INGLEWOOD, CA – Creating turnovers can work in favor of a football team. Failure to hold on to the rock has the opposite effect. If the Los Angeles Chargers had to point to one critical element that deprived them of victory against the Carolina Panthers, it would be the lack of keeping the ball from the other team’s hands.
The Chargers had more first downs than the Panthers (26-14), was better in third down efficiency (67 percent, Chargers; 25 percent, Panthers), gained more total yards (436-302), won the clock management battle (31:12-Chargers; 28:48-Panthers), and had more offensive plays (74-51) than the visitors.
On paper, those numbers read like it was a one-sided affair that played in the Chargers’ favor. All of that positivity was wiped out, though, because the Chargers lost the turnover battle. Three lost fumbles and an interception put the Chargers at a minus four for the game.
“The National Football League, you know, it’s kind of been just a historical stat usually if you win the turnover battle you win the game, and we were definitely were putting ourselves in a hole,” Chargers running back Austin Ekeler said. “Being minus three, it’s so hard to even be manageable and be even close in a game when you’re down three So that means that you’re never going to win games if you continue to do that. So that’s something that we’re going to be putting an emphasis on. We do that every week, but once you come and do that in a game, it’s an even more of an emphasis the next week.”
That’s because Carolina’s offense didn’t turn the ball over at all. At the end of the day, this is where the Chargers lost the ballgame, their second defeat in two straight weeks,
“First of all, I thought we moved the ball up and down the field — rushed the ball well. I thought our quarterback completed enough passes, but you cannot win in this league when you turn the ball over three times — and that’s on me,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “I have got to do better job of teaching this team how to win because in this league, you give yourself about a 10 percent chance of winning when you turn it over three times and you don’t take any of them away.”
“So that was disappointing in the first half. I thought they fought hard,” Lynn continued. “That last drive — our young quarterback [Justin Herbert], on the one-yard line, no timeouts — gave us a chance to win the football game. Just trying to take some positives from this, if you can. That was impressive, but other than that I have to do a better job. The coaches have to do a better job putting that team in a position of winning and eliminating the turnovers.”
Last week, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert became the toast of the town with his 311 passing yards and two total touchdowns performance against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Herbert, whom the Chargers drafted with the No. 6 overall pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, made an unexpected debut as the team’s starting quarterback when Tyrod Taylor could not go because of what was revealed later as a punctured lung after being injected for painkillers by a team doctor.
Because of fractured ribs that he suffered in Week 1, Taylor was getting treatment prior to the Chargers’ Week 2 encounter at Sofi Stadium against the Chiefs before he made an immediate exit and had to go to the hospital.
Herbert filled in admirably for the veteran signal-caller as the Chargers came up just short in the win-loss column, going down in defeat in overtime. As heralded as his play was against the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs, Herbert’s performance in Week 3 against the Panthers was statistically better.
Hebert flung the ball around 49 times, completing 35 passes for 330 yards and a touchdown. Herbert said his comfort level is getting there.
“The goal is always to get better,” Herbert said. “I feel like throughout camp, and these weeks, I have picked up on things and I’ve learned. I’m going to make mistakes and that happens. It’s all about how you react to that. This is a great opportunity to watch the film, get better, and go play a tough team next week.”
Besides a steady performance, Herbert also had a couple of miscues he would like to have back. He was credited with a fumble and an interception as well getting sacked a couple of times.
“I tried to get the ball out. I got hit from behind, [when I] thought I threw it — turned out it was a fumble,” Herbert said after the game during a postgame press conference. “On the next one, [I] made a poor decision, turned the ball over and tried to make the tackle, but you can’t let that happen in these games.”
In his second game of live NFL action, Herbert again played well considering the league preempted preseason games. He even led the Chargers down the field for a potential game-winning drive.
But a muffed exchange between running back Ekeler and wide receiver Kennan Allen negated that as time was expiring in the fourth quarter. The sure-handed Ekeler, who rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown and caught 11 passes for 84 yards, found it to be incredulous that he was not able to haul in the pass from Allen.
“I didn’t end up securing the catch. The only thing that I dropped literally all day is a little pitch from Keenan Allen across the middle and would have ended up sealing the game,” Ekeler said. “I feel like someone punched me right in the face…I’ve been going back and forth in the locker room. I’m just so emotional about it because I know the magnitude of that play that it would have had. The entire locker room would have been different right now if I end up making that catch.”
Editor’s note: Feature image of Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert appears courtesy of the Los Angeles Chargers