Death, taxes, and the Chargers creating new ways to lose games. This football team has had new life injected into it with the emergence of Justin Herbert. They can go toe to toe with any team in the league, they just cannot get over the hump. Now, they sit at 2-5 and are apparently moving into sellers mode. They just traded former All-Pro defensive back, Desmond King, to the Tennessee Titans.
It’s been a frustrating few days to be a Chargers fan. They have been so close to having a special season, and instead, fans are spending all week talking about firing head coach Anthony Lynn. Despite the frustration, the analysis cannot stop. We all love football and there are things that need to be said.
This article is the start of a new series, which will highlight the most important statistics from each game.
Let’s start with some smaller, and more positives and then work our way up to the big one.
That’s the number of times that Chargers running back Troymaine Pope has been let go. He’s spent time with the Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Houston Texans, and of course the Chargers. He initially signed with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent out of Jacksonville State in 2016. He first signed with the Chargers at the end of the 2018 season to the practice squad, and then was able to make the active roster in 2019 thanks to a certain holdout. He was not retained after the season but was brought back after the Chargers lost Austin Ekeler to a major hamstring injury.
Pope’s story is one of incredible perseverance. Before his first stint in Seattle, he was ready to take a job working at a car factory. He has a young daughter and he decided that he had to show her he was pursuing his dreams. It’s been a long road for the former undrafted free agent, but it seems he may have found a home in Los Angeles.
The Chargers running attack had been abysmal the last few weeks, and it needed some juice. Before being knocked out of the game from a dirty hit courtesy of Kareem Jackson, he was having a breakout performance. He ended the game with 95 yards from scrimmage and showed off a tremendous amount of wiggle between the tackles. Justin Jackson played very well on Sunday, but the Chargers don’t build that lead without Pope. We should all be talking about that today, and instead, we’re talking about firing coaches.
That’s the number of pressures allowed by the right side of the offensive line on Sunday. Choosing to activate Cole Toner off the practice squad and then starting him over Tyree St. Louis and Scott Quessenberry was certainly a head-scratcher. To his credit, Toner played fantastic and only allowed one pressure. The Chargers got Bryan Bulaga (Iowa) back from injury and he didn’t allow a single pressure. It was a vintage and much-needed performance from the long-time Green Bay Packer.
The right side of the offensive line has been a huge problem for the Chargers ever since Bulaga got hurt against the Kansas City Chiefs in week two. They’ve cycled through four right guards, and apparently, their best one was on the practice squad the whole time. We’ll have to see what the deal is with Trai Turner going forward, but Toner showed a lot of good signs yesterday. And it’s not like the Broncos defensive front isn’t formidable. That’s a very good group that they went up against.
Jerry Tillery led the Chargers defensive line with six pressures on Sunday, three of which came on one drive. That is not great. The coaching staff is taking a lot of heat this week, and rightfully so, but the defensive line let this team down just as much as anyone. Joey Bosa left the game late in the third quarter and no one stepped up in his absence. Drew Lock had all day to throw late in the fourth quarter and it showed.
In the final sequence when Lock and the Denver offense was marching down the field, the Chargers defense did something I’ve never seen. They put Linval Joseph and Tillery on the edges and rushed Uchenna Nwosu and Melvin Ingram up the middle. It seemed like they were grasping at straws, trying anything to get pressure on Lock. They truly were DESPERATE for any kind of pass rush.
Four is now the historic number of leads of 16 points or more that this Chargers team has blown. That is 100% on the coaching staff. Anthony Lynn has continually said that the staff needs to do a much better job of teaching this team how to win. As previously mentioned, this is a young team that is relying upon a ton of young players due to all the injuries. The one area that has shown up the most is in situational moments. This team has been bad in key moments all year, whether that be punt blocking, field goal kicks/pat’s, and clock management.
There were obviously a few key moments that turned this game. The first one was Phillip Lindsay’s 55-yard touchdown run. That play obviously gave them their first touchdown, but it also gave them only their fourth first down. It was huge.
There were three things that led to that play being busted. First, Kenneth Murray did a fine job plugging the hole, but then he hesitated and gave Lindsay just enough room to get by him. Second, Tevaughn Campbell was not aggressive. He either hesitated, or he assumed that Murray would make the tackle. You want to see each member of your defense flying to the ball and Campbell did not do that. Lastly, Nasir Adderley took a poor angle. Not only did his poor angle take him out of the play, but it also took Rayshawn Jenkins out of the play. That play started to turn the tide, but the Chargers still had the chance to seal the game.
Later in the fourth quarter, the Chargers kicked a field goal to go up 27 to 17 with eight minutes left in the game. Literally, the only thing the defense couldn’t do was give up a quick-strike touchdown. And that’s what happened. Lindsay took a run for twenty yards and was hit out of bounds late by Adderley. On the very next play, Lock hit DaeSean Hamilton over the middle who scampered for a forty-yard touchdown. Twenty-seven seconds came off the clock. TWENTY-SEVEN. That is unacceptable.
But the Chargers still had a chance to seal the deal. The Chargers got the ball back after the Hamilton touchdown and turned into “burn the clock mode”. They needed to sustain a drive and take as many seconds off the clock as possible. Once the clock hits under five minutes, the clock stops on all plays that result in someone running out of bounds. Obviously, in that situation, you need to coach your players to stay in bounds. Herbert dropped back and threw a swing pass to Jackson with just around four minutes left in the game. Jackson gained fifteen yards, and it was a good play, but he ran out of bounds and cost the team forty seconds. The Chargers kicked a field goal with 2:30 left on the clock, which gave the Broncos enough time to methodically march down the field and score the winning touchdown.
No one knows what the future holds for Anthony Lynn and Gus Bradley, firing coaches midseason isn’t really the Charger way. Ken Wisenhunt is the exception, not the rule. Losing eight divisional games in a row is unacceptable. The bottom line is that something has to change because this team is clearly not living up to its full potential.