. The O-Line, man, really showed up today. It’s when we talked about — playing physical, finishing and playing violent. Those guys were outstanding in protection and in the run game.”

Chargers head coach Brandon Staley summed up the Chargers’ defensive performance against the run in the first half in a simplistic manner.  

“We didn’t set enough edges,” Staley said. “We gave up some cutback runs where we lost leverage on the football. Then, there were missed tackles. Lost leverage on the ball, some missed tackles, and then you saw some big runs.”

Big runs were something that the Chargers themselves didn’t have enough of. While Montgomery and Gibbs were galloping around the SoFi Stadium football field, the Chargers played sporadically on the ground. 

Detroit Lions running back David Montgomery (5) gets hit high and low by Los Angeles Chargers defenders on Nov. 12, 2023. Photo credit: Sammy Saludo/News4usonline

While the Lions racked up 200 yards rushing, the Chargers weren’t able to record 100 yards on the ground. Austin Ekeler rushed for 67 yards. Joshua Kelley totaled 16 yards on the ground. Chargers quarterback rushed for 15 yards. That gave Los Angeles 98 yards officially on the ground. 

With that said, the Chargers scored 38 points. Kelley thought the offense played great.

“Man, we were scoring,” Kelley said. “One thing we could have done better is start fast earlier. We could have started fast earlier instead of being down I think 17-3. Then we could have put ourselves in a position of not catching up.” 

All that scoring the Chargers did went for naught as Los Angeles dropped its fifth game (4-5) of the season. James didn’t offer any excuse for the way the Chargers played. 

“We got to be better on defense,” James said. “Thirty-eight points is enough for us to win any game. And we weren’t good enough today.”