Seven Turnovers Cost Chargers the Game
Fall to Minnesota Vikings 39-10
December 19, 2019
The single play epitomized the entire Chargers season. With the Minnesota Vikings leading 12-10, the Los Angeles Chargers had taken advantage of a turnover and driven to the Vikings 26-yard line with 23 seconds left in the first half. The Chargers were in field goal range but were looking for a touchdown.
On second-and-2 with 23 seconds left in the second quarter, Charger quarterback Philip Rivers dropped back and attempted to move out of the way of right tackle Sam Tevi, who was bulldozed onto his back near Rivers by Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter.
Instead, Rivers stumbled and lost the football when Hunter punched it out from under his right arm. Running back Austin Ekeler recovered it at the 38 and tried to make a play but also fumbled. Vikings defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo then scooped up the loose ball and went 56 yards for a touchdown to give the Vikings a 19-10 lead.
Hunter had raced ahead of Odenigbo as left tackle Russell Okung was chasing Odenigbo. He took out Okung with a great down field block to give his teammate a clear path to the end zone.
Okung reinjured his groin on the play and was lost for the rest of the game. In one play, the Chargers went from a possible 13-12 halftime lead to trailing 19-10 and losing their starting left tackle for the rest of the game. The Chargers never recovered from that play and lost to the Vikings, 39-10.
The game was played in Carson at Dignity Health Sports Park. The win improved the Vikings record to 10-4 for the season. The loss dropped the Chargers to 5-9 for the season and clinched a losing season. That one play epitomized the Chargers season. A season of turnovers, missed opportunities and injuries.
The Chargers ended the game with seven turnovers and a blocked punt. Two Melvin Gordon fumbles led to two Vikings field goals. A Hunter Henry fumble led to a Vikings touchdown. The Rivers fumble was turned into a touchdown and even punter Ty Long had a punt partially clocked, which led to a Vikings field goal.
Those Charger mistakes were turned into 23 Vikings points. The Vikings had just one turnover, an interception in the second quarter that the Chargers failed to capitalize on. For the season, the Chargers have a -16-turnover ratio, which is tied with the 1-13 Cincinnati Bengals for the worst in the league. Rivers threw three interceptions, but none of them resulted in Vikings points. Two of the interceptions were late in the game when the results were already decided.
After the game, Charger head coach Anthony Lynn was very succinct in his opening statement: "Seven turnovers. We got our ass kicked in all three phases. Any questions?" He later added that, "We've gotten beat, but we've never gotten beat like that and that was my problem today. That's my frustration right now. I haven't seen that team in the three years since I've been here." A very frustrating day for the Charger head coach.
Rivers completed 28 of 39 passes for 307 yards and one touchdown. The touchdown was a two-yard pass in the second quarter to wide receiver Mike Williams, who had another terrific game. Williams has 912 receiving yards for the season, only 88 yards short of 1,000 yards for the season.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen had 11 catches for 99 yards and for the season has 1,046 receiving yards. Ekeler moved closer to the 1,000 mark for the season, with five receptions for 62 yards. He now has 892 receiving yards in 2019.
For the season, Rivers has 4,055 yards passing, which is third in the NFL. The problem is that he has also thrown 18 interceptions, which is second highest in the NFL. Running back Melvin Gordon, a free agent after the season, was briefly benched after his second lost fumble. Gordon is averaging 55.1 yards per game rushing and only 18.8 receiving yards per game. Gordon is a talented back, but his performance this season and his holdout will cost him money in free agency.
For Minnesota, this was a huge win that gets them one step closer to the playoffs. As Viking quarterback Kirk Cousins said after the game, "It's still all up for grabs. Ten wins is a good place to be. We've put ourselves in a position to have a lot to play for these last two games."
It probably does not hurt that this was in effect a home game for the Vikings, with about 75% of the stadium filled with Vikings fans. As Cousins noted, "It was outstanding. It is just great to have the backing and the energy of your fans in an away stadium."
The Chargers will be at home again next Sunday, December 22nd, to take on their hated rivals, the Oakland Raiders. The game will start at 1:05 PM at ROKiT Field at Dignity Health Sports Park. The Raiders are 6-8 and have lost four in a row, but this game is never just about the record. The Raiders will be looking for a sweep of their rivals this season, having won the first game 17-16 in Oakland.