The Chargers are in a good place right now. So is coach Anthony Lynn. The Chargers second-year coach has his team in a pretty good place in the AFC West. With their bye week in play, the Chargers are sitting one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs with a 5-2 record. That’s a far better cry than where they were last year when they went into their week off.
If you remember, the Chargers started off Lynn’s rookie campaign dropping their first four games on their way to a 3-4 march after seven games. The Chargers went into their 2017 bye week barely standing at 3-5.
What a difference a year makes. Last year, the Chargers opened their season to a bunch of missed field goals that cost them a couple of games. This season, the Chargers look like a more resilient bunch. After their Week 3 loss to the Rams, the Chargers have reeled off four straight wins, including the team’s 20-19 victory against the Tennessee Titans over in London.
“The game was a little more exciting than I wanted it to be, but we knew it was going to be a tough football game,” Lynn said. “The team had just dropped two, and they were looking to bounce back, and I thought our guys did a nice job of standing up to those guys and hanging in there and winning at the end.”
The Chargers are in a better place this season than the year before because of several reasons. One would be the continued hot play of quarterback Philip Rivers. Rivers went through his routine 300-yard plateau day, completing 19 of 26 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns. The two other factors are the big-play ability of the team’s offensive unit and the defense turning into a constant turnover maker machine.
Since Week 3, the Chargers defense has been creating turnovers like apple pie. Linebacker Denzel Perryman had a pick at the goal line and the Chargers defense stepped up to the plate when it mattered as it rebuffed the Titans from stealing a victory. In the last three games, the Chargers defense has cracked on quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, Derek Carr, and now Marcus Mariota to make the right plays at the right time.
“Our defense, you know, they bend but they never break,” Lynn said. “Even when they got in on the touchdown, I didn’t think they would convert. Once again, you got an interception down there in the red zone, tight read. They protect every inch.”
The bye week comes as a reprieve for the wounded needing to heal. Running back Melvin Gordon is thankful for it. Gordon, the league’s third-leading rusher (now No. 4) entering the London game against Tennessee with 466 yards, did not play against the Titans because of a hamstring flare-up. The Chargers offense could have used their leading ground gainer.
“Well, I think obviously he’s a heck of a player for us,” said Rivers. “We have a tandem of him and Ekeler, and what they’ve been able to do especially the last few weeks, and Melvin is off to a heck of a start this season. But we knew — we had a little bit of an idea yesterday, and so we were preparing for that, for how to manage that and how we were going to use J.J. and Ekeler together. Austin was going to have to carry a bigger load, was he going to be not as much on special teams. We hated not having Melvin out there, but I can tell you we said, hey, let’s go figure it out, let’s go find a way. My son texted me this morning right before the game, said, Melvin is out, but y’all are all right, y’all will figure it out, and we did. It was good to overcome his absence, and now I imagine, shoot, I feel pretty confident in saying he’ll be healthy and ready to go when we head to Seattle here in two weeks.”
When it comes to big plays, wide receiver Tyrell Williams has become the center of Rivers’ attention lately. Williams caught just four passes from Rivers against Tennessee, but they accounted for 118 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown was a big one-75 yards on the team’s opening series.
“We knew — were hoping to get that coming into the game, and it came to the perfect coverage and it just opened up perfect,” Williams said. “It was an awesome opportunity to be able to get that, especially to start the game.”