Chargers Headed to Miami After Another Heartbreaking Loss
November 12, 2020
The late great UCLA Hall of Fame basketball coach, John Wooden, once said, "Losing is only temporary and not all encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it, and try hard not to lose the same way again. Then you must have the self-control to forget about it." That quote from Wooden could easily apply to the Los Angeles Chargers, who continue to make losing close games a habit.
Against the Las Vegas Raiders last Sunday, the Chargers lost another heartbreaker when quarterback Justin Herbert appeared to throw a 4-yard touchdown to tight end Donald Parham Jr. for the game winning score with no time on the clock, but it was overruled by instant replay when it was determined that Parham did not maintain possession throughout the catch. The Raiders held on for a 31-26 victory over the Chargers at SoFi Stadium.
The loss dropped the Chargers record to 2-6 on the season and the win improved the Raiders record to 5-3. If the season ended today, the Raiders would be in the playoffs and the Chargers would have a top ten pick in the 2021 NFL draft. The Chargers are 1-6 in games decided by less than seven points this season and have led in all eight games they have played in this season. The Chargers have lost nine straight games to AFC West opponents.
The Chargers are a good 2-6 team, which is no consolation to head coach Anthony Lynn, who stated after the game, "We've been kicked in the gut six times. That's six times too many for me." He later added about his team, "They did what I asked them to do. They competed for four quarters. I thought they were resilient, and I thought they bounced back. I thought they played for one another. I do know if you continue to do that, at some point good things will happen."
The Chargers have not been learning from their previous losses, as Coach Wooden would advise, and continue to find new ways to lose games. The pattern is the same. Key breakdowns on defense or special teams or a key turnover on offense. They play a good overall football game, but there is always a key play or two that changes the course of the game for them.
Against the Raiders, there were a few key plays that led to the Chargers loss. A missed 48-yard field goal by Michael Badgley on the first offensive drive, a missed two-point conversion with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback and muffed punt return deep in Charger territory cost the Chargers a total of eight points. Also 44-yard kickoff return by Jalen Richard helped set-up a touchdown drive for the Raiders.
But there were two plays early in the third quarter that really made a difference in the game. All-Pro cornerback Casey Hayward was beaten on two deep passes, the first by Raider wide receiver Nelson Agholor on a go route for a 45-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Derek Carr to give the Raiders a 21-17 lead early in the third quarter.
The second came on a broken play, with Carr rolling to his right and finding wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who was able to get behind Hayward for a gain of 53 yards and a first down at the Charger 16 yard line. Four plays later Carr connected with tight end Darren Waller for a two-yard touchdown pass and a 28-17 lead.
There is no question that the defense has been struggling in recent weeks for the Chargers. Against the Raiders, the Chargers were without defensive end Joey Bosa. In the secondary, Chris Harris is still out with a foot injury, Derwin James is out for the season with a knee injury and cornerback Desmond King was traded to the Titans.
Defensive end Melvin Ingram has missed three games this season with an injury and still does not have a sack. Middle linebacker Kenneth Murray was benched for what Charger head coach Anthony Lynn called "communication issues." The 2020 first round pick had played 100% of the snaps the past three games but has not been making a significant impact on defense.
In eight games, Murray has one tackle for a loss, no sacks, no interceptions and no forced or recovered fumbles. Along with Ingram's lack of production and Hayward's lapses at cornerback, the defense is just not playing consistently well.
Against the Chargers, the Raiders rushed for 160 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. This with the Raiders missing their starting right tackle, Trent Brown, and their starting left tackle, Kolton Miller, to injuries. The Raiders have been without their starting left guard, Richie Incognito, for most of the season to an achilles injury. A patchwork offensive line was able to open holes for their running backs and allowed only one sack of Carr.
The Chargers offense and in particular, Herbert, have been carrying the team this season. Against the Raiders, Herbert completed 28 of 42 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed five times for 24 yards. The Chargers have the No.1 ranked offense in the AFC and the No. 2 ranked offense in the NFL. They have the No.2 passing offense in the AFC, behind only the Kansas City Chiefs.
Herbert is No.3 in the NFL in passing yardage per game at 306.6 yards per game. He has transformed the Chargers from a running team to a passing team and has given the offense an explosive quality it lacked at the beginning of the season. He is also playing behind a patchwork offensive line, with starting right guard Trai Turner and starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga out most of the season with injuries.
Despite the losses, Herbert has remained positive, stating to reporters after the game, "You can't give up. You have to come together. You have to stick together. You've got to keep fighting." The reality is tough, as Herbert stated with reporters after the game: "Losses are tough. This isn't easy for anyone. No one is enjoying this."
The Chargers head to Miami this week for a game against the red-hot Dolphins. The Dolphins have won four straight and have looked good in this current streak. They won at San Francisco by 26, shutout the New York Jets, 24-0, beat the Rams by 11 at home and won at Arizona over the Cardinals, 34-31 last Sunday. The defense has created nine turnovers in the past four games, two of which they turned into defensive touchdowns.
Special teams had a punt returned for a touchdown against the Rams and their kicker, Jason Sanders, has been on a tear in the past four games. Sanders is 8 for 8 kicking field goals in their last four games, converting on a 50-yard game winning field goal against the Cardinals as well as a 56-yard field goal. He also converted on a 50-yard field goal and a 49-yard field goal against the 49ers. The Chargers must be envious.
The Dolphins, unlike the Chargers, are not finding ways to lose games. They are finding ways to win games. They will start a rookie, Tua Tagovailoa, at quarterback. Tagovailoa was the 5th pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft, just ahead of the 6th pick, Herbert. The Chargers will need Joey Bosa back in the lineup for this game and they need to do a better job of stopping the run than they did with the Raiders.
The game will be played on Sunday, November 15th, and will start at 1:05 PM locally. The game will be televised on the CBS Network. It will be humid in Miami as always. The Chargers have lost six of their last seven games and really need a win to stop the bleeding. As Coach Wooden would say, "learn from it and try not to lose the same way again."