Sunday was a weirder one in our collection of 17 regular season days of glory.
That last part seems least likely of all, considering the Chargers‘ reputation to, well, Charger their way into losses that seemed to be sure wins. Just look at the start of last season, and the loss of key players along the way (tight end Hunter Henry, the half-season absence of Joey Bosa). Good fortune rarely shines on the Bolts.
Sunday night was different, though. First, they received a stroke of luck in the form of an unseasonably pleasant Sunday evening in Pittsburgh, where it was warmer than it was in Los Angeles. Then, they completed the road comeback with one of the more stunning halftime turnarounds in recent memory.
Cris Collinsworth raved about it in the closing moments of the game. We’re going to spend the next couple hundred words on it.
Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
The reigning Comeback Player of the Year just keeps doing his job, and then some, for the Chargers.
Allen’s stat line (14 catches, 148 yards, one touchdown) is undoubtedly sterling, but it’s when he logged those numbers that made his contributions most effective.
Need a third-down completion to move the chains? Target Allen. Looking for a touchdown? Heave it to Keenan. Two-point conversion? He’ll do that for you, too.
Allen even caught his touchdown off a tip, keeping track of the ball falling softly toward the ground as two Steelers (Joe Haden and Sean Davis) came crashing to the turf beneath it. It seemed like something out of an action film: Two henchmen outwitted by the wiley protagonist, cooly collecting his reward while they wallowed in their self-created misery.
Also considered …
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Punter Johnny Hekker pointed and stared into a TV camera’s lens while holding for a kick during the game. Gurley wore sunglasses on the sidelines. And he also rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries — and what might not be a fully healthy ankle.
Gurley made a habit out of slicing through the Detroit defense, running for 13 or more yards on four carries and catching a pass for 15 yards, too. His longest run of the day, a 36-yard romp, was the capper.
The all-world running back could’ve had a third touchdown, but ran parallel to the goal line after gaining those 36 yards in an attempt to burn clock and maintain possession late in a close game. Even his way of doing so could have been seen as an attempt to punk the Lions.
Defense, Houston Texans
What’s one way to quiet a quarterback who talks more than your average signal-caller?
Intercept him three times.
That’s what the Houston Texans did to Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, piecing together a team effort to force the rookie into three turnovers. Those turnovers included a pick-six on the part of linebacker Zach Cunningham, who took a relatively close game and turned it into a runaway.
Cunningham’s score put Houston ahead 17-0 and forced the Browns to press offensively, creating an ideal situation for the defense’s second interception. That takeaway came on the ensuing drive, when on first-and-20 from Houston’s 43, Mayfield dropped to pass and fired a bullet toward Antonio Callaway. It landed in the hands of Johnathan Joseph, eventually leading to a Texans field goal and a 20-0 first-half lead.
The third pick came as a result of an end zone heave on a throw Mayfield simply didn’t need to attempt. That last part doesn’t matter to Houston’s defense, though, as Andre Hal was there to make an excellent play, intercepting the pass and keeping his feet in bounds in the back of the end zone.
The three picks buried the Browns enough that, even as the Texans were carved up by Mayfield in the second half (351 passing yards in the final two quarters), it still wasn’t enough for Cleveland. With an opportunistic defense that is starting to force more turnovers lately, and an offense that can run well, the Texans figure to win most ball-control games. They sure did Sunday.