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Los Angeles Chargers-Houston Texans Takeaways

Week 16 of the NFL season saw some surprising outcomes. The Los Angeles Chargers traveled to Houston to take on the Texans. The Texans, who were 3-11 and rife with COVID cases, were expected to be an easy win for the Chargers. However, the Chargers lost in an embarrassing fashion, 41-29. How did this happen? Is this some freak accident game for the Chargers, or are they really not good enough to crush the Texans? Here is a deeper look at what exactly went wrong here. These are the Chargers-Texans takeaways.

Chargers Need to Stop Playing Down to Competition

The Los Angeles Chargers have developed a habit of playing to the competition level of their opponents. Now, this can be quite helpful against strong teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, but it can also be a curse when they play weaker opponents, like the Texans. As mentioned earlier, the Chargers beat the Chiefs quite handily in their first matchup this season, 30-24. They also destroyed the now 9-6 Cincinnati Bengals on the road, so they definitely have the talent and skill to beat any team they want.

Conversely, they also let bad teams play to their level or even beat them. The Texans game on Sunday was just another example of that. They also let the struggling Pittsburgh Steelers almost mount an insane comeback against them, and even lost to the offense-less Denver Broncos. The Chargers need to get off this carousel of misery if they want to make any real progress towards making the playoffs (and even Super Bowl).

Chargers Run Defense Struggles…Again

The Chargers’ run defense is pretty mediocre. Prior to this game, they were even one of the worst in the NFL. It didn’t help, then, when many of their key defensive pieces in making their run defense passable were out on the reserve/COVID list. Losing defensive tackle Justin Jones to this was a crucial loss for the Chargers. His lack of presence on the field was certainly felt.

Rex Burkhead scores a touchdown

Rex Burkhead (28) had a career day against the terrible Chargers’ run defense. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

Texans running back Rex Burkhead, a perennial backup in Cincinnati and New England, had a field day against the Chargers’ defense on Sunday. Though he was a solid contributor on many of those Patriots’ teams, the fact of the matter is that he rarely, if ever, got starting reps. And yet the Chargers allowed that Rex Burkhead to put up 149 yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 carries (6.8 ypa). Burkhead put up stats against the Chargers defense that are comparable to the Cleveland Browns’ Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb, which is frankly embarrassing for the Chargers.

People can just say that this performance was merely a product of missing talent for the Chargers’ defense. But the Chargers should be talented enough to make up for a lack in players and still compete. When a perennial backup can put up 150 yards, imagine what someone like MVP candidate Jonathan Taylor could do.

Justin Jackson Was the Star of the Day

Justin Jackson runs the ball
Justin Jackson was the only player on the entire Chargers roster to have a good performance. (Chargers)

Pro-Bowl starting quarterback Justin Herbert, surprisingly, wasn’t even the best Justin on the field for the Chargers. That honor goes to running back Justin Jackson. Jackson, who had very limited reps because of the prevalence of Austin Ekeler, proved that he shouldn’t be forgotten.

Jackson finished the day with 11 carries for 64 yards (5.8 ypa) and two touchdowns. On top of that, he also finished with eight receptions for 98 yards (12.3 ypc). As the unexpected workhorse of the day for the Chargers, Jackson was the sole bright spot in a terrible day. At least Chargers fans now know that they have a competent backup for Ekeler if (more like when) he misses another game.

Final Thoughts

This loss to the Texans reduced the Chargers’ odds of making the playoffs by a significant margin. Now, it would be a stroke of luck for the Chargers to even slip into the playoffs. This game should have been an easy win, and would have been beneficial in staying in the playoff race. Now, the Chargers need to fight from behind to even slip in. This is the Chargers’ debacle that fans have come to expect from the team. Always on the verge of greatness, but their biggest enemy always is themselves. It’s unlikely the Chargers make the playoffs, so fans should start thinking about the offseason. It’s painful to say so, but it might be for the best to accept this fact now.

The Chargers face the Denver Broncos next Sunday. The Broncos curb stomped the Chargers in their previous matchup, 28-13. If the Chargers play like this again next week, it might be too painful for many Chargers fans to watch. These have been the Chargers-Texans takeaways.

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