The Los Angeles Chargers‘ inability to stop the run cost them again, as the AFC West leaders heading into into Week 10 fell to the Minnesota Vikings 27-20 at home. When Minnesota's run game wasn't doing its thing, Justin Jefferson was generating big plays for the offense.
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Kirk Cousins is the epitome of the “fine” statline. Minnesota’s style of play will always force defenses into more vanilla looks, and with the Chargers dropping deep to take away crossers, Cousins was fine taking the checkdowns given to him. He delivered some key downfield throws to seal the game in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers made a concerted effort to keep enough numbers in the box to stop the run, forcing Dalvin Cook to run through bodies for his yardage. The running back obliged, with more than half of his yardage coming after contact.
Justin Jefferson has quickly become the ideal receiver in offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak’s scheme with the amount of 1-on-1 and soft zone looks he sees. Seven of his nine receptions went for first downs, and he was the only Vikings receiver with an average depth of target beyond 10 yards.
Justin Jefferson | Week 10
|Yards Per Route Run||3.86|
|1st Down Converted||7|
|Receptions of 15-plus Yards||5|
The Vikings allowed an inordinate amount of pressure for a team that is typically trying to set up passes off of play fakes. Each lineman allowed at least three pressures, with Ezra Cleveland and Oli Udoh tying for a team leading five. Only one resulted in a sack, though, evidence that Jefferson and the checkdown options were coming open on time.
The defensive line for the Vikings went most of the game without making much of a measurable effect on the game. The majority of the issues L.A. has in the run game are their own to fix, and Everson Griffen is not in the stage of his career where he can affect QBs even when they want to get the ball out of their hands quickly.
Eric Kendricks and Nick Vigil combined were targeted eight times in total, allowing 50 yards to the Chargers' underneath threats. Kendricks had an interception, rolling underneath a crosser and capitalizing on a poor decision from Herbert, who was backed up in his own territory.
Minnesota continues to get by with a patchwork cornerback rotation, with Mackensie Alexander and Bashaud Breeland each giving up less than 60 yards on the day. Camryn Bynum added a key sack on a third-down pressure in the second half, a change from his usual role deep in coverage.
Degree of difficulty has been the theme of the season for this Chargers offense, as it continues to look for the balance between maximizing Herbert’s skill set and the typical philosophy of Joe Lombardi. Herbert’s passes are accurate but too often coming short of the sticks for an offense short on YAC threats.
Justin Herbert | Week 10
|Yards Per Attempt||5.7|
|Throws Short of Sticks||50%|
|Average Depth of Target||5.6|
Another week and another game without 100 yards rushing for the Chargers. For all of the receiver talent and the prodigal arm of Herbert, there won’t be enough air space for the offense to operate with unless the running game can manufacture better offense.
Keenan Allen was the only receiver Herbert could find, and the offense was built specifically to manufacture touches for the receiver on the inside. Allen isn’t much of a YAC threat, but his sure-handedness was the key element to moving the ball.
One of the few benefits of Los Angeles’ approach on offense is what it does to help the OL with its pass protection. The ball was often out of Herbert’s hands too quickly to affect the throw, save for a couple of late-down pressures from defensive backs that L.A. struggled to pick up.
Uchenna Nwosu and Joey Bosa wreaked havoc on the edges of Minnesota’s offensive line, combining for 15 pressures, two QB hits and a sack. Once again, the lack of interior-line presence cost this team when it needed run stops to get back into the game.
|Player||Pass Rush Opportunities||Total Pressures||Win Rate|
Kyzir White has an argument as the only plus run defender between the tackles for the Chargers, and he logged a couple of stops and fit the run well on Sunday. Nick Niemann and Kenneth Murray have some uses, but neither has shown the physical ability to singularly affect the game against a rushing attack like Minnesota’s.
Tevaughn Campbell didn’t have a prayer of being much more than a traffic cone on Justin Jefferson’s big day. Chris Harris and Derwin James were targeted in coverage nine times for less than 30 yards combined, and Asante Samuel Jr. only allowed 60 yards on the day. There was a clear mismatch to exploit, and Minnesota did just that.