Studs and duds from Chargers’ victory over Falcons

The Chargers escaped with a 20-17 victory over the Falcons on Sunday following a game-winning field goal by rookie Cameron Dicker.

Here’s who pulled through for the victory and who needed help from their teammates to pull it out.

Stud: Drue Tranquill

Tranquill’s breakout season continued Sunday morning with another stellar performance. The linebacker has excelled as a blitzer this season, a trend that carried through the bye week as Tranquill added another sack by dominating Falcons guard Matt Hennessy on his way to the quarterback. Cordarrelle Patterson did truck Tranquill on his second TD of the game, but for the most part he got into position as a defender and got the job done. With ten total tackles and two for loss, Tranquill continued to show why he deserves a contract extension.

Dud: Drops

This was mostly a third-quarter issue, but drops killed multiple drives for the Chargers that made this game closer than it needed to be. Gerald Everett dropped a pass up the seam on the first play of the second half, causing them to go three and out. On the following drive, Josh Palmer dropped a pass directly at his chest, leading to a Justin Herbert interception off the tip. Everett and Palmer have had drop issues all season, and they’re lucky their mistakes this week did not cost Los Angeles the game.

Stud: Michael Davis

Davis performed very well after being reinserted in the starting lineup after J.C. Jackson’s patellar tendon injury, and it’s clear that this defense is more frequently on the same page assignment-wise when Davis is on the field. Davis was at his best when he was able to jam Drake London at the line of scrimmage, as he did when the Falcons ran London on a fade in the end zone in the second half. The corner was also in position to make tackles when playing as a zone defender and was one of the few defenders who did not noticeably miss any tackles.

Dud: Sony Michel

With Joshua Kelley on injured reserve, the past few weeks have been Michel’s opportunity to cement himself as the clear RB2 option, at least until Kelley returns. Instead, the veteran was phased out in favor of rookie Isaiah Spiller, who out-touched Michel seven to one in this game. Michel was another victim of a costly drop on a second down play and was barely visible in the game after this. Spiller, meanwhile, took seven carries for a pedestrian 29 yards but showed flashes of brilliance as a pass protector. Even if Michel and Spiller are equals at this point, there’s no reason not to play Spiller over the veteran to continue to develop the rookie.

Stud: Run blocking

Trey Pipkins looked healthier in this game until leaving late in the fourth quarter, and it showed in the run game against Atlanta. Pipkins and Zion Johnson moved the Falcons off the line of scrimmage, opening lanes for Ekeler and Spiller to at least get a few yards. Hopefully, Pipkins’ injury is not serious because the Chargers finally looked like they had their rest-of-season offensive line at something resembling 100% in this game. Between Jamaree Salyer, Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley, Johnson, and Pipkins, L.A has the potential to at least keep the run game afloat to keep defenses honest.

Dud: Run fits

Defensively, the trenches have work to do. The Chargers continue to struggle to fit the run even with their free-agent additions, largely because their second-level defenders are simply not performing at a high level. Kyle Van Noy played better than Chris Rumph has in the past few weeks, but he still doesn’t quite have the mass to set the edge on the outside. If Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson, who left the game with a knee injury, do not play every play perfectly, it’s guaranteed to be a seven to ten-yard gain. It’s hard to say what the issue is at this point. The team is dealing with injuries, Joey Bosa chief amongst them. It shouldn’t be a talent problem, given the additions. Whatever it is, something needs to be adjusted.

Stud: Khalil Mack

The stat-sheet doesn’t show that Mack had a huge impact on this game, but he’s on here primarily for one play only. Taking the ball away from an NFL receiver as Mack did is a grown-man play. There’s no other way to say it. The situation that play came in is an important factor to consider: the Chargers were leading 14-10 when Mack forced this fumble. Atlanta would have been inside the five-yard line if London went down, and the way their run game was working, they would’ve almost certainly scored a touchdown. Instead, Mack preserved the lead going into halftime and retained LA’s momentum.

Dud: Defensive gameplan

I don’t think the Chargers’ defense played this Falcons’ offense as well as they could have, but they were bailed out on numerous occasions by Marcus Mariota simply missing throws. In their defense, Los Angeles was forced into making some of the decisions I specifically thought they should try to mitigate because of the game state. But Atlanta found success on play-action readily as defenders crashed down to defend against the run, and Mariota frequently put flat defenders into conflict by getting outside the pocket with a short route over the top. Yes, L.A. held Atlanta to 17 points, which should be credited accordingly. But they allowed 201 rushing yards and would’ve given up two or three huge passing plays if Mariota was able to hit a few of the throws that he missed today.

Story originally appeared on Chargers Wire