Chargers in Need of Energy and a Win
October 17, 2019
For the first time as the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, Anthony Lynn looked flustered. He had no answers for the performance of his team. For the second straight week, the Chargers had fallen behind 14-0 in the first quarter at home. For the second straight week, the Chargers were down at halftime by three scores.
For the second straight week, the Chargers had failed to score any offensive points in the first three quarters of the game. The Chargers, for the second consecutive week, were unable to match the energy of their opponent, falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-17, in a game that was not as close as the score would indicate. The Steelers led 21-0 at halftime and 24-0 after three quarters.
The loss was the third straight at home for the Chargers, although it is debatable if there is any home advantage these days at Dignity Health Sports Field, which was transformed into Heinz Field (Steelers home stadium) for the night.
About 75 percent of the fans were Steeler fans and they were waving their yellow terrible towels. The energy and enthusiasm they brought was a sight to behold. It definitely energized the Steelers.
The Steelers won this game early. On a 2nd and 10 from the 21-yard line, River threw a backward pass that sailed over the head of running back Melvin Gordon. The play was ruled a fumble and Steeler linebacker Devin Bush picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown, giving the Steelers a quick 7-0 lead. Rivers' bad pass was compounded by the fact that Gordon quit on the play, apparently thinking it was an incomplete pass.
The second touchdown was of the quarter by the Steelers was set up on an interception of a tipped Rivers pass. Bush picked this off as well and returned it to the Chargers 40-yard line. The Steelers then drove 40 yard in seven plays, with Steeler running back James Conner involved in all seven plays (four rushes, three receptions) and finishing the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run.
Conner added a second touchdown in the second quarter, catching a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Devlin Hodges. That score gave the Steelers a 21-0 halftime lead.
The Chargers scored 17 unanswered points in the 4th quarter by going to a two-minute offense. Rivers found tight end Hunter Henry for two 4th quarter touchdowns. In his return from a knee injury, Henry caught eight passes for 100 yards.
For the season, Henry has played in two games and caught 12 passes for 160 yards. The other tight ends on the roster have a total of eight receptions for 95 yards in six games. Those numbers reflect the importance of Henry to the passing game and the lack of receiving depth behind Henry.
The loss dropped the Chargers record to 2-4. With the victory, the Steelers improved to 2-4 as well. These past two games were the worst under Lynn, who has a regular season record of 23-15 as the head coach of the Chargers. The Chargers did not come out with energy in either game. As Lynn stated after the game: "Well, we've dug ourselves in a hole here. We cannot go out and play a team like that with a defense like that and give them 14 points."
The running game has disappeared with the return of Melvin Gordon from his holdout. In the past two games, the Chargers have run for 35 yards against the Broncos and 32 yards against the Steelers. Gordon has 49 of those 67 yards. The loss of All-Pro Mike Pouncey at center was a huge loss. Pouncey is done for the year with a neck injury. The loss of Russell Okung at left tackle has left the Chargers without their two best offensive linemen.
Lynn stated the obvious after the game: "The last couple of weeks we just haven't run the ball that well. We haven't made our blocks. We've got to do a better job up front and not just up front but also at the receiver position. I thought they controlled the ground game both ways. We have to do a better job with running the football and we have to stop the other team from running the football on us."
The Chargers will be on the road this Sunday when they visit the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. The game will start at 1:05 p.m., Pacific time. The Titans have a record of 2-4 for the season. Hopefully, the Chargers can find their running attack on the road.