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Chargers’ offense looking to maintain consistency at Oakland

November 5, 2019
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Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, center, throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, center, throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Melvin Gordon and Philip Rivers didn’t have much time to savor the Los Angeles Chargers’ best offensive performance of the season.

They quickly had to look ahead to Thursday night’s game at Oakland and trying to build on it.

Los Angeles set season highs for total yards (442) and time of possession (35:51) in Sunday’s 26-11 victory over Green Bay. It was also the first game where Shane Steichen was calling the plays. Steichen was promoted to offensive coordinator after Ken Whisenhunt was fired on Oct. 28.

“The challenge is how can we duplicate it again,” Rivers said.

The biggest improvement was in the running game, which also had a season high with 159 yards after the Chargers were held under 40 in four straight games. Gordon averaged 4.0 yards per carry against the Packers.

“The past couple games we were in a bind and playing catch up. Usually when you are running at the end of the game that means you’re up and trying to close out,” said Gordon, who had 15 carries in the second half. “It felt like none of us have been in that position for a while.”

The Chargers have made two adjustments to fix the run game — they have cut back on the number of plays but also have gotten up to the line faster instead of huddling.

Austin Ekeler said they are focusing on just five or six types of run plays to keep the game plan simple. Most of the runs were inside as the Chargers were successful in running off the tackles.

According to Sportradar and the NFL’s Next Gen stats, the Chargers’ average time on the play clock when snapping the ball against the Packers was nine seconds, which is nearly two seconds quicker than their season average.

“When we got a first down, we would get straight on the ball and Phil would call another run play,” Ekeler said. “That would keep the defense on the field, so they wouldn’t have much in the way of substitutions.”

Hunter Henry and Mike Williams are becoming bigger parts of the passing game. Henry is averaging 81 yards per game since returning from a knee injury and Williams had the first 100-yard game of his career last week.

“I feel like we are just getting in the groove as an offense. We were pretty balanced,” Gordon said. “I can’t say if we found our identity, but we’ll see.”

Another key to the improvement is that the Chargers are getting healthier. Gordon, who missed two months due to a contract holdout, finally looks to be in regular-season form while the offensive line has been bolstered by the return of left tackle Russell Okung, who missed the first seven games because of blood clots.

Coach Anthony Lynn said the Chargers are finally starting to look like the team they took to training camp.

Whether the Chargers (4-5) can win their third straight and get to .500 by being balanced remains to be seen. The Raiders (4-4) come into the game seventh in the league against the run but last against the pass.

“We’ve executed in spurts earlier in the season but in the last game we did it at a higher level more consistently,” Rivers said.

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