The Houston Texans (0-3-1) tried to fight back against the Los Angeles Chargers (2-2) after trailing by as many as 21 points in the first half, but fell 34-24 in the end.
After scoring 17 straight points in the second half, the Texans pulled within three with 8:30 left in regulation. Justin Herbert led the Chargers on an 84-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 14-yard pass to Dustin Hopkins to regain a double-digit lead.
The margin for error for the Texans was minimal at this stage of the game. Davis Mills threw his second interception after throwing a deep pass to OJ Howard – ending Houston’s chances of a comeback.
The Texans faced plenty of opportunities along the way to improve their execution. Even failing to score a touchdown after recovering a fumble at the Chargers’ 16-yard line with 10:02 left in regulation and instead settling for a field goal is a case in point.
Here are three takeaways from the Texans’ 34-24 loss to the Chargers.
Austin Ekeler dominated for the Chargers
The start of the 2022 season has been slow for Austin Ekeler, despite recording 20 touchdowns in his previous campaign. He had yet to find the end zone through three plays and totaled just 219 yards from scrimmage in those outings.
Ekeler found his form against the Texans with 109 total yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. Whatever Houston did to slow him down, it didn’t work.
“Getting him today was big,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “He played like a captain today in addition to his performance on the field. He really led our football team on offense and just played with the energy that he’s known for and just a well-rounded performance.”
Ekeler wants to use his performance against the Texans as a building block for the rest of the season. At this point, this is a strong representation of what Houston was. a group that others use to get on track.
“I had some opportunities today and I was able to take advantage,” Ekeler said. “It’s been a week, but now, let’s do it again.”
Dameon Pierce shows his potential
The Texans offense got a big performance from Dameon Pierce, as he posted 131 rushing yards and a touchdown rush on 14 carries. His performance was highlighted by a stunning 75-yard touchdown run – the third-longest in Texans history.
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Pierce’s impressive run helped solidify more as the Texans emerged at running back. As noted by JJ Zachariason, Pierce accounted for all of Houston’s carries and ran in four more runs than Rex Burkhead (first game this season).
“There’s a reason we’re starting a rookie running back,” head coach Lovie Smith said after the game. “Sure, he can run between the tackles. He can make you lose in the open field, but that’s the part of his game that we haven’t seen. Running back, what was it, 75 yards or so? The NFL that’s hard to do . It just shows you all the things he can do. I don’t know exactly how many carries he was able to get today, but he’s a guy we have to continue to feature.”
Pierce has now scored a rushing touchdown in back-to-back appearances. He has now combined for 34 carries, 211 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games.
A lot for the Texans to clean up
The Texans remain the NFL’s only winless team this season. They didn’t do themselves any favors early by throwing an interception on their opening drive, then allowing Justin Herbert to connect with Gerald Everett on a touchdown toss to go up 7-0 early.
The Chargers kept pouring it on and put up the first 21 points of the game. After getting off to a slow start, the Texans found themselves down 27-7 at halftime – proving to be too much to overcome.
“We’re not there yet,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. “We are still not a good football team. Good football teams find a way to win in the end and we couldn’t overcome that hurdle.”
It was an admirable effort by the Texans in the second half to rally back and at least make it more competitive. Houston outscored the Chargers 17-7 in the second half, but again, digging such a deep hole early was too much to overcome.
“I like the way the team responded,” Smith said. “But we’re not done.”
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