Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler lead Chargers to victory over Texans

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler dives for a touchdown past Houston Texans safety Jonathan Owens.
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler dives for a touchdown past Houston Texans safety Jonathan Owens during the second half on Sunday in Houston.
(Eric Christian Smith / Associated Press)

The Chargers held on for a 34-24 victory at Houston on Sunday. Justin Herbert finished with 340 yards and two touchdowns while Austin Ekeler scored three times.

Chargers nearly turn over big lead but defense saves them against Texans

HOUSTON — Coming off a four-touchdown loss at home, the Chargers on Sunday had given away nearly all of a 20-point lead as the midway mark of the fourth quarter approached.

It would be overly dramatic to suggest their season was facing a collapse of biblical measures.

It would not be misleading, however, to note that things changed when safety Derwin James Jr. heard a voice booming from above.

The public-address announcer at NRG Stadium helped spur the Chargers as they rallied back to secure a 34-24 victory over Houston.

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Chargers hold off Texans 34-24 to improve 2-2 on the season

Austin Ekeler jumps up in front of three teammates.
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) celebrates with teammates after his touchdown run against the Houston Texans during the first half on Sunday in Houston.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

After opening a 20-point lead, the Chargers held on for a 34-24 victory at Houston.

The Texans closed to within 27-24 in the fourth quarter before the Chargers were able to put the game away.

Justin Herbert finished 27 of 39 for 340 yards and two touchdowns. Austin Ekeler scored three times, twice on the ground and once through the air.

With the win, the Chargers improved to 2-2. Next weekend, they travel to Cleveland.


Austin Ekeler scores his third touchdown of the game to give Chargers 10-point lead late

Austin Ekeler scored his third touchdown of the game with 2:28 left in regulation to put the Chargers up 34-24 at Houston.

Ekeler took a short pass from Justin Herbert and sprinted to the front corner of the end zone, diving into the pylon for a 14-yard score.

The Chargers’ offense finally sustained a drive after sputtering to a halt in the second half.

The Chargers went 84 yards in 12 plays, converting third-and-two, fourth-and-two and third-and-six along the way. Ekeler and Herbert connected for a 21-yard gain to convert the fourth down from the Chargers’ own 45.


Chargers hold Texans to field goal after turnover during kickoff return

Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 40-yard field goal cut the Chargers’ lead to 27-24 with 8:30 left in regulation in Houston.

It could have been worse for the Chargers. DeAndre Carter’s fumble on a kickoff return set up the Texans at the Chargers’ 16-yard line.

The defense tightened up, with Jerry Tillery’s sack and forced fumble on second down being the biggest play.


Texans making a comeback against Chargers late

Houston moved to within one score — 27-21— on an 18-yard pass by Davis Mills to Brandin Cooks with 10:02 to play in regulation.

The Texans went 93 yards in five plays on the explosive drive that also included a 58-yard Mills completion to Nico Collins, who got behind J.C. Jackson and Nasir Adderley.

Cooks beat Asante Samuel Jr. for the touchdown.

Houston got back in the game thanks to the Chargers’ offense stalling. The Chargers have punted on each of their three second-half possessions.


Texans cut Chargers’ lead 27-14 late in the third quarter

Davis Mills passed eight yards to Rex Burkhead to pull Houston to within 27-14 with 1:12 remaining in the third quarter.

The Texans went 87 yards in eight plays for their second touchdown of the day.

The big play was a 30-yard Mills pass to Jordan Akins. On that completion, Chargers’ cornerback J.C. Jackson had a missed tackle that allowed Akins to tack on a significant gain.


Dustin Hopkins puts Chargers up 27-7 at halftime

Dustin Hopkins put the Chargers up 27-7 at halftime with a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter.

The Chargers drove to the Houston 14-yard line but could get no closer.

Michael Bandy caught two passes from Justin Herbert for a combined 49 yards on the drive. They were the first catches of Bandy’s career.

