INGLEWOOD, CA – All season long, Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn has talked about the importance of winning the turnover battle. For most of the season, the Chargers have been near the bottom tier in getting those all important turnovers.
When it comes to the takeaway department, the Chargers have a magic number of 12, which puts them in the bottom tier of the league in that category. Well, the Chargers defense decided to do something about those numbers against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.
The Chargers picked off Ryan three times, including twice in the waning moments of the fourth quarter to come away with a much-needed 20-17 win at SoFi Stadium.
“That was a huge win for us,” said Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. “The defense stepped up big time and forced a couple of turnovers. That was huge for us. We had an opportunity on that first drive in the fourth quarter, but props to the defense for stepping up and special teams as well, big time today.”
Rayshawn Jenkins got Ryan in the first half but it was the two interceptions by Jahleel Addae and Michael Davis in the final period that stuffed the Falcons from a possible road win and saved the day for the Chargers.
“It’s very encouraging because that’s something that we want to improve on is creating turnovers and I think it was plus-three and usually when you are plus-three your chances of winning are pretty good,” Lynn said about the play of the defense coming up with those much-needed stops at the end of the game.
Atlanta intern head coach Raheem Morris said those interceptions were daggers.
“You know, you can’t turn the ball over,” Morris said. “Particularly in those critical situations, we almost killed ourselves out there but we had a turnover of our own, which was great, and the drive coming down the field, we turned the ball over. Those things just can’t happen. Too many turnovers to overcome today. Too many mistakes by us from an offensive standpoint, from a defensive standpoint – all-around – special teams, all across the board we have to make better decisions, better plays on the road.”
The Chargers needed this win in the worst way. After their 45-0 meltdown against the New England Patriots, where everything that could go wrong, went wrong, the Chargers responded with strong efforts from their defense, offense, and special teams.
Herbert rebounded from his sub-par afternoon against the Patriots to produce a solid outing with a couple of touchdowns and 240 passing yards. Herbert also led the Chargers down the field for the game-winning field goal, a 43-yard kick, placed by Michael Badgley with no time left on the clock.
“Well, I’ll tell you that was a hell of a last drive by a young quarterback — not having a right side of his [offensive] line, not having [WR] Mike [Williams] and [WR] Keenan [Allen] on the field somehow those guys engineered a drive and went down the field and put us in position to kick the field goal to win the game,” Lynn said in his opening remarks to the media following the game.
“That’s what it was all about — they shook off last week, didn’t let one game beat us twice,” Lynn added. “Came back this week, worked their tails off and they played good, complementary football today. The defense did a heck of a job with those turnovers. I tell you, we needed those turnovers today. Found a way to get the W and we are moving on to [Las Vegas] — don’t have much time to celebrate on this one. We play Thursday night and that’s where our focus as soon as I get off this conference.”
The Chargers win wasn’t a solo act. Herbert received plenty of help, especially from the ground game. As a team, the Chargers rushed for 105 yards, which was a lot better than what the Falcons could do running the football. The Chargers’ defense wasn’t just stingy against Ryan, but they also played stop the run pretty well, holding Atlanta to just 70 yards rushing the football.
What ultimately did in the Falcons were those two picks of Ryan on back-to-back drives. First, Addae’s interception, with the score knotted at 17-17, came just as Atlanta was getting into an offensive groove and looked like they were going to hand the Chargers another heartbreak defeat. Right after Herbert threw his lone interception of the game, Davis made a play on the ball for another pick of Ryan.
“Right now, we’re just playing for each other,” Davis said. “I’m playing for the brother to my left. I’m playing for the brother to my right. Especially on defense, especially the ‘Jack Boys,’ we’re close. So, I’m just playing for them. And we came out, we played for each other and we balled. We got three picks. We’ve got to keep doing this every week.”
Ryan said simple mechanics was what made his third error of the day costly.
“Too much air, not enough space and too far inside so not a good combination,” Ryan said.
Jenkins said this was a win for the Chargers secondary as well as for the team.
“We were just even talking about that in the locker room after the game just knowing that we came out of that game and we affected that game, and we affected the outcome of that game,” said Jenkins. “So, it’s always nice to know you did your part and it’s awesome you helped the team to have some success.”