Chargers need to beat the Ravens to stay in the Playoff Race
November 23, 2023
The Los Angeles Chargers continue to find ways to lose close games and last Sunday's results were no exception. The Chargers blew a four-point quarter lead at Green Bay, losing to the Packers 23-20. The loss dropped the Chargers record to 4-6 for the season, while the win improved the Packers to a matching 4-6 record for the season.
Packer quarterback Jordan Love completed 27 of 40 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns, which was the best game of his career. That was to be expected against the Chargers pass defense, which is ranked last in the NFL in passing yardage allowed per game. But as good as Love was, Charger quarterback Justin Herbert was even better.
Herbert completed 21 of 36 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns. Herbert had six passes dropped in the game, two by wide receiver Keenan Allen, one in the end zone and one just outside of the end zone. Allen did catch 10 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, and he was playing with an AC joint sprain in his shoulder. For the game, Pro Football Focus (PFF) gave Herbert a grade of 92.7, making him the highest graded quarterback in the NFL in Week 11.
With his wide receivers dropping passes and struggling to get open, Herbert took to running the ball, gaining 73 yards on eight carries. But he could not get any help. With 12:54 left in the game and a second and goal at the Packer two-yard line, defensive tackle Kenny Clark, a former UCLA star, knocked the ball loose from running back Austin Ekeler, and the fumble was recovered by Packer linebacker Rashawn Gary.
The Packers had the ball at their 25 yard-line, trailing the Chargers 20-16 with 5:24 left in the game. Once again, the Chargers pass defense collapsed. A 24-yard defensive pass interference penalty on cornerback Asante Samuel, jr., bailed the Packers out on third-and-20 to start the drive. It was a completely unnecessary penalty as the pass was not near rookie wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks.
Wicks then had a 35-yard catch-and-run after bouncing off would be tackler, cornerback Michael Davis, and Love found receiver wide receiver Romeo Doubs for a 24-yard go-ahead touchdown with 2:33 to go in the game. Doubs easily beat Davis to the end zone. In just three plays, the Chargers pass defense had collapsed and allowed the Packers to pull ahead.
The Chargers got the ball back and on a third-and-6 at their own 30 yards line, Herbert fired deep down the right sideline to an open Quentin Johnston, who dropped the ball at the Green Bay 36-yard line. The pass hit Johnston in both hands. He might've scored with a catch, or at a minimum put the Chargers into game-tying field-goal range.
Johnston was the Chargers first-round pick and while he is a big and strong receiver with some good speed, he had a problem with concentration drops at TCU. Johnston is a raw talent who will hopefully grow into a good NFL wide receiver. He is not there at this point and with the injuries to the receiving group that the Chargers currently have, the team needs him to step up and play well now. PFF gave Johnston a grade of 48.3 for the game and Ekeler got a grade of 46.9 for the game.
After the game, head coach Brandon Staley had a contentious press conference with the media in Green Bay. Staley was asked if he considered giving up the play calling duties on defense, and he said emphatically, "no" and he was not happy with a reporter putting the blame for the loss on the defensive unit. He insisted that it was a team loss. The frustration of losing and the pressure of the job are understandably getting to Staley.
In Monday's press conference, Staley talked about where the Chargers are at. "You've seen us play at a high level in spurts and stretches, but we haven't had that complete performance consistently enough," Staley said. "When every game that we've lost is so tight, you're going to go back to a few plays, in all three phases of your team, and you're going to magnify all of those little mistakes. When you lose really, really close games, you're going to magnify all of those mistakes."
Staley continued, stating that "where we've fallen short, we have to continue to look for these small adjustments. They're not big things, they're not like just one thing or a big thing, it's a bunch of little things that, hopefully, will add up to us finishing out some of these games."
It is the little things that are beating the Chargers and there are a lot of little things. Meanwhile, Herbert is a franchise quarterback, and the offense consists of Herbert to Allen. At 4-6, the Chargers need to win 6 of their last 7 games to match last season's record. The schedule does not get any easier. On Sunday, November 26 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, the Chargers will take on the 8-3 Baltimore Ravens. The game will be played at night and starts at 5:20 pm PST. The game will be nationally televised on NBC.
The Ravens are in first place in the AFC North division and have the best record in the AFC. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is a former MVP and a player that can cause the Chargers defense a lot of concerns with his running ability. The Raven have speed on offense and a good defense led by linebacker Roquan Smith. The Ravens are ranked third in the NFL in defensive yardage allowed per game and they lead NFL in sacks with 44. This will be a tough match up for a Chargers team in desperate need of a victory.