Bandy finished the half playing in place of Joshua Palmer, who was standing on the sidelines holding his helmet. The Chargers made no announcement regarding Palmer’s health.


Chargers make field goal to go up 24-7 closing in on halftime

The Chargers answered right back with a field-goal drive to go up 24-7 after Houston’s Dameon Pierce had his 75-yard touchdown run.

Dustin Hopkins cashed in from 23 yards out with 4:35 remaining before halftime.

Justin Herbert was five of six for 69 yards on the drive.


Texans get on the board with 75-yard touchdown run by rookie Dameon Pierce

Houston went quick-strike to pull to within 21-7 on a 75-yard touchdown run by rookie Dameon Pierce.

Edge rusher Chris Rumph II failed to set the edge on the left side of the defense, safety Derwin James Jr. got blocked and fellow safety Nasir Adderley took a bad angle, allowing Pierce to break free.


Austin Ekeler put Chargers up 21-0 with a 20-yard touchdown run

Austin Ekeler put the Chargers up 21-0 with a 20-yard touchdown run with 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter.

After not scoring a touchdown in his team’s first three games, Ekeler scored in the second on Sunday in the span of four plays.

The touchdown followed immediately after Justin Herbert hit Mike Williams for a 50-yard gain. Williams was uncovered by Houston’s defense as he streaked over the middle.

The 20-yard run by Ekeler was the Chargers’ longest of the season.


Austin Ekeler scores his first touchdown of season to add to Chargers’ lead

Austin Ekeler scored his first touchdown of the season on a 10-yard run to put the Chargers up 14-0 with 12:57 left in the first quarter.

The touchdown also was the Chargers’ first on the ground this year.

The run capped a nine-play, 64-yard drive during which Justin Herbert was three for four for 33 yards while Ekeler and Joshua Kelley combined to carry five times for 31 yards.

The drive also featured one third-down conversion, Herbert connecting with DeAndre Carter for 14 yards on third-and-six.


Chargers takes advantage of Texans’ early turnover to go up 7-0

The Chargers scored the game’s first points, taking advantage of a Nasir Adderley interception, on a Justin Herbert-to-Gerald Everett touchdown pass.

Adderley picked off Davis Mills to end Houston’s first possession. The Texans quarterback threw high as he was being pressured and eventually hit by Khalil Mack.

Adderley returned the interception 30 yards to the Houston 25-yard line.

Three plays later, on third-and-three, Herbert hit Everett for an 18-yard score.

Dustin Hopkins’ extra point made it 7-0 with 12 minutes left in the opening quarter.


Chargers make return to site of past failure while facing adversity

Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams catches a touchdown pass.
Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams catches a touchdown pass during a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 25.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

HOUSTON — The performance was their most forgettable in a season that didn’t die until the last play of overtime in the final game.

It was so forgettable, that the Chargers today still haven’t forgotten.

“Oh, yeah, you remember,” linebacker Drue Tranquill said. “Trust me, you remember.”

In possession of their postseason fate, the 2021 Chargers traveled to Houston for a Week 16 matchup of teams ravaged by COVID-19. They were promptly defeated with emphasis by the then-three win Texans 41-29.

On Sunday, the 2022 Chargers travel back to NRG Stadium ravaged this time by injury while trying to prove their playoff worthiness all over.

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Chargers defensive lineman Christian Covington active for first time this season

Chargers defensive end Christian Covington warms up before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Chargers defensive end Christian Covington warms up before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders last season.
(David Becker / Associated Press)

Defensive lineman Christian Covington is active for the first time this season for the Chargers, who play at Houston.

The veteran replaces rookie Otito Ogbonnia, who had been active for the first three games.

The Chargers’ inactives include starting wide receiver Keenan Allen and backup tight end Donald Parham Jr., both of whom have hamstring injuries.

The other inactives: running back Isaiah Spiller, safety JT Woods and quarterback Easton Stick.


NFL readers Q&A: Fans delve into regressing Chargers, Rams offenses

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert throws the ball.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert throws against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 25.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Readers ask our NFL football experts questions about the Rams, the Chargers and the league. Rams beat writer Gary Klein and Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller answer:

I think the offense looked better in Justin’s first year under Shane Steichen and quarterback coach Pep Hamilton than Joe Lombardi and Shane Day. That includes last year and most definitely this year. No commitment or consistency in the run game, a lot of dink dink passes with no real commitment to the long game. Just scattershot. Horrible gimmick or trick plays, etc. What is your take? Agree or disagree and why is what I would like to know. Now by the end of the year Shane will be the next great thing! Teams will be lined up to hire him. And Hamilton is getting all he can out of that under-talented Houston team.

Randy Strunk, San Diego

Miller: The 2020 Chargers’ offense finished 18th in points and ninth in yards. Last year’s offense was fifth and fourth, respectively, in those categories. So, under Lombardi in 2021, Herbert and the offense were much better than the year before. Beyond Herbert’s health, which will remain the biggest obstacle for the foreseeable future, the offensive line would be my biggest concern. The injuries to LT Rashawn Slater and C Corey Linsley have been crippling.

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Chargers inactives vs. Texans

Chargers released list of inactives for today’s game against the Houston Texans:


Chargers reveal how they blew it trying to protect injured quarterback Justin Herbert

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert rolls out during a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 25.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Justin Herbert and his fractured rib cartilage absolutely personified the NFL’s long-standing designation of “questionable” Sunday.

The cloudiness around Herbert’s status was so pronounced that — even after the quarterback started against Jacksonville — the uncertainty leaked into the game, impacting the Chargers’ play calling.

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi admitted Thursday he might have erred in trying to protect Herbert.

“I probably made it a little murkier than it needed to be,” Lombardi said. “I think he was truly a game-time decision. Pregame he’s like, ‘Look, I’m good. So don’t worry about it.’

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Chargers vs. Houston Texans matchups, start time and how to watch

Breaking down how the Chargers (1-2) and the Houston Texans (0-2-1) match up heading into their game at 10 a.m. PDT on Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston. The game will be shown on CBS and streamed on Paramount+ and NFL+.

When Chargers have the ball: For an offense that features Pro Bowl players and fantasy favorites aplenty, a rookie sixth-round draft pick will be one of the primary focuses Sunday. Jamaree Salyer is set to make his first NFL start, at left tackle in place of the injured Rashawn Slater. Salyer will be responsible for helping protect Justin Herbert and his fractured rib cartilage as well as providing some much-needed space for the running backs.

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Chargers vs. Texans: Betting odds, lines and picks against the spread

The Chargers and Rams have big games in very different ways in Week 4. The Chargers absolutely need to get back to .500 by beating the winless Texans. Here’s a look at how to approach the game from a betting perspective.

Chargers (-5, 44) at Houston Texans

Brandon Staley’s decision to let his injured quarterback play in the fourth quarter of a blowout has been a big enough story to distract people from how bad the defense played against the Jaguars. Justin Herbert certainly wasn’t great, going 25 of 45 for 297 yards with a touchdown and a pick, but the Chargers allowed 413 yards of total offense to Trevor Lawrence and the Jags. The final score should have been even worse, but the Jaguars settled for three short field goals in the second quarter.

Herbert’s injury and unnecessary usage deflected some of the blame by becoming an incendiary talking point, but the reality is that the MVP candidate doesn’t play defense. The Chargers have not gotten consistent pressure on the quarterback and that task becomes even harder with Joey Bosa on injured reserve. Star cornerback J.C. Jackson has been on the injury report most of the season, as opposing quarterbacks have completed two-thirds of their passes. Los Angeles hasn’t forced a turnover in the last two games and has allowed 65 points to the Chiefs and Jaguars.

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