Donald Parham thought it was a game-winning touchdown. We all did. Until it wasn’t. The former XFL tight end looked to have made a great catch after Justin Herbert threw a great pass, and then the review came. The Raiders won, and the Chargers lost. Here we are, in week two of this series and the Chargers created another way to lose. This time it was a Herbert potential comeback win that came up just short.
There were many pivotal points in this game that went against the Chargers, some of which we will get into below. To their credit, the Raiders executed their game plan to near perfection. Derek Carr wasn’t spectacular, but he was efficient and made big plays when they needed it. Josh Jacobs and the run game were deadly. And the defense did just enough to frustrate the Chargers offense in key moments.
Now enough about the Raiders, because that felt gross. Let’s get into some key numbers that led to the Chargers snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
The Chargers got the ball back late in the second quarter and had all three timeouts. They were trailing 14-7 at the time. They had five minutes and fifteen seconds on the clock. They then handled the clock about as poorly as possible. The drive started with a sack by Maxx Crosby (yikes Trey Pipkins). Then they got some timely completions by Jalen Guyton and Mike Williams to get into striking distance.
The problem was, they let the clock tick all the way down to the two-minute warning. After a Joshua Kelley run for three yards, they finally called a timeout with 1:45 left on the clock. No that’s not right, the RAIDERS called the timeout. After the Las Vegas timeout, the Chargers ran three plays and the drive ended with nineteen seconds left on the clock.
They handled that drive like a team that was simply trying to get to halftime. They were not playing to win. They were playing not to lose. That has become the embodiment of the Chargers ideology in the coaching staff. We see it take place every single week. It’s the reason this team squanders lead after lead. Anthony Lynn continually talks about helping his team develop a killer instinct and yet he’s the one who most needs it.
Keenan Allen scored a touchdown off of a broken coverage by the Raiders. Great! Points got on the board. The Raiders opted to not take a knee into halftime. Jerry Tillery got a sack and forced a turnover two plays later. The half ended with a Michael Badgley field goal, and the Chargers still had all three of their timeouts. Would have been nice to have some time on the clock left and potentially head into halftime up 21-14 instead of 17-14.
The Chargers headed into this game without their best defensive player. Their superstar defensive end Joey Bosa was out with a concussion. One would think that they would shift gears a bit and have their second-best edge rusher play a lot. No, not Melvin Ingram. That would be Uchenna Nwosu. However, the Chargers opted to start Tillery at their big end spot opposite of Ingram. In theory, that’s not a bad decision. Tillery has absolutely taken a step forward as a player in 2020, but he still struggles at times with the bigger and stronger interior offensive linemen. Particularly in the run game. As mentioned above, he had the lone sack on Carr and forced the game’s only offensive turnover. He played well and this is not to discredit his effort at all.
However, the team gave Nwosu SIX snaps on defense. Nwosu gets pressure on the quarterback on almost 15% of his pass rush attempts. He’s got 21 total pressures this season to go along with his four sacks. For comparison, Ingram gets pressure on the quarterback at a 13% clip and has no sacks. (Bosa gets pressure at an insane 17% clip, for what it’s worth.)
The Raiders were missing both of their starting tackles, and their starting right guard. You would think that would be a prime spot for Ingram to dominate, right? Nope. He recorded a measly two pressures. The Chargers had to win yesterday to maintain any kind of hope for the playoffs. They needed to pressure Carr, and when they did, good things happened. But they didn’t do it enough, and they have only themselves to blame because they left their second-best pass rusher on the bench for most of the game.
ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY
At his press conference on Wednesday, Anthony Lynn made the following comment about Jon Gruden: “People think Jon is a passing guru. But Jon will run the football 50 times if you let him. And so we’re definitely going to have to figure out a way to stop his rushing attack.”
He knew. He knew the Raiders were going to run the football as much as possible. He knew that they had to stop it if they wanted to win. And they didn’t. Instead, the Raiders ran it right down their throats and dominated the line of scrimmage to the tune of 160 rushing yards. The sad part is that it wasn’t even Josh Jacobs. They got contributions from Devontae Booker and Jalen Richard as well. With the way that they were blocking – again without three starters – Marshawn Lynch could have come back out for retirement and run for 60 yards.
Stopping the run isn’t about X’s and O’s as much as it is about heart. It’s about doing your job and flying to the football. It’s about effort. The Chargers had ZERO tackles for loss. They didn’t stop the Raiders running backs a single time behind the line of scrimmage, NOT ONCE. That kind of effort against your oldest rival is disgraceful. So what if you don’t have Bosa or Derwin James, or Chris Harris. To quote a famous saying, “No one cares! Work harder.”
FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY
Austin Ekeler hasn’t played in a month. Bryan Bulaga has been in and out of the lineup. Trai Turner has played in one game. Mike Williams has missed a few games. Allen only played one quarter in New Orleans. And yet, the Chargers have one of the most explosive offenses in the league, led by their star quarterback. They’re currently averaging 420 yards per game, which is good for second in the league. Herbert is 10th in the league in total passing yards and third in yards per game, behind only Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson. He’s thrown for 17 touchdowns, good for eighth in the league. They’ve seemingly fixed their running game woes from earlier in the season, and have gotten great contributions from Troymaine Pope and Kalen Ballage the last two weeks.
The problem for this offense is that the yards are not leading to a consistent output on the scoreboard. The 420 yards per game is only translating to 25.6 points per game, which is good for 19th best in the league. That is not good enough. The problem is blatantly obvious, and it’s one that has plagued this Chargers team for years. And it’s the lack of efficiency in the red zone. There is not a singular or easy fix, especially when they have a kicker who’s clearly struggling. They’re trying to balance between being aggressive and being conservative and it is costing them.
On their second drive of the game, they got into striking distance and ran the ball on three consecutive plays. That drive ended up in a missed field goal. Later in the second half, they got into the red zone again and they called three consecutive passes. All three were incompletions and the drive ended in a field goal make. Are you aggressive, or are you conservative? Pick one.
Then of course, on the last drive of the game, they failed to convert in the red zone again. Similar to the end of the first half, they mismanaged the clock and were too conservative with the play calling and it cost them precious seconds off the clock. After the defense finally stepped up and held the Raiders to a field goal, the Chargers got the ball back trailing by five points, with over four minutes left on the clock. They had all three timeouts.
For the second time in the same game, they let the clock dwindle down to the two minute warning, opting to save all their timeouts for the final stretch. For the second time in the same game, they marched down the field and got into the red zone. For the second time in the same game, they mismanaged their timeouts. For the second time in the same game, they didn’t give their offense enough time to put more points on the board. Are you aggressive, or are you conservative? Pick one.
This coaching staff is proving to be inept in crucial moments. They are proving to be incapable of getting out of their own way. They are proving to the entire football world that they do not have a killer instinct. They are playing to not lose, instead of playing to win. And it is showing up in the loss column. Time for a change!