Austin Ekeler and Ty Long lift injury-hobbled Chargers over Dolphins
He felt it during pregame warmups, Ty Long noticing “just something weird” happening with his left foot.
He mentioned it to the appropriate members of the Chargers staff but never once doubted he’d be ready to go Sunday.
“I’m playing,” Long recalled saying. “I mean, I have to.”
Among the 46 Chargers active against Miami, Long was the only one paid to kick the football. He was signed to be the punter but was set to also fill in as the kicker for a fourth consecutive game because of injury.
Not only was he one man doing two jobs, but also he was the only man for either job.
Besides, Long has two feet and the healthy one — the one on the right — is the one he kicks with.
After ending a contract holdout, Melvin Gordon is expected to make his season debut next Sunday against Denver. Meanwhile, Austin Ekeler keeps producing.
Three successful field goals and three made extra points later, the banged-up, patched-up Chargers had survived another injury plagued Sunday with a 30-10 victory over the reeling and winless Dolphins.
“It’s just the nature of the game, I guess,” wide receiver Keenan Allen said of the bounty of failed body parts that have pocked the roster. “I don’t know what else to say about it. Gotta keep fighting.”
Having lost two in a row, the Chargers encountered at the perfect time a Miami bunch that, because of its recent roster decisions, has been widely suspected of tanking.
The Chargers played without six full-time starters and five others who would have had significant roles.
Then, during the course of four quarters in a baking south Florida sun, they lost defensive end Melvin Ingram, linebacker Denzel Perryman, wide receiver Dontrelle Inman and tight end Sean Culkin.
Ingram (hamstring) and Inman (quadriceps) will be re-evaluated Monday, the extent of their injuries unknown.
Perryman was checked for a concussion and cleared. Culkin suffered an torn Achilles tendon.
“We knew it was going to take every man on the roster …, ” coach Anthony Lynn said. “I thought they played well, the young men who stepped up. It’s going to help us in the long run, with the depth on our football team.”
On the plus side, the Chargers were able to get through the Dolphins without having to employ Melvin Gordon, who just rejoined the team Thursday after a nine-week contract holdout.
With Austin Ekeler and Troymaine Pope as his only other healthy running backs, Lynn said he would have used Gordon had one of those two gone down.
As it was, a point arrived in the fourth quarter when Gordon thought he was about to enter the game. Wearing a baseball cap most of the afternoon, he was suddenly told to retrieve his helmet.
Ekeler was on his way to a team-high to 23 touches for 122 yards and two touchdowns and Pope (12 touches for 34 yards and one touchdown) was winded.
“And then a timeout happened,” Gordon said. “They were like, ‘Let’s be smart. End of the game, we don’t want you to go in there and then something happens and we look crazy.’ ”
After scoring only three points after halftime in their previous two games, the Chargers put Miami away by winning the second half 13-0.
What Philip Rivers lacked in mobility he made up for in creativity, going off schedule on a pair of touchdown passes in a 30-10 win over Miami.
Philip Rivers finished 24 of 30 for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Before he was hurt, Inman had five catches for a team-high 76 yards.
“Dontrelle was balling,” Allen said. “He came up big on almost every pass play it felt like. He was getting open and catching the ball.”
Still, it was 10-10 late in the second quarter before Ekeler scored the first of his two touchdowns. The Dolphins even had their first lead since December, 7-3, after scoring on their opening possession. So although they were favored by more than two touchdowns, the Chargers had to battle for most of this game.
They also had to withstand another score being nullified by penalty, their fourth such touchdown lost this season.
Allen, running a crossing route, was called for pass interference after Miami cornerback Xavien Howard went down. Without the flag, the play would have been a 69-yard score.
“Just a terrible call,” Allen said. “I didn’t do anything. He made the contact. He fell.”
Asked how much he lobbied Lynn to challenge the call, Allen smiled and added: “I yelled at the whole sidelines, ‘Throw the flag.’ I’m hot about it. But it’s 30-10. Move on. I’m good.”
The Chargers will move on, set to face Denver back at Dignity Health Sports Park. They evened their record at 2-2 and are in position to receive a boost with Gordon expected to make his 2019 debut against the Broncos.
Of course, with this team, nothing should be assumed. Even pregame warmups can be treacherous, Sunday’s normally routine exercise leaving the Chargers’ punter/kicker with a noticeable limp.
Lynn, asked about Long after the game, said: “He made all his kicks. He didn’t struggle with that last 51-yarder. So, I don’t know what you saw, but I hope you see it again next week.”
When it comes to the Chargers and injuries, who knows what might be seen next.
The Chargers defense recovered from wobbly first half to limit Miami to 36 yards and no points in the second half.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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