The Los Angeles Chargers might just be the strangest team in all of football.
In three weeks, the Chargers have taken their fans on an emotional roller coaster that seems to have more peaks and valleys than the Rockies.
The Chargers are 1-0 with quarterback Tyrod Taylor under center, while rookie quarterback