Chargers vs. 49ers: How to watch and what to expect

The Chargers’ Austin Ekeler, pictured carrying the ball in Sunday’s win at Atlanta, will face the NFL’s top run defense against the 49ers.

(Butch Dill / Associated Press)

One way to counter San Francisco’s multiple offensive threats is control the time of possession. That would require that the Chargers run, something they’ve failed to do with sustained success in seven of eight games. And now, they’re facing the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL.

An effective ground game also would help neutralize the 49ers’ pass rush.

“The more that we can keep them in a run mode and make them hit blocks and not be able to just tee off on the pass rush, the better,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “I think it’s an important part of the game.”

An important and — more than likely — difficult part for the Chargers. They rushed for 238 yards in Week 5 at Cleveland. Otherwise, they’ve averaged only 68 yards on the ground. Running back Austin Ekeler is tied for the NFL lead with 10 touchdowns, with four coming on pass receptions. Ekeler is averaging 4.4 yards per rush, but the Chargers’ average is only 3.7.

Quarterback Justin Herbert looked as healthy last weekend in Atlanta as he has since suffering fractured rib cartilage in Week 2. The Chargers almost certainly will need a major performance from Herbert to have a chance.

“I think just his confidence and knowing what he has,” Lombardi said when asked about Herbert feeling better. “He’s not limited by the injury. Obviously, that helps a lot with the quarterback’s confidence.”

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