Chargers struggle again in loss to the Titans
September 21, 2023
The Los Angeles Chargers continue to find new and interesting ways to blow leads and lose games, losing to the Titans in Nashville, 27-24 last Sunday was another example. Titans' kicker Nick Folk won the game with a 41-yard field goal in overtime. The victory for the Titans ended an eight-game losing streak dating back to November of 2022. For the Chargers, it was their fourth consecutive loss dating back to early January. The Chargers have lost the four games by a total of nine points. Each loss has its own story.
But the overall theme in the four losses, and especially the last three losses, are defensive breakdowns and offensive inefficiency late in the game. Charger quarterback Justin Herbert has thrown seven touchdown passes and has zero turnovers in the four losses.
But at the end of each loss, the other team's quarterback was the best quarterback on the field. That is due in part to big plays that the secondary continues to give up and Herbert being unable to move the offense late in games when needed.
In their AFC Playoff loss last January against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Chargers held a 27-0 lead late in the second quarter on the road. Jaguar quarterback Trevor Lawrence had thrown four interceptions and the Chargers seemed to be in complete control of the game. But Lawrence rebounded, throwing four touchdown passes in leading the Jags to a 31-30 win. The Chargers offense managed just three points in the second half and the defense collapsed. Lawrence went from goat to hero in the game.
Against the Titans this past weekend, the Chargers led early 11-0. But the Titans came back to take a fourth quarter lead of 24-21 behind the passing of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who completed 20 of 24 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown, while also scoring a touchdown on a 12-yard run. Tannehill completed a 70-yard bomb to wide receiver to Treylon Burks to set up the first touchdown and in the fourth quarter and hit wide receiver Chris Moore on a deep throw of 49 yards, setting up another touchdown to give the Titans a 24-21 fourth quarter lead.
Herbert drove the Chargers into the red zone in the last few seconds of regulation but was unable to get the Chargers into the end zone for the winning score, so the Chargers had to settle for a game tying field goal to send the game into overtime. In overtime, three consecutive incompletions forced the Chargers to punt. Two of the incompletions were balls being thrown away and one was a pass to Mike Williams, who was double-teamed.
The offense is not an issue. The Chargers are ranked 4th in total offense in the NFL. The offensive execution and play calling late in games are an issue. The defensive secondary is an issue. In all four losses, the secondary has given up big plays and a lot of yardage. The Chargers are ranked last in the NFL in total defensive yardage allowed and last in passing yardage allowed.
In Monday's press conference, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley remained positive about the Chargers. "We've had a fantastic offseason and training camp," Staley said. "I think through two games, you've seen the level that we've played at in terms of how hard we've played. Two tough losses. All the way down to the very last play. This is a really mature group. It's a connected group."
"Again, we're just at the beginning. I think everyone knows what's happening on that field. I think that people believe in the type of players we have, the type of coaches that we have to make good things happen moving forward. We just need to stay consistent with our process and consistent with the people out there on the field and good things are going to happen for us."
Staley is correct. The Chargers had a good training camp and looked good in preseason. But they are 0-2 and defensively they are not a good football team when it counts, despite having good talent on the defensive side of the ball. They are 0-2 despite having scored 50+ points in the first two games with no turnovers. No team has done that before.
The Chargers are in danger of letting the season slip away if they don't get a victory this weekend against the Vikings in Minnesota. The Vikings are ranked 2nd in the NFL in passing yardage per game, which reflects a talented group of receivers and a struggling running attack. The Vikings are averaging a paltry 34.5 yards per game on the ground, worst in the NFL and only 2.7 yards per carry.
The Chargers secondary looks to be a bad matchup with the Vikings passing attack, led by quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Justin Jefferson, the NFL Offensive Player of the year in 2022. Tight end T.J. Hocksenson was a pro bowl tight end in 2022, and first round draft pick Jordan Addison, a wide receiver from USC, has caught a touchdown pass in each of the first two games.
The Vikings have struggled to stop the run and the Chargers will likely run the ball to keep the Vikings passing attack on the sidelines. The game will start at 10:00 AM PST on Sunday, September 24th and will be televised locally on FOX.