Chargers lose another heartbreaker to the Saints
October 15, 2020
The New Orleans Saints have ended recent seasons with some heartbreaking losses in the playoffs. Their last three seasons have ended with the "Minneapolis Miracle," the "blatant missed pass interference call" game, and the "Walk-off TD pass in Overtime" loss. Three seasons in which the Saints were arguably the best team in their conference that each ended in frustration and heartbreak.
But even the Saints would acknowledge that the Los Angeles Chargers have had a run of bad luck the past few seasons that they have not experienced, at least not in the regular season. For the second straight week, the Chargers blew a 17-point lead on the road and lost the game, with this defeat coming at the hands of the Saints in New Orleans, 30-27 in overtime. With the loss, the Chargers fall to 1-4 for the season and last place in the AFC West. This was their fourth consecutive loss.
The Chargers are 1-4 in games decided by seven points or less this season. They are 3-13 in games decided by seven points or less since the start of the 2019 season. The Chargers have led in every game this season and led in four of their five games in the 4th quarter this season. They are 0-2 in overtime games this season. The Chargers have been outscored by only 18 points in their four losses.
Charger head coach Anthony Lynn could not hide his frustration with the latest loss, stating: "It's not time to point fingers and blame and all that. As a team, coaching staff and players we have 11 games left to turn this around. We know we can play with anybody because we've been doing it. Never thought this team would lose four straight. We've put ourselves in position, but we didn't get it done. We have to finish these damn games."
This is a good team that is competitive with anyone, despite the loss of half of their starters on both offense and defense. Against the Saints, the Chargers scored first to take an early 6-0 lead over the Saints. The extra point was missed by kicker Mike Badgley, a miss that would linger throughout the game and haunt the Chargers at the end.
Charger quarterback Justin Herbert had another terrific game despite the loss. Herbert threw for 264 yards and four touchdowns. Herbert became the first rookie to throw four touchdown passes in a Monday night football game. His ability to pick-up blitzes as a rookie is almost uncanny. On his first touch down throw, the Saints had a blitz coming at Herbert on a third-and-seven from the 17-yard line.
Herbert avoided the pass rushers rolled to his right and threw a perfect strike to wide receiver Keenan Allen for a touchdown. He saw the blitz coming and with his mobility made the play. After Allen went out for the rest of the game with back spasms, Herbert looked to Mike Williams and Jalen Guyton for big plays. Williams caught five passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns, making a spectacular 29-yard catch on a third down throw to set up the game wining attempt by Badgley.
Guyton had a 49-yard reception on a deep throw from Herbert that landed him on the Saints four-yard line, setting up another Herbert touchdown pass. After an interception by safety Nasir Adderley, which he returned to the Saints one-yard line, the Chargers scored on a three-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to tight end Hunter Henry, to take a 20-3 lead.
The Saints stormed back with 17 unanswered points to tie the score in the fourth quarter at 20-20. The Chargers offense turned somewhat conservative after they grabbed the 17-point lead and the Saints do have a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback in Drew Brees and a talented football team, so this was never going to be easy. The Chargers struck back with a 64-yard bomb to Williams with 3:40 left in the game to take a 27-20 lead.
The Saints tied the game at 27-27 on a nine-yard touchdown run by Taysom Hill with just 52 seconds left. Herbert got the Chargers into field goal range with five seconds left in the game, giving Michael Badgley an opportunity to redeem himself for his earlier miss, but the 50-yard attempt to win the game was no good, bouncing off the right upright.
Saints kicker Wil Lutz kicked a 36-yard field goal with 5:08 to go in the overtime for the final lead, and the Saints' defense held on for the win. On fourth-and-six from the Chargers' 44-yard line, Herbert completed a slant pass to wide receiver Williams, but he was tackled inches short of the first down by cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who made an amazing game saving tackle for the Saints just shy of the 50 yard line.
It was another tough loss for the Chargers. As Herbert stated after the game, "It's a learning process. Losing is horrible, but we are going to turn it around. I know that if we keep working hard and doing the right things, good things will happen. I love the way this team battles. I know we're going to stick together. Losing's tough. It always is. But we're going to learn from it."
Herbert was sacked three times and hit 12 times on the night, as the Chargers struggled to keep the pressure off him. The Chargers could not consistently run the ball against a good Saints run defense. The Chargers coaching staff will need to find a better way of protecting Herbert in future games or he will not last the entire season.
They will have the upcoming bye week to find an answer to that issue and at the same time get some personnel healthy. Herbert is 5th in the NFL in passing yardage per game at 298.8 yards per game and he is completing 68.8% of his passes. He is a rookie that is carrying the offensive load and the Chargers need to keep him healthy. He will be the franchise quarterback for the next decade.
Defensively, the Chargers got a big game from linebacker Kyzir White, who had 15 tackles in the game, 10 solo. Joey Bosa, playing with multiple injuries, had one of the two sacks of Brees and the other sack went to Uchenna Nwosu, who has been playing for the injured Melvin Ingram. Nwosu left in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury and did not return.
The Chargers will use the bye week to get players healthy in time for their home game at SoFi Stadium on October 25th against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars, like the Chargers, are 1-4 and have lost four consecutive games. This will be a must-win game for the Chargers.