As Bill Parcels’ famous quote goes, “You are what your record says you are.” But as we know, not every 0-2 team is the same in the NFL. The Los Angles Chargers and Minnesota Vikings are losing, but losing in different ways. It is what makes this matchup so compelling and important given the playoff implications, even so early in the season.
To break down Chargers vs. Vikings in the most simple of terms. The Chargers are great on offense but terrible on defense. The Vikings are exactly mediocre on both sides of the ball. But let us dive into what that looks like so far in each team’s games this season.
More LAFB Coverage Of Chargers vs. Vikings
Chargers vs. Vikings 0-2 Breakdown
Chargers vs. Dolphins: 34-36 The Chargers ran head long into a buzz saw of an offense in Miami. The Chargers defense was simply unable to keep up with the explosive passing game. On the other side, the Dolphins defense was content giving the Chargers all the running room and dink and dunk passes they wanted. The Chargers had the highest rushing success rate (66.7%) and rushing EPA (.3) by a country mile. But the Dolphins defense clamped down on deep and intermediate passing plays. Justin Herbert threw only four passes that traveled more than 10 yards. The Dolphins defense also won in high leverage situations, forcing 15 3rd downs. The Chargers were able to convert on nine of those.
1:45 left on the clock and the score 36-34, Herbert just needed to drive the ball into field goal range, less than 40 yards, to win the game. They couldn’t even net total 10 yards. Coverage on deep passes was tight and the pass rushers sacked Herbert three times on the drive to seal the loss.
Vikings vs. Buccaneers: 20-17 This was the tale of two mediocre teams playing mediocre football, except for one aspect; Justin Jefferson. But he couldn’t overcome the lack of talent around him. This game also featured a sputtering last drive to seal the win for Tampa Bay, except with this one there was plenty of time on the clock for Kirk Cousins; 5:10. He also couldn’t manage a first down to keep his team in the game.
On the flip side, the Vikings defense could not stop Baker Mayfield on his final drive, who picked up three first downs to drain the clock to triple zeros. The Vikings defense did force two third downs on the drive, but the Bucs play callers dialed up the right plays to keep the chains moving.
Chargers vs. Titans: 24-27 OT Remember what I said about 3rd downs against the Dolphins? Well it happened again, except the Titans, apparently, have a better 3rd down defense. They held the Chargers to 2 of 14 tries on 3rd downs. Three of those drives that stalled out on third down ended on the Tennessee 12, 13, and 15 yard lines. The Chargers netted 9 points collectively from them, but that also should have been at least one touchdown. The final failed 3rd down conversion came in overtime, which was a three and out.
The Chargers defense played better against the Titans, but there is a significant drop off between the competition. But, that said, the Chargers pass rush generated five sacks. But Tennessee controlled the clock with a ‘good enough’ running attack that kept the ball out of Herbert’s hands. The Chargers held the ball for an average of 2:48 per drive. The Titans held the ball for 3:36 minutes per drive.
All this kept the Titans in the game so that variance allowed them to sneak out with a victory. It should never have been that close. Not having Austin Ekeler was certainly a blow, but those three trips to the end zone could have put this game away early on.
Vikings vs. Eagles: 28-34 What happens when you go to the bullys house? The bully pushes you around. The Eagles bullied this win out of the hands of the Vikings. Kirk Cousins put together one of his career’s best games (364 yards, 4 TDs) and Justin Jefferson proved yet again he is the most dangerous receiver in the league (11 catches, 159 yards). But the Eagles also forced several fumbles, resulting in four turnovers and 13 points. The Eagles also smashed the Vikings defense in the face, rushing the ball 48 times resulting in 258 yards. In the age old battle of finesse and brawn, brawn won out in this game.
Week 3- Chargers vs. Vikings
The margin of loss in these teams first games is just 3.5 points. Both have faced off against a beatable opponent and come up lacking and both have lost to a formidable opponent that they went toe to toe with, but couldn’t put the game away.
With Austin Ekeler still out, it will be on Justin Herbert and his phenomenal pass catchers to score points. More importantly, they need to fix their 3rd down and red zone offense so that this one isn’t up for grabs in the 4th quarter. For the Chargers defense, stopping Justin Jefferson. They will have to start at the source, by getting pressure on Cousins, but of course limiting his explosive play, which is what the Staley defense is supposedly built to do.