The Los Angeles Chargers combined their best offensive and defensive games of the season for a 26-11 upset of the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers Sunday.
The Chargers gained a season-high 442 yards in the debut of Shane Steichen as their offensive coordinator and play caller, and allowed a season-low 184 yards in their second victory over Green Bay in 12 tries.
Philip Rivers threw for 294 yards, Melvin Gordon ran for 80 yards and two 1-yard touchdowns on 20 carries, and caught three passes for 29 yards, while Michael Badgley kicked four field goals — three in the first half — as the Chargers (4-5) won their second consecutive game after losing five of their previous six.
“To me, the keys today were not turning (the ball) over and scoring in the red zone and (sustaining) drives, don’t give these guys the ball too much, don’t let (Green Bay quarterback) Aaron (Rodgers) be on the field too much,” said Rivers, who completed 21 of 28 passes in recording his first victory over the Packers after three losses.
Rivers has victories over all but two of the NFL’s other 31 teams — Carolina (0-3) and New Orleans (0-3) — in his 16 seasons. This was the second-consecutive game Rivers has recorded a victory over a team he had not previously defeated. He threw for 201 yards and a touchdown in last Sunday’s 17-16 victory over the Chicago Bears.
The Chargers led 24-13 first downs, including 13-3 in the first half, and 35:51-24:09 in time of possession before a pro-Packers crowd at Dignity Health Sports Park announced at 25,435.
Rodgers completed 21 of 30 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown against a defense that was without three players who started for most of the season — defensive tackle Justin Jones (shoulder), nose tackle Brandon Mebane (knee) and safety Roderic Teamer (groin).
“This was a good learning experience for us,” Rogers said after the loss that ended Green Bay’s four-game winning streak and dropped its record to 7-2. “We have to come ready to play. I don’t think we were locked in from the start, unfortunately.
“I’m not sure exactly the reason, but I don’t think the focus was there from the start, so we have to look in the mirror and be very honest about our performance, myself first, and then our offense, our energy, attention to detail, and we have to get better.”
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn credited the victory to preparation, “guys believing in one another” and the start of “the second half of our season.”
“We want to finish strong and today was the first game of the third quarter,” Lynn said. “We prepared to win and we did.”
The Chargers rushed for a season-high 159 yards, including a season-high 70 yards on 12 carries by Austin Ekeler, surpassing the previous high of 137 in a 13-10 loss to the Detroit Lions Sept. 15. Gordon ended a streak of eight consecutive games of rushing for 42 yards or less dating back to last season, including the playoffs.
The streak began after Gordon suffered a knee injury Nov. 25 that sidelined him the next three games.
The 80 yards were Gordon’s most since rushing for 93 yards on 18 carries in a 20-6 victory over the Oakland Raiders Nov. 11, 2018.
Gordon said his performance was the result of “our offense as a whole — the play-calling, the line, Phil making the right calls, the receivers, the tight ends.”
“Everybody helped contribute to my success,” Gordon said.
The Chargers had rushed for 39 yards or less for four consecutive games. The streak coincided with Gordon’s return to play after not reporting to the team as he sought a contract extension.
Steichen replaced Ken Whisenhunt as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator and play caller. Whisenhunt was fired Monday, one day after the Chargers failed to score more than 20 points for the sixth time in seven games.
“Shane did an outstanding job,” Lynn said. “I thought he was aggressive when he needed to be aggressive and he did a good job establishing the run when he had to.”
The Chargers entered play Sunday ranked 23rd in the 32-team NFL in scoring, averaging 19.6 points per game, and 28th in rushing, averaging 69.5 yards.
Their previous 2019 high in yardage was 435 in their season-opening 30-24 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts Sept. 8. The fewest yards their defense allowed was 233 to the Miami Dolphins in a 30-10 victory Sept. 29.
Steichen joined the Chargers in 2011 as a defensive assistant, a position he held through the 2012 season. He spent the 2013 season as an offensive quality-control coach with the Cleveland Browns, working with the quarterbacks.
Steichen returned to the Chargers in 2014 as an offensive quality-control coach working primarily with their receivers. He was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2016, a post he held until his promotion to offensive coordinator.
Badgley kicked 29- and 40-yard field goals on the Chargers’ first two possessions and a 34-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to give the Chargers a 9-0 halftime lead, the first time this season they have held an opponent scoreless in the first half.
The Chargers drove 84 yards on 15 plays from their 5-yard line to the Packers’ 11-yard line in eight minutes, four seconds on the opening series, with Rivers completing six of seven passes for 71 yards. Badgley’s second field goal came four plays after Mike Williams caught a short pass on a crossing route from Rivers and turned it to a 56-yard gain.
Badgley kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
Rivers completed eight of 10 passes for 73 yards on the 13-play, 76-yard drive that led to Badgley’s third field goal.
The game was Badgley’s first of 2019 after missing the first eight games because of a groin injury. He made a team-record 93.8% of his field goal attempts in 2018, including a 59-yarder, also a team record.
“We have to do a better job in the red zone,” Rivers said. “I was afraid the field goals earlier would come back to hurt us. I looked up and it was 9-0 after we really felt like we dominated the first half.”
After being held to three field goals in their three first-half possessions inside Green Bay’s 20-yard line, the Chargers scored touchdowns on both their second-half possessions inside the Packers’ 20-yard line.
Gordon ran 1 yard for the game’s first touchdown with 3:56 left in the third quarter, six plays after rookie Drue Tranquill blocked a punt by JK Scott and the ball rolled out of bounds at Green Bay’s 27-yard line.
After punting on each of their first five possessions, the Packers scored their first points on the possession following Gordon’s first touchdown on Mason Crosby’s 54-yard field goal with 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The Chargers responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive culminated by Gordon’s 1-yard run for his second touchdown. The score with 10:32 remaining came one play after Green Bay was penalized for being offside on a 19-yard field goal by Badgley. Lynn decided to try for the touchdown on a fourth-and-goal from inside the Packers’ 1-yard line.
The Packers scored their touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Rogers to Jamaal Williams with 6:21 to play. Rogers also ran for the two-point conversion.
The victory ended the Chargers seven-game losing streak to Green Bay and was their first in a home game after six losses, all in San Diego. Their only previous victory came in 1984, a 34-28 win at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.
The Chargers’ 1-10 record against the Packers entering the game was their worst against any opponent, while Green Bay’s 10-1 record against the Chargers was its best against any opponent.
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