Chargers to face the Saints with a three-game losing streak

For Tom Brady, winning close games never gets old. For the Los Angeles Chargers, losing close games has become a habit they cannot seem to break. In a game that featured eight touchdown passes combined, the Buccaneers were able to overcome a 17-point second quarter deficit and defeat the Chargers at home in Tampa Bay, 38-31 last Sunday.

In a quarterback duel between a 43-year-old six-time super bowl winner and a 22-year-old Charger rookie Justin Herbert, the veteran came out on top. But it was not easy for the veteran. Brady completed 30 of 46 passes for 369 yards and five touchdowns. He made one mistake, an interception by Charger cornerback Michael Davis, who returned the interception 78 for a touchdown, giving the Chargers a 14-7 lead.

Herbert was outstanding in the game, especially the first three quarters. He completed 20 of 25 passes (80%) and threw three perfectly placed touchdown passes. He also led the Chargers in rushing with 14 yards, which makes his passing performance even more amazing. Herbert had a perfect quarterback rating after three quarters at 158.3.

The Chargers came into the game missing five starters on offense and five starters on defense. They lost running back Austin Ekeler in the first quarter with a severe hamstring injury, knocking out another starter. Ekeler is expected to miss at least one month and will probably be placed on injured reserve. Without Ekeler, the running game struggled, and the offense was on Herbert's shoulders. He was able to carry the load.

With the running game going nowhere, the Chargers really needed their top ten defense to step up and the defense just did not get the job done. Brady threw five touchdown passes to different receivers, former USC running back Ronald Jones rushed for 111 yards and the Bucs ended up with 484 yards in total offense. The Chargers defense had zero sacks on Brady in the game and missed assignments the entire game., "We had some busted assignments," said Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn. " Guys gave up some explosive plays."

Herbert was able to keep the Chargers in the game with his arm and by making big plays on offense. His first touchdown pass went to wide receiver Tyron Johnson on a 53-yard bomb that just fell into his hands as he crossed the goal line. It was Johnson's NFL debut, first career reception and first NFL touchdown.

Tight end Donald Parham Jr. was also making his NFL debut and he caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Herbert, which was also his first NFL reception and first NFL touchdown. The touchdown reception by the 6-8 Parham gave the Chargers a 21-7 lead. Wide receiver Jalen Guyton caught his second career touchdown, both from Herbert, later in the third quarter.

The turning point in the game came late in the second quarter with the Chargers leading 24-7. The Chargers had a first down at their own nine-yard line with 47 seconds left in the first half. The Bucs had one time out left. The Chargers could have simply taken a knee three times and run the clock out, ending the half. They were to receive the opening kickoff in the second half.

Instead, Herbert handed the ball off to rookie running back Joshua Kelly, who bobbled the exchange and then was crushed by Buccaneer defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who had beaten center Dan Feeney and had a clear shot at Kelley, jarring the ball loose. The fumble was recovered by linebacker Devin White at the Charger six-yard line. Three plays later, Brady connected with wide receiver Mike Evans for a six-yard touchdown pass, closing the gap to 24-14 at halftime.

"Those two guys, they have to make that exchange," said head coach Anthony Lynn, who called the mistake "inexcusable." "I think that's just one of those plays where the D-lineman made a great play and knocked it out," Herbert said. Asked about the exchange, Herbert added that, "It felt normal to me."

Buccaneer head coach Bruce Arians called the Suh forced fumble the turning point in the game: "I don't think there's any doubt. We were making plans to go into halftime, thinking they were going to take a knee. We had one timeout. They decided to run the ball and Suh does a great job of getting it out, and then Tommy makes a great play for the touchdown."

That play gave the Bucs momentum going into halftime and it carried over into the second half. The Bucs scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half, taking a 28-24 lead late in the third quarter. Herbert came back with a beautiful deep pass to Guyton for 72 yards and a touchdown on the last play of the third quarter to give the Chargers a lead, 31-28 after three quarters.

The fourth quarter belonged to Brady, as he took the Bucs on a game winning drive of 75 yards in seven plays, with the drive culminating in a nine-yard touchdown pass to running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn. Kicker Ryan Succop added three more points to the Bucs lead later with a 26-yard field goal and Herbert ended the game with an ill-advised interception, one of the few mistakes the rookie made all the day.

Herbert impressed Brady, the future Hall-of Famer, who said of Herbert, "Got obviously all the abilities, got a great arm, and moves really well." Arians was even more enthusiastic stating: "I told Anthony after the game you've got a great one. That looked like (Patrick) Mahomes, where we had an all-out blitz, and he just kept retreating. Then he threw a dime down the field. For rookies to make plays like that, you know they're special," Arians said to Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Farmer.

The Chargers play their third straight game against an NFC South opponent when they take on the New Orleans Saints on the road. The Saints are 2-2 on the season. The game will be played on Monday night, October 12th, with a start time of 5:15 p.m.. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN. The location of the game is scheduled for New Orleans, but with a major hurricane headed in the direction of New Orleans, there is a chance that the game ends up being played in Indianapolis.

When they line up on the field Monday, the Chargers will be facing another future Hall of fame quarterback in Drew Brees. It is expected that Brees will have his favorite receiver back in Mike Thomas, who set an NFL record in 2019 for most receptions in a season with 149. Thomas has missed the past three games with a high ankle sprain. The explosive Saints offense averages 30 points per game and will present another challenge to the injury-riddled Charger defense.

During the current three game losing streak, the Chargers have a -6 turnover ratio. Over the past twenty regular season games, the Chargers are 3-12 in games decided by 7 points or less. Against the Saints, they will need to find a way to run the ball against the Saints 6th ranked run defense and they will need to pressure Brees. The Chargers only have six sacks in four games. Plus, they need to eliminate the turnovers against a good Saints team.


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