Chargers fail to finish in loss to the Broncos
November 5, 2020
The Denver Broncos were at home and were being absolutely dominated by the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers had a 24-3 lead in the middle of the 3rd quarter. The Broncos had a total of 55 yards of offense for the game. The Chargers had more touchdowns (3) than the Broncos had first downs (2). The fans were booing the home team and things looked hopeless for the Broncos.
What happened after that point in the game only seems to happen consistently to the Chargers. The Broncos scored touchdowns on four of their final five possessions. They gained 296 yards in offense and had 15 first downs in the final 22 minutes of the game. The Broncos scored the winning touchdown with no time on the clock, when Bronco quarterback Drew Lock connected with wide receiver K.J. Hamler on a one-yard touchdown throw, giving the Broncos a wild, 31-30 win over the Chargers.
There is not one word that can clearly describe what happened in this game. Stunning and inexcusable quickly come to mind. Charger linebacker Drue Tranquill, currently on injured reserve with a knee injury, commented on twitter that, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. To our fans, you deserve better. Giving up leads like this is absolutely unacceptable."
It is unacceptable to lose games like this. The Chargers are the first team in NFL history to trail after leading by at least 16 points in four consecutive games. In fact, no other team had done so in even three straight games. That does not count the game against the Chiefs, where the Chargers blew an 11-point lead to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. They lost that game in overtime.
Charger head coach Anthony Lynn was asked if he thought a coaching change was needed. A clearly frustrated Lynn stated: "This is what we have, this is our staff, these are our players. So right now, what we got to do as a group is figure this out -- why we're blowing these leads that we're getting, and why we're not finishing games, like we need to, in the fourth quarter. We did it last week, and we didn't do it this week. It's too soon for changes right now."
Last week probably should not be cited as a success. The Chargers had an early 16-0 lead and trailed 29-22 to the Jaguars in the third quarter, a team with just one win for the season. The Chargers came back to win it, 39-29, but the issue of blowing the leads was not resolved. The Chargers escaped SoFi Stadium with a win.
The Chargers are currently ranked No. 2 in the NFL in total offensive yardage per game at 417.1 yards per game. The passing attack is ranked at No. 6 with 280.4 yards per game and the rushing offense is averaging 136.4 yards per game, which is No. 8 in the NFL. While their offense has had a few turnovers that were not helpful, the problem is not on the offensive side of the ball. The problem is the defense.
The Chargers come into these games well prepared, look like a well-coached team and are focused on the task at hand. At some point in the game, usually after they take a comfortable lead, they lose their focus. That was obvious in the Broncos game. Bronco running back Phillip Lindsay's 55-yard touchdown run got the comeback started, cutting the lead to 24-10.
Charger quarterback Justin Herbert had thrown three touchdowns to give the Chargers their 24-3 lead but made a critical mistake late in the 3rd quarter. On a 3rd and five from the Bronco 19 yard line, Herbert threw a 50-50 ball to Mike Williams in the corner of the end zone, but it was wrestled away by the cornerback, Bryce Callahan, ending the scoring opportunity.
The Chargers were in position to get three points and to take a 3-score lead headed into the 4th quarter. Instead, the Broncos had the momentum and preceded to drive 80 yards for an early 4th quarter touchdown, cutting the score to 24-17. Herbert later admitted that he cannot throw that pass in the red zone.
Against the Broncos, the Chargers defense struggled to put any pressure on Lock and when defensive end Joey Bosa when out with a concussion, the pass rush disappeared. Maybe Tranquil was suggesting that the Chargers needed to bring more pressure, to mix it up more on defense. There were also some young players on defense and the communication may have been lacking.
On Monday, the Chargers made a rather strange decision to trade cornerback Desmond King to the Tennessee Titans for a 6th round draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. King had lost his starting job as the slot cornerback to Chris Harris, until an injury forced Harris to the injured reserve. King was inactive for the game against the Broncos, which Lynn called a "team decision."
It was known that King was not happy with his playing time and because he is a free agent, would likely have left at the end of the season. So at least the Chargers got something for him. In 2018, King was named first-team All-Pro as a defensive back and second-team All-Pro as a punt returner. King is a playmaker and having him on the field against the Broncos might have helped in the 4th quarter.
The loss left the Chargers at 2-5 and in last place in the AFC West. The Broncos are now 3-4 and in third place in the AFC West. The loss was the eighth consecutive AFC West loss for the Chargers. Their last win in the division was December 30th, 2018, when they defeated the Broncos, 23-9.
This week will not get any easier as the Las Vegas Raiders come to down. Historically, this is the biggest rival of the Chargers and in the San Diego days, the most hated rival for the fans. The Raiders are 4-3 for the season and have beaten some good teams. The Raiders have beaten the 5-2 New Orleans Saints at home, the 7-1 Kansas City Chiefs on the road and the 5-3 Cleveland Browns on the road.
The Raiders offense will offer some very tough matchups for the Chargers this week. Derek Carr is the No. 4 rated quarterback in the NFL, with a 110.2 rating. He has thrown 14 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. Josh Jacobs is one of the top young running backs in the NFL, currently ranked No. 7 in the NFL in rushing yardage with 522 yards.
Tight end Darren Waller has 45 receptions and is a tough one-on-one matchup. Rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs is the Raiders version of Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs. Ruggs ran a 4.27 forty at the NFL combine and he caught two passes for 118 yards against the Chiefs earlier this season, with one going for a 72-yard touchdown reception.
The Raider have struggled at times on defense this season. Their pass rush has only produced seven sacks in seven games, so airing it out against the Raiders might be a good idea. The game is scheduled for this Sunday, November 8th, 2020 at 1:05 PM at the SoFi Stadium and will be televised locally on Fox Channel.