It’s only been two weeks into the NFL regular season, but the Chargers have already found their identity: grit and doing things the hard way. Grit is what the Chargers exhibited in their 30-24 overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
They can also make things more difficult than they should. The Chargers’ victory against the Colts and a 13-10 road defeat to the Detroit Lions would attest to that kind of production. Against the Colts, the Chargers allowed a 24-9 lead to turn into a 24-24 tie, all in the name of difficulty. Instead of closing the deal on the win, a Philip Rivers interception in the endzone gave Indianapolis an opportunity to push the contest into overtime.
Against the Lions, another Rivers interception denied the Chargers a chance at a last-gasp win, which might have been secured had not running back Austin Ekeler fumbled the ball right at the goal line as he tried to score in the third quarter. Another lesson for the Chargers in the make-it-difficult department.
The good news about all of this is that the Chargers are all always going to be in a position to win games. That’s because the Chargers, under head coach Anthony Lynn, are not not about pomp and circumstances. They are a team that is more reminiscent of the throwback teams from yesteryear, where every possession counts.
It is because of that reasoning, expect the Chargers to be in every ballgame right down to the final series. That’s just the way this team is built. Grind. And grind some more. If you’re looking for the Chargers to dazzle you, be prepared to be disappointed. They are not that kind of team. There are some drawbacks to this style of play, but for Lynn and the Chargers, this formula is tried and true.
The Chargers came within one game of playing in the AFC Championship last season, losing to Super Bowl champs New England Patriots. It worked against the Colts, although there were some hiccups they had to overcome. Last week, the Chargers gave up 203 yards rushing to the Colts.
Lynn didn’t like his team giving up that many yards on the ground, especially with 174 yards going to one player (Marlon Mack) in particular.
“We’ve got to stop the run,” Lynn said after that Week 1 victory. “In the first half, we did a good job with that. We knew coming in – they have said they want to be a top-five rushing team. We held them to 2.7 yards [per carry] in the first half. In the second half, they averaged about six so we’ve got to do better at stopping the run. That concerned me a little bit, but the effort was outstanding.”
The Chargers did better against the Lions. A whole lot better. Los Angeles held Detroit to only 94 yards rushing, a big improvement from the previous week. The miscues, however, got the better of the Chargers against the Lions this time around as the turnover bug hit both Rivers and Ekeler.
That’s not to mention the several penalties called against the Chargers nullified potential scores, including a 60-yard touchdown run by Justin Jackson being wiped out because of an infraction. That’s a shame. What is also concerning is the fact that outside of Ekeler’s gigantic error at the goal line, he had another productive afternoon, following up on his Game 1 heroics of scoring three touchdowns, including running the game-winner.
That fumble almost negated the 66 yards rushing and 67 yards receiving effort that Ekeler produced. That 293 yards that Rivers threw for against the Lions just went out of the window in the Chargers’ losing effort. But for sure, there are better days that lie ahead for the Chargers.
There is plenty of football left to play. It’s still really early in the season, but still mustering up only 10 points offensively is not a good look for the Chargers by any stretch of the imagination.
Not for a team filled with so many explosive offensive weapons. Not for one of one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Not for two of the more talented wide receivers in the league (Keenan Allen and Mike Williams). Not for anybody. This is the spot where the absence of leading rusher Melvin Gordon (holdout dispute) might have made a difference in the outcome of a game.
Then, again, the Chargers did manage to outgain the Lions (424-339) in total yards and dominated the time of possession (31:19-28:41). So what constituted the slightly favored Chargers to fall in defeat to the Lions? Sloppy play. It was sloppy play that made the game against the Colts closer than what it should have been.
It was mishaps that led the Chargers to their first defeat of the season. No doubt, it is a trend that Lynn and the Chargers will have to clean up moving forward.
Dennis is editor and publisher of News4usonline. A news and sports reporter, Dennis has written about civil rights, education, government, crime, and social justice. Dennis covers the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and NCAA. He is a graduate of Howard University. HU!!