Chargers look for consistency

COSTA MESA, Calif. – The Los Angeles Chargers have done things in pairs this season. The Chargers dropped their first two games of the NFL regular season against the Maimi Dolphins and the Tennessee Titans. 

Shaking off that 0-2 start, Los Angeles then pulled out one-score wins against the Minnesota Vikings and Las Vegas Raiders to even up their record. 

There’s a pattern developing here. Those two victories were followed up by the Chargers’ march on the number 17 in their next two contests against the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers scored just 17 points in each of those two games and wound up on the short end of a couple of defeats. 

Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (8) is surrounded by Los Angeles Chargers defenders during an NFL game played at SoFi Stadium on Oct. 1, 2023. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (8) is surrounded by Los Angeles Chargers defenders during an NFL game played at SoFi Stadium on Oct. 1, 2023. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

As it would play out, the Chargers flipped the narrative from being down 2-4 to being back in the playoff conversation after wins against the anemic Chicago Bears and a New York Jets team that is a complete offensive disaster. 

There’s been no magic formula that’s been key to the way the Chargers defense has played in the team’s latest string of wins. Both the pass rush and the team’s defensive secondary have played in sync with one another, defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley said.

“We always talk about the rush and cover working together,” said Ansley. “Those guys are rushing the passer at a really high rate. Give credit to [Outside Linebackers Coach] Giff [Smith] and [Defensive Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach] Jay [Rodgers] coming alive with those guys and getting a good scheme ready every week.

“K9 [LB Kenneth Murray Jr.] is really doing a good job in the mix with that, along with D.J. [S Derwin James Jr.]. We have a lot of guys that can go forward and attack the quarterback. We have to keep that going to continue to help us on the back end and keep the explosive plays out of the air.” 

Through the first eight games that they have played this season, the Chargers have batted .500 with their 4-4 mark just ahead of their matchup against the Detroit Lions. 

In their last two wins, the Chargers have won with all three phases kicking it in gear. In their 30-13 beatdown of the Bears at SoFi Stadium, quarterback Justin Herbert became the team’s math solver against Chicago, throwing for three touchdowns in the first half on his way to a 298-yard passing outing. 

An electrifying punt return for a touchdown by rookie Derius Davis and an aggressive, swarming defensive effort by the Chargers aided Los Angeles in their second straight win. 

Led by Joey Bosa (2.5 sacks and Khalil Mack (2.0 sacks), the Chargers made the passing pocket a miserable place to be for Jets quarterback Zach Wilson. The Chargers wound up posting eight sacks in the team’s 27-6 win. 

The Chargers managed to beat the Jets, despite getting just 136 yards passing from Herbert and less than 100 yards running the football. 

“Sometimes games happen that way,” Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said. “We didn’t convert and create extended drives. They did a nice job. They’ve done a nice job week-in and week-out, the Jets have. Justin [Herbert] protected the football. That was a big point in that game. That was going to have a huge impact on that game. Obviously, you’d love to throw for more yards and move the ball downfield more, but we have to continue to work on that.”

The Chargers have nine games left to play in the regular season. If they wind up splitting eight of those nine games, that would leave them all knotted up in the win-loss column and probably needing help to try to get into the postseason. 

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) is tackled by a Tennessee Titans defender on Dec. 18, 2022. Allen had eight catches for 6 yards in the Chargers’ 17-14 win at SoFi Stadium. Photo by Sammy Saludo courtesy of the Compton Bulletin.

However, if the Chargers somehow break their first-half pattern by going on an extended win streak following their dominant handling of the Bears and Jets, they would be in great shape to make the playoffs. 

There’s still a lot of football to be played. That means plenty of opportunities for the Chargers to assert themselves as a viable playoff contender. Playing with confidence helps. This is something the Chargers, especially defensively,  have at the moment thanks to their lopsided victories against the Bears and the Jets.     

Chargers linebacker Eric Kendricks admits the team is playing with confidence, but playing good football week in and week out requires consistency.                                    

“I feel like we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now, but I feel like the work has been put in on the field. We can’t take that for granted. So we have to get back to work and understand why we’re having the success we have right now,” Kendricks said before a team practice on Nov. 9. “This is the NFL. You have to bring that s–t every week.”  

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