Denzel Perryman's return gives Chargers' defense a big assist in shutting down Leonard Fournette

Denzel Perryman's return gives Chargers' defense a big assist in shutting down Leonard Fournette
Denzel Perryman and the Chargers' defense hold Leonard Fournette of the Jacksonville Jaguars to 33 yards in 17 carries Sunday. (Logan Bowles / Getty Images)

A Chargers defense that ranked second to last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed held Jacksonville to 135 yards Sunday, 31 fewer than the Jaguars' league-leading average.

And while the 135 rushing yards allowed matched what the Chargers have been giving up, 56 of them came on one first-quarter touchdown run.


Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette, the bruising rookie who ranked sixth in the NFL with 596 yards and six touchdowns on 130 carries — an average of 4.6 yards per — managed only 33 yards on 17 carries for an average of 1.9 yards.

To say linebacker Denzel Perryman made his presence felt in his 2017 debut, after missing the first eight games because of a torn ligament in his left ankle, is like saying the Chargers have had difficulty winning close games.

Perryman, the 2015 second-round pick out of Miami, was all over the EverBank Field on Sunday, recording a team-high nine tackles — eight unassisted — before departing midway through the fourth quarter because of soreness in his surgically repaired ankle.

"I made some plays, I missed a few tackles, but it felt good to get back out there and knock some rust off," Perryman said. "I give credit to the guys up front. The linebackers can't get downhill unless those guys are doing their job. The whole game, they freed us up, and we went downhill and made plays."

One of Perryman's best plays came on a third and one from the Jaguars' 41-yard line in the second quarter, when he shot a gap and hit Fournette in the backfield, allowing strong safety Jahleel Addae to tackle Fournette for a one-yard loss and force a punt. Perryman played all but a handful of plays before exiting the game.

"Yeah, I expected him to play that much," cornerback Casey Hayward said. "I know how tough he is, and he's back home, in the state of Florida, so nothing was gonna stop that man from playing. His energy, his presence out there, helps our team. Any time you can get a player like that back, it helps."

Fooled again

Chargers defensive lineman Chris McCain was prepared for the Jaguars to attempt a fake punt, seeing as they pulled one off in London on Sept. 24, when Corey Grant took a short snap and ran 58 yards to set up a touchdown against Baltimore.

"They ran it before," McCain said. "Yeah, we knew they would do fakes."

Rookie defensive back Desmond King, who plays on most of the Chargers' special teams, must have missed the memo. He admitted to being caught off guard when Grant took a short snap in punt formation and ran 56 yards for a touchdown to give Jacksonville a 6-0 lead with 24 seconds left in the first quarter.

"No, I didn't think it was coming; nobody thought it was coming," King said. "It was probably something they game-planned for and read."

McCain nearly stopped Grant near the line, grabbing for the runner's ankles as a Jaguars lineman fell on him, but was unable to hold on. Grant faked out King in the open field at the Chargers' 40-yard line and cut back to elude return man Travis Benjamin en route to the end zone.

Pick-six nixed

Tre Boston had two interceptions in the final two minutes of regulation, seemingly sealing a win for the Chargers, but the free safety was still kicking himself after the game about the one that got away.


Early in the fourth quarter from the Jacksonville 41 with the Chargers leading 17-14, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles threw a short pass to the right side to receiver Marqise Lee, the former USC standout who had caught a six-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion to tie the score in the third.

Boston stepped in front of the receiver and had a clear shot at the ball and the end zone, but dropped a potential interception that could have given the Chargers a 24-14 lead.

"I was heading toward the end zone," Boston said. "I dropped it. I promised my guys I'd get them back. I ended up with two [interceptions]. I should have had three. We didn't win the ballgame, so it doesn't mean anything."


Left tackle Russell Okung has been raising his fist during the national anthem in a show of solidarity with NFL players protesting social injustices and police brutality, but he didn't Sunday, the day the NFL honored military veterans as part of the league's Salute to Service. Okung said he didn't want to distract from the direct celebration of those who serve. … Corey Liuget blocked a Josh Lambo point-after attempt in the first quarter. It marked the first blocked PAT for the Chargers since John Parrella got to a Todd Peterson kick on Nov. 4, 2001, against Kansas City. … With 235 yards passing, Philip Rivers pushed his career total to 48,096 yards. … Right tackle Joe Barksdale (turf toe) and linebacker Hayes Pullard (neck) were inactive.

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna