Many Mistakes Contribute To Chargers' Loss
November 2, 2017
If the NFL gave out participation awards the Los Angeles Chargers would be weekly winners. In the last 26 games the Chargers have played, 22 of them have been decided by eight points or less, with 15 of the 22 resulting in losses.
But as Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers stated after Sunday's game with the Patriots: "There are no participation trophies."
Every game the Chargers play in is close and Sunday's game was no exception. In a tough matchup in Foxboro, Massachusetts the Chargers fell to the Super Champion New England Patriots 21-13.
The Patriots improved to 6-2, the Chargers fell to 3-5 for the season. The game was close to the end and came down to a last second desperation pass from Rivers which was intercepted near the end zone, the only turnover by either team in the game.
But the final score came down to the Chargers and their mental errors. Former Raider head coach Bill Callahan once said after a tough loss: "We must be the dumbest team in America in terms of playing the game." If there was a weekly award in the NFL for that, the Chargers would be this week's winner.
Playing and beating the Super Bowl Champion Patriots required that the Chargers play smart football. It required scoring a lot of points to keep up with the #1-ranked offensive unit in the NFL. Smart and aggressive football was required to beat the Patriots on the road. The Chargers offered neither.
The Chargers took the opening drive of the game and starting from their own 20-yard line drove to the Patriot 33-yard line where they faced a 4th-and-1. The drive was impressive, with a nice mixture of play calling and the Patriots seemed to be on their heels a bit. Going for it on 4th-and-1 seemed to be the correct and aggressive choice.
A field goal attempt of 51 yards in rainy weather did not seem to be the correct option. The Patriots are not going to be beat kicking field goals and the distance and conditions made the kick a 50-50 shot at best. Lynn chose the less aggressive option and decided to try a long kick with field goal kicker Nick Novak. The kick was partially blocked and fell short. A promising opening drive of six minutes and twelve seconds was wasted.
The Chargers did get the ball back and took a 7-0 lead on a Charger franchise record 87-yard touchdown run from running back Melvin Gordon. The Patriots then followed that up with a 14 play, 77-yard drive, with the drive culminating in a two-yard touchdown pass from Patriot Quarterback Tom Brady to Tight End Rob Gronkowski.
On this touchdown drive, with a 3rd and fur yards to go at the Charger 34 the Chargers were penalized five yards for having twelve players on the field, giving the Patriots an automatic first down. It was a key mental mistake by the Chargers.
With the score tied 7-7 in the second quarter Travis Benjamin muffed a punt at the Charger 11-yard line. Benjamin picked up the ball at the eight-yard line and circled back toward the end zone, attempting foolishly to make a play. He was tackled in the end zone for a safety, giving the Patriots a 9-7 lead and forcing the Chargers to punt the ball back to the Patriots' offense.
The Patriots ended up with great field position at their own 43-yard line from the kick. The Patriots used the field position to drive into field goal range, successfully adding three more points, making Benjamin's mistake a five-point error and probably the turning point of the game.
Lynn seemed to agree: "You have to have some awareness of where you are on the football field. And he did not... those two points and then we kicked it off and they got three more, so that's a five-point swing. I would say that those five points made a big difference in the game."
There were other mental mistakes in the game as well, kickoff returns from the end zone that should not have been returned, leaving the Chargers with bad starting field position. A neutral zone infraction against Charger star defensive end Joey Bosa helped keep a late Patriot drive going, forcing the Chargers to use their final timeout and lose about ninety seconds on the clock.
Another mistake by Benjamin on the last drive of the game, where he caught a pass from Rivers on the sideline but did not go out-of-bounds to stop the clock, costing the Chargers at least 15 seconds that they badly needed at the end of the game.
As Lynn said after the game: "We knew coming in here that we couldn't give that team anything. They are too good of a football team. I feel like we left too much on the field today. Penalties, touchdowns called back; we just didn't get ourselves a chance to win the game."
The Patriots are a very good football team. On Sunday, they controlled the ball for about 37 minutes out of the 60 minutes, running 80 offensive plays to 52 offensive plays for the Chargers. They converted 9/19 third down conversions to help keep control of the football. They had no turnovers.
Despite all of that and despite the Charger mental errors the game was close to the end. That is a sign that the Chargers are also a good team, but just not ready to challenge the Patriots. They must eliminate the mental errors to beat a team like the Patriots.
The Chargers are off this week due to a bye. The good news is that middle linebacker Denzel Perryman is coming off the injured reserve and will be available for the next game on November 12th at Jacksonville against the Jaguars. More on that game next week.