The Chargers have had a disappointing season, to say the least. Going 1-5 in their last 6 games, but what has fans most upset is the inconsistency with which they’ve lost the games, going up by 17 points in at least three of those games. With an 8th and 13th ranked rush and pass defense, it is almost a little bit of a mystery how they seem to keep losing these games with huge leads, especially considering how good Herbert’s rookie season has looked, playing at a much higher rate than anyone has expected.
Statistically speaking the Chargers defense doesn’t seem to be letting their opponents rack up a lot of yards. After digging a little bit deeper, there is only one reason that the Chargers keep ending up with disappointing loss after loss. Big Plays. The Chargers give up massive chunk plays at the least optimal times.
Let’s take a look back at the Chargers last three games where they had substantial leads, and breakdown how they managed to lose those games. In each game, I am going to highlight the three plays that I think made the biggest impact on the Chargers losing.
In the second quarter against Tampa Bay, the Chargers took a 24-7 lead with a Badgley field goal. The Bucs scored, which was fine, there is always a back and forth to be expected. The next drive after that, Brady hit O.J. Howard for a 28-yard touchdown. The drive after that, Brady hits Scotty Miller with back-to-back passes for 44 and 19 yards, the latter being for a touchdown. That was all she wrote.
The Chargers were dominating the seasoned Saints with a 20-3 lead in the second quarter. New Orleans would then go on to score a field goal and touchdown on an Emmanuel Sanders 19 yard reception to cut the lead to 20-13. They would then score a touchdown on a Jared Cook 41 yard bomb before finally, a few drives later, a 28-yard catch by Alvin Kamara would lead to a Saints touchdown, and eventually a Saints win in OT.
Finally, let’s take a look at last week’s Denver game. In the middle of the third quarter, the Chargers took a 24-3 lead after Herbet led them down for a field goal and a touchdown. You can probably imagine where this goes next. Phillip Lindsay broke off a 55-yard touchdown run. Jerry Jeudy with a 43 yard catch that set up another touchdown. We’ll ignore the pass interference drive that the Chargers eventually lost the game on. The drive before that, however, was another big play nightmare. Two plays that included a Phillip Linsday 20 yard gain and a DaeSean Hamilton 40-yard touchdown pass. That’s it, just 2 plays for the whole drive.
This week the Chargers face a fairly average Raiders team. The Raiders are ranked 14th in run yards and 21st in pass yards. While the Raiders have had a solid 4-3 season so far, they are far from a stud team. This is pretty clearly a team that leans heavily on the run, and establishes the play-action as a result. When tasked with it, Derek Carr usually finds a way to be effective, but he is not often called upon for huge yardage games. The Raiders are a totally manageable offense with a limited set of playmaking receivers, and the Chargers have shown more than enough propensity to stop their opponents.
Their defense has one massive glaring hole. Giving up big plays. The home run plays are the difference between the Chargers winning and losing all the games that they were already winning in. What can the Chargers defense do to stop the Raiders? Keep doing what you’ve been doing. Minus the part where randomly they give up quick and massive chunk yardage plays.