Defensive-Minded Broncos Put the Clamps on Chargers

Hall of Fame Coach Vince Lombardi once remarked that, "Teams do not go physically flat, they go mentally stale." When the Los Angeles Chargers look back on the 2019 season, they will remember the games that got away, the games they should have won. In a listless performance at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, the Chargers were soundly beaten by the previously winless Broncos, 20-13. The loss dropped the Chargers to 2-3 for the season.

The Broncos dominated from the start of the game. On the opening drive of the game, the Broncos drove 75 yards in seven plays, the drive culminating with a four-yard Philip Lindsay touchdown run, to give the Broncos a quick 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. On their next possession of the quarter, Bronco quarterback Joe Flacco connected with wide receiver Courtland Sutton for a 70-yard touchdown. The Broncos were ahead 14-0 and essentially, the game was over.

The Broncos offense had scored touchdowns on their first two possessions. The Chargers offense failed to score an offensive touchdown the entire day. The Broncos offense in the first quarter alone had produced eight first downs, 181 total yards of offense and 14 points of offense. The Chargers looked "mentally stale."

Charger head coach Anthony Lynn was disappointed with the effort.

"Sorry for that damn game," Lynn said. "If we play like that, we won't beat anybody. That team came here desperate for a win, played hard, out-coached us and it was disappointing - but we have a resilient group, I think. We will see how we respond next week but that was disappointing. They went straight down the field and scored on our defense. They played faster, they played harder."

To be fair to the Chargers, they are suffering through several key injuries. But given that, you would think the Chargers would come out ready to play against a division opponent that is always tough, regardless of their record. By the time the Chargers started showing some life, they were down 17-0. The lone Charger touchdown came on a 68-yard punt return from Desmond King late in the third quarter. The Chargers offense produced a total of six points on two 4th quarter field goals.

The Chargers were held to 246 yards in total offense, with only 35 yards coming on the ground. The return of Melvin Gordon did not help much, with the star running back gaining 31 yards on 12 carries and catching 4 passes for a total of 7 yards. Broncos cornerback Chis Harris held wide receiver Kennan Allen to four receptions for a measly total of 18 yards. The tight coverage on Allen forced Rivers to go the check-down route, with running back Austin Ekeler catching 15 passes for 86 yards.

The Chargers offense did have a few opportunities on Sunday. After Brandon McManus nailed a 40-yard field goal to give the Broncos a 17-0 lead with 5:17 left in the second quarter, the Chargers drove 74 yards in 14 plays to get to the Broncos one-yard line, with six seconds left in the first half. The Chargers decided to go for the touchdown and on a short pass from Rivers, Ekeler lost the ball as he began to extend for the orange marker, the fumble resulting in a touchback with time expiring.

The Chargers had a second opportunity to score on an interception at the Bronco seven-yard line. On a third down at the Bronco 2-yard line, a Rivers pass intended for Mike Williams was intercepted. A disappointed Rivers lamented about the lost scoring opportunities.

"Obviously, we didn't get in on fourth down, whether it's a turnover or not, we didn't score. Then the interception, just a bad throw," Rivers said.

The Chargers are stumbling at a time when they really need to be playing well. Besides the fact that they are now in third place in the AFC West behind Kansas City (4-1) and Oakland (3-2), they are not winning any hearts in Los Angeles. The Chargers came into the season with high expectations, based on their playoff appearance from last season and their talent. To win over the NFL fans in Southern California, the Chargers need to win and certainly play with more passion.

The Chargers get another chance to earn a home win when they welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers to Dignity Health Sports Park. The game is a rare Sunday Night game, starting at 5:20 PM on Oct. 13.

The Steelers have lost their top two quarterbacks to injury and like the Chargers, are struggling. They are 1-4 for the season. Both teams desperately need a victory and both teams should be ready to play on Sunday Night. After the Bronco debacle, anything less from the Chargers would be very disturbing.


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