CARSON, CA-Football is a game of inches. Those inches may feel like a mile for the Los Angeles Chargers after an 0-4 start. The good news about the Chargers’ play through the first four games of the 2017 NFL season is that they’ve been in every single contest right up to the end. In three of the four games they’ve played, the Chargers have lost by a margin of seven points combined.
If not for a long touchdown run against them late in their home defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs, that margin would only be 11 points in the first four games. A play here, a take back of a turnover there, and the Chargers could easily be standing with a 3-1 or an undefeated mark instead of hitting the road for two games being without a win.
“I will tell you what I just told my team: Never in a million years did I think we would be here at 0-4 but we are,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said in a postgame press conference. “I look at football in four quarters, just like the game. We just stunk the first quarter of our season. We have three quarters left to figure some things out and get this thing turned around. There is going to be a lot of evaluating going on tonight and tomorrow and some things are going to change, but we are going to get this figured out. We are going to get this moving in the right direction.”
The lack of effort is not the reason why the Chargers don’t have a victory. In every single game, they’ve battled. As they showed in their 26-24 loss against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at StubHub Center, the Chargers have a lot of kick in them. They just have to start outkicking the opposition. Against the Chiefs, two early turnovers put the Chargers in an early 14-0 hole.
Philip Rivers’ fumble on the Chargers’ game-opening drive paved the way for Carson Wentz and the Eagles to capitalize. Wentz connected with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery on a eight-yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles a quick 7-0 lead after the miscue. In the last two weeks, the Chargers have turned the ball over four times, all attributed to Rivers, that have resulted in 24 points for the other team.
But like he always does, Rivers more than made up for the error, passing for 347 yards and two touchdowns. One of those scores was a 75-yard touchdown strike to Tyrell Williams in the second quarter to slice into the Eagles’ 13-0 lead.
“It was just a play-action pass and I knew I had enough time to get open down the field,” said Williams. “It worked out perfectly and it was a good ball and I made a play.”
A couple of more those type plays, and the Chargers may have likely pulled off the win. Getting close, though, doesn’t mean squat these days to Lynn and the Chargers.
“We just need to tweak a few things,” Lynn said. “We have to get more consistency with our offense and just bend but don’t break on defense. That had to change too. We haven’t made a play on special teams to help us win a game yet.”
Despite not coming away with a “W” in the first four games, Lynn and his team can find solace in the fact that they still have three-quarters of the season to play. That’s still a lot of football to be played. Rivers is taking things one possession and one game at a time.
“Every game is different,” Rivers said. “Every game changes and you’re presented with certain plays, and you want to improve on those things, but there are all happening in that moment. I don’t know that there’s a lot of, ‘gosh, we did the same thing we did last week,’ so I don’t think there’s so much that. It’s just a matter of making the play or plays, and there’s a handful each game that we haven’t made that can be the difference. We know that’s what the league is. Every week, it comes down like this. You look at all of them, you can rattle through the whole league and other than a few, most of them are one-score games.”
Underneath all the exterior of the Chargers’ third defeat at home this season is the continuing stellar play of wide receiver Keenan Allen, who caught fives passes for 138 yards. It’s the second time that Allen has recorded a game with 100 yards or more catching the football. After seeing his 2016 football campaign short-circuited because of a knee injury, Allen has played like a man on fire thus far.
Allen is averaging 13.9 yards a catch and is among the Top 10 wide receivers in the league statistically. Allen and Williams both went over 100 yards in receiving, which highlights the offensive potency of the Chargers on any given day. Wentz, the Eagles declared franchise quarterback, recognizes the talent on the Chargers’ sidelines.
“The Los Angeles Chargers are a good football team,” Wentz said. “They have been in every single one of their games. That offense with [QB] Philip [Rivers] behind there, you never know what you are going to get. They can score quickly whenever. That defense is stout, but there are bend, don’t break defense. I do not think their record indicates their talent level and skill level. It was a hard-fought win for us.”
I write about sports, racial and social justice, culture, and everything else in between. Beat writer for the Rams, Chargers, Lakers, and Clippers. Part of the inaugural Associated Press Sports Editors Diversity Fellowship class. Howard University alum.