Chargers Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
October 24, 2019
The Chargers were less than a yard away from turning their season around. They just needed 18 inches to win a football game. As head coach Anthony Lynn would later state: "I've never been in a ballgame like that before."
Maybe not, but the Chargers have had some bad losses over the years and this one ranks among the worst. In a stunning array of events, the Chargers managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in a 23-20 loss in Nashville to the Tennessee Titans.
Trailing 23-20 late in the 4th quarter, quarterback Philip Rivers drove the Chargers into the red zone with three consecutive completions. With 44 seconds left and the ball at the Titan 16-yard line, the following sequence of events occurred: Overturned touchdown; False start penalty at the 1-yard line; Defensive pass interference that returned the Chargers to the 1-yard line; Another overturned touchdown; Running back fumbles on the goal line, Tennessee recovers.
The Chargers had three replay reviews go against them in the final 39 seconds of the game, two that took away touchdowns and another that gave the Titans a fumble recovery. Rivers completed a pass across the middle to running back Austin Ekeler, who scored on an apparent 16-yard touchdown reception with 39 seconds left. Although it appeared he was in, the officials ruled him down, 18 inches short of the goal line.
After the two penalties, running back Melvin Gordon was initially ruled to have scored a touchdown, but the call was again overturned by the officials. On the next play, Gordon was ruled down short of the goal-line, but the replay showed that Gordon had actually fumbled the ball, with Titan defensive end Jurrell Casey recovering for the Titan victory.
The Chargers record dropped to 2-5 for the season. They have turned the ball over five times in goal-to-go situations this season, including Gordon's game-ending fumble, per ESPN Stats & Info. That's already tied for the most goal-to-go turnovers by a team in the past 15 seasons. That is after just seven games. The Chargers have lost five of their last six games. All six teams have losing records.
The running game has disappeared. Over the last three games, the Chargers are averaging 35.3 yards per game over the past three games, the worst in the NFL over the past three weeks. Injuries have played a part in the running game issues and the injury bug bit again on Sunday.
Starting left guard Forrest Lamp, the team's former second-round pick from 2017, exited the game with a leg injury in the second quarter that was later determined to be a fractured fibula. He is done for the season.
The inability to run the football is putting a lot of pressure on Rivers. While statistically he had a good game on Sunday, he is being forced to get rid of the ball sooner than he would like to avoid sacks. Rivers completed 24 of 38 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Ekeler had 7 receptions for 118 yards and one touchdown. Tight End Hunter Henry had six catches for 97 yards.
Coach Lynn expressed his thoughts on the game afterwards.
"We have got to figure out how to run the ball better. We have got to get some chemistry with the offensive line and just have to do a better job," Lynn said. "I thought the passing game, Hunter Henry, Keenan, I thought they made some plays, especially at the end of the game when we needed it the most. Ekeler did a hell of a job, but it came down to one yard and we didn't get it, so we didn't deserve to win."
Gordon continues to struggle since his return from his holdout. For the game, he had 32 yards rushing on 16 attempts. He had two pass receptions for a -3 yards. For the season, Gordon has 81 yards rushing on 36 attempts, 2.3 yard per carry average. He also has 9 receptions for the season for a total of 34 yards. He has been very ineffective.
There was some good news for the Chargers. Left tackle Russell Okung returned to practice last Thursday after missing all of training camp and the first six weeks of the regular season recovering from a pulmonary embolism. He may be available for the next game. Rivers leaped past fellow 2004 draftees Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger in all-time yards passing with 56,770, moving to sixth on the list.
The schedule does not get easier for the Chargers this week. They are on again on the road, this time in Chicago to play the Bears. The game will be played on Sunday, Oct. 27, with a starting time of 10 a.m. Pacific time. Both teams are struggling to run the ball, but the Bears have a good defense that will be a challenge for Rivers and his struggling offensive line.