Chargers’ rushing troubles vs. Jets nearly cost them victory

Chargers running back Kalen Ballage leaps for yardage against the New York Jets.
Running back Kalen Ballage leaps for yardage against the New York Jets during the Chargers’ win Sunday.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

The Chargers’ final offensive play Sunday was officially a 28-yard rushing loss by Ty Long.

The punter intentionally ran backward and through the end zone to take a safety while attempting to chew up the game’s final seconds.

While effective, the play also was a fitting finish to an afternoon when the Chargers failed to establish any sort of ground attack in a 34-28 win against the winless New York Jets.


“They kicked our tails between the tackles in the running game,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “It showed in the stat book. We have to get better between the tackles. Normally, we are, but today we were not.”

Kalen Ballage finished with 16 carries for 44 yards. Quarterback Justin Herbert had two rushing attempts for 11 yards.

Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert threw three touchdown passes in a 34-28 victory over the winless Jets, earning him a place in NFL history, but the team’s late-game issues showed up again.

The other two running backs on the active roster Sunday did little. Troymaine Pope had three rushes for four yards and rookie Josh Kelley four for minus-two.

“You gotta run the football to win most of the time,” Lynn said. “I’ll tell you, we were fortunate today. We’ve had a good rushing attack. But, today, they just outplayed us between the tackles.”

The situation was so discouraging that the Chargers, on their next-to-last possession in the final four minutes, attempted to burn as much clock as possible with three straight short pass plays.

They gained zero yards and consumed only 54 seconds.

Minus the Long loss, the Chargers rushed 25 times for 57 yards, an average of 2.3 yards per attempt.

They entered averaging 131.6 yards per game, ninth best in the NFL. The Jets were giving up 120.9 yards on average.

The Chargers continue to play without their top two running backs, Austin Ekeler (hamstring) and Justin Jackson (knee). Both are on injured reserve.

Ekeler appears to be nearing a return, while Jackson’s situation is less certain.

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen caught a franchise-record 16 passes in a victory over the New York Jets. He also scored a touchdown.