What We Saw: Week 4

The What We Saw team recaps everything you missed from Sunday's NFL action

Chargers @ Texans

Final Score: Chargers 34, Texans 24

Writer: Dave Cherman (@DaveCherman on Twitter)


The story of the Chargers’ offense was a story of two halves: one in which they completely clicked and looked overpowering, and another in which they showed a complete lack of aggression, allowing a late comeback possibility. A big fourth-quarter drive prevented that from coming to life and the end result was a nice fantasy day for most everyone.

Meanwhile, Houston was led by rookie Dameon Pierce on the ground and they showed some fight by clawing back into the game and making it a one-possession game later on. They couldn’t quite get over the hump, however, and the Chargers ran away with it at the end.



Los Angeles Chargers




Justin Herbert: 27/39, 340 Yards, 2 TD | 4 Carries, -5 Yards


Now THAT is Justin Herbert. 17 days after fracturing his rib cartilage against Kansas City and 7 days after looking like a shell of himself in an embarrassing home loss to Jacksonville, the Chargers QB looked like the old Herbert. After coming out a bit rusty, Herbert settled in and carved up Houston’s defense repeatedly in the first half. Then, as he has so many times before, Joe Lombardi failed to maintain aggression in his playcalling and the offense stalled throughout the second half.

The stats don’t show Herbert’s rusty start, especially because he immediately struck on a touchdown to Gerald Everett, but the throw was less than inspring.



It’s unlike Herbert to underthrow receivers in the endzone and this throw inspired some concern. But after that, he settled in. My favorite throw of his on the day was this dime to practice squad elevatee and pre-season darling Michael Bandy.



With time winding down in the half, Herbert remained patient and found Bandy in stride, placing the ball perfectly between the defenders. Chef’s kiss.

In addition to Herbert’s seemingly improved ribs, there were two big factors to Herbert’s success: the improved rushing game, which we’ll come back to, and a stable offensive line. Sixth-rounder Jamaree Salyer replaced Storm Norton on the left side after pro-bowler Rashawn Slater‘s biceps injury forced him to the IR and he was spectacular. In addition, Corey Linsley, the team’s pro-bowl center, returned from his knee injury. Herbert had plenty of time to go through his reads and the results followed. Cleveland’s pass rush is much better than Houston’s, however, so we’ll see how it holds up next week.


Running Back


Austin Ekeler: 13 Carries, 60 Yards, 2 TD | 7 Targets, 6 Receptions, 49 Yards, TD | 1 Fumble (Recovered)

Joshua Kelley: 4 Carries, 15 Yards | 2 Targets

Sony Michel: 6 Carries, 11 Yards | 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 16 Yards


The first few weeks have been absolutely brutal for this ground game. Although Austin Ekeler has remained the best receiving back in football, they’d been unable to generate stability on the ground, and for the first 14 minutes, Bolts backs continued to run into brick walls.

And then Joshua Kelley broke loose for a few solid gains. Ekeler followed suit with several big runs of his own, suddenly finding holes created by their offensive line for touchdowns of 10 and 20 in the second quarter.



That is old-school Ekeler right there, showing off his surprising quickness after getting to the second level. In the second half, the Chargers turned to Sony Michel more often than not and the offense ground back to a halt as Michel looked as if was running through sand. Ekeler came back to life in the fourth quarter when Houston made the game interesting, showing substantial burst on this check down.



The offense still has a long way to go in its consistency and it would be well served if Isaiah Spiller or Kelley absorbed Michel’s touches.


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Mike Williams: 11 Targets, 7 Receptions, 120 Yards

Gerald Everett: 6 Targets, 5 Receptions, 61 Yards, TD

Joshua Palmer: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 25 Yards

DeAndre Carter: 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 16 Yards, 1 Fumble (Lost)


You’re hot, then you’re cold. You’re yes, then you’re no. You’re in then you’re out. You’re up then you’re down. Katy Perry may have been singing that song about Mike Williams‘ season as he posted his second dominant performance alongside two mediocre ones. The underlying metrics were still elite though:



Williams’ feasted against the Texans’ secondary, regularly torching Derek Stingley Jr. in coverage and getting open in space. Time and time again, Williams was Herbert’s look when he needed a conversion and Williams delivered. Williams still is not among the fastest receivers in football, which means his deep routes take time to develop. The line gave that to him today and he showed out.

In three weeks with Keenan Allen out, it’s been frustrating to watch Joshua Palmer. His general skill set is similar to Allen’s and throughout the offseason, Palmer was supposedly training by watching Allen. So far, he doesn’t seem ready to step into that role in the offense consistently. He was largely off the field today while his ankle got taped. He also lost snaps early after he mistimed his motion and ran into Ekeler, causing a fumble, which Ekeler recovered.

Do you know who does, though? Gerald Everett. The tight end routinely got open and picked up chunk gains. The touchdown should’ve been easier to reel in than it was, but he showed some great athleticism to snag it. While he made a few nice grabs, DeAndre Carter is not a consistent factor in the offense, but Michael Bandy could become one. He’s undersized, but his 4.42 speed flashed.


Houston Texans




Davis Mills: 26/35, 246 Yards, 2 TD, 2 INT


This game started ugly for Davis Mills, who felt pressure from the Chargers on 3rd down on the opening drive and badly overthrew Nico Collins, which gave the Chargers a quick touchdown.



Afterwards, Mills settled down and made a few eye-opening plays, the best of which was a perfectly placed ball between three defenders to Brandin Cooks on third down. Unfortunately, left tackle Laremy Tunsil was called for holding, bringing the play back.

Like the Jags last week, the Texans clearly intended for Mills to get the ball out early and pick up chunk gains underneath this defense. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again. Even without Joey Bosa, the Chargers were all over the checkdowns, which forced 3rd and longs. And when he needed more time for his receivers to get open, the pressure got there and Davis didn’t respond well to it, looking like a deer in headlights, which kept the offense from developing a rhythm. Once they fell down by 3 scores though, the pass rush eased up and Mills found his receivers for big chunk gains.

With the Chargers taking their foot off the gas, Mills nearly led a big second half comeback, highlighted by this deep bomb to Nico Collins.



If Davis Mills had another quarter, the comeback might’ve happened, but sadly, he ran out of time.


Running Back


Dameon Pierce: 14 Carries, 131 Yards, TD | 6 Targets, 6 Receptions, 8 Yards

Rex Burkhead: 5 Targets, 5 Receptions, 39 Yards, TD


After starting slow, Dameon Pierce looked like he shot out of a cannon on his 75-yard touchdown run, dodging defenders left and right and scampering untouched down the sideline.



He was also Mills’ favorite underneath target, picking up a ton of targets behind the line of scrimmage. Even if you take away the big run, he still put together a solid day, with several gains over 5 yards.

Rex Burkhead was exclusively used in the passing game, which really only occurred with the Texans down 20. In a tighter game, Pierce may have seen almost all the RB touches.


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Brandin Cooks: 7 Targets, 7 Receptions, 57 Yards, TD

Nico Collins: 5 Targets, 3 Receptions, 82 Yards

O.J. Howard: 5 Targets, 2 Receptions, 27 Yards


Platitudes like these feel overused, but Brandin Cooks is really one of the most underrated receivers in the game. Since being struck in the QB-less vacuum that is Houston, Cooks has felt somewhat forgotten, but he routinely got open against a strong secondary and made difficult, contested catches, like this one:



While he was largely quiet, Nico Collins once again flashed his high athletic ceiling with the above-referenced deep ball. Despite his elite frame and speed, Collins struggled to get open consistently but made the most of it when he did. The rest of the receiving game really only made any impact in comeback mode, during which the rushing game got abandoned.

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