Culver City Observer -

Chargers Come Close But Lose Their Opening Game

Sports Reporter

 

September 14, 2017

Monday Night Football the Los Angeles Chargers made the annual trip to Denver to open up the regular season. And for the fourth straight season came out on the losing end, 24-21, before a sellout crowd of 76,324 of very loud and proud Denver Bronco fans. The emotion of the crowd seemed to energize the Broncos and seemed to contribute to an inconsistent, out-of-sync performance by the Chargers for most of the game.

As Philip River said: "We just never really got in a flow. A couple third downs they stopped us. I missed that third down throw to (Branden Oliver) right before the half that would have at least gotten us three. Made it 14-10. I just felt we couldn't get into any rhythm. It wasn't that we were playing terrible. We just weren't really making any plays."

The Chargers lost this game for different reasons but primarily because they could not run the ball. The Chargers ended up with 64 yards rushing, 41 of them coming in the first quarter from Melvin Gordon. A couple of obvious problems with this lack of a running game: first, to win on the road in hostile environment like Denver a road team needs to be able to run the football.

It takes the energy out of the fans and it keeps the home team's offense on the sidelines. There is nothing worse than watching your team at home getting physically beat up and run over by the opposing offense. Secondly, the Broncos weakness has been against the run. They ranked 28th against the run last year giving up an average of 130 yards per game.

The Broncos had the #1 ranked pass defense in the NFL last year, which is exactly why the Chargers needed to get more done on the ground. The Broncos just get too much pressure on the opposing quarterback, led by Von Miller. The Bronco secondary is good as well. It was very important to establish the run in Denver and the Chargers did not get it done.

But there are plenty of reasons to be encouraged if you are a Charger fan. They have a Head Coach in Anthony Lynn that has had a lot of success running the football in the NFL. Last season, as Offensive Coordinator in Buffalo for the Bills, his offense led the NFL in rushing yardage at 164 yards per game. Coach Lynn's conversation with Melvin Gordon during the game really made an impression.

On Tuesday, Lynn mentioned that: "I thought he saw (the run game) well. But, I'll tell you the same thing (I told) Melvin on the sidelines: elite backs in this league are going to win more one-on-ones. So, we have to work on winning more of our one-on-ones.... When you break through the line and you're one-on-one with a linebacker or safety, I want to see you do a little bit more."

It did seem that Gordon had a couple of good opportunities to break a long run but lost the one-on-one battles. It was good for Gordon to hear this from his Head Coach and for Coach Lynn to go public with it early in the season.

Even though the Chargers were down 24-7 after three quarters, they did not quit, another good sign for the 2017 Chargers. A couple of turnovers from the defense gave the Chargers excellent field position in Denver territory and Philip Rivers took quick advantage, throwing touchdown passes to Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin. Suddenly it was 24-21 with seven minutes left in the game.

From there it was a battle to the finish for both defenses. Rookie kicker Younghoe Koo drilled a 44-yard kick to tie the score in the final seconds, but it did not count due to a timeout called by Denver Head Coach Vance Joseph. Smart move because the next field goal attempt was blocked by former Raider Shelby Harris, who was able to get terrific penetration on the field goal attempt.

The Chargers will be at home for the next three weeks starting Sunday at the Stub Hub Center in Carson against the Miami Dolphins. Game time is 1:05 PM. This will be the first game of the season for the Dolphins, who had their game last week with Tamp Bay canceled and moved to Week 11 due to Hurricane Irma.

Miami ranked 24th in total offense last season and 29th in total defense last season. They are starting Jay Cutler at Quarterback, who came out of retirement due to the injury to Ryan Tannehill. It appears to be a favorable matchup for the Chargers, but there are no easy opponents in the NFL, unless the Indianapolis Colts are in town.

 

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