Vikings Can’t Get Beat by Chargers on the Ground

Prediction for Chargers
Aug 12, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Joshua Kelley (25) catches the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings have had a few key areas of concern early this year, and the totality of them is why the team is 0-2 out of the gate. Earlier this week, they addressed the offensive line by bringing in Dalton Risner. The defense has been torched on the ground, though, and there isn’t help coming. Against the Chargers, it can’t be an issue.

Vikings Can’t Get Beat by Chargers on the Ground

With 294 yards on the ground this year, the Los Angeles Chargers have the fifth-most rushing yards across the NFL. That’s not great news for a Vikings defense that has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards this season. It would stand to reason that the combination of those two things means that Justin Herbert’s offense will look to make hay on the ground.

Beat by Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) hands off to running back Joshua Kelley (25) in the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023.

Unfortunately, they may not be with their full complement of running backs.

Austin Ekeler is one of the NFL’s most dominant multi-dimensional running backs. With an ability to grab yards on the ground, between the tackles, and through the air, he presents a matchup nightmare for most opposing defenses. After missing last week’s game due to injury, it appears a similar fate could be in play on Sunday.

Still not practicing, Ekeler only has a couple of days to prove he is ready for action when the Chargers leave for Minnesota. If Los Angeles is without their lead back, Joshua Kelley will draw the start for the second straight week. While Kelley is a capable runner, he isn’t close to the same talent that Ekeler is.

Sep 17, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports.

Last week against the Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles had five separate players generate a rushing attempt. Kelley picked up just 39 yards on 13 carries for an ugly 3.0 yards per carry average. His longest run of 15 yards made the additional attempts that much more lackluster. The only other Chargers player to generate multiple touches out of the backfield was Elijah Dotson, who turned four carries into six yards.

Simply put, without Ekeler, the Chargers running game is not great.

That should be positive news for a Vikings team that was gashed for 175 yards by D’Andre Swift on Thursday night. Although Minnesota did keep Tampa Bay much more under wraps from a running standpoint, the Week 2 setback wasn’t something that new defensive coordinator Brian Flores wanted to see. With the Vikings blitzing at a breakneck pace, finding ways to get to the quarterback without the ball in a runner’s hands is a must.

the Basement for
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (97) during the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

At the end of the day, it will take much more of a complete game for the Vikings to get in the win column for the first time in 2022. The opportunity should be theirs for the taking, but it will require a much better effort against the ground game, and getting to Herbert before he can find his talented wide receiver duo is a must.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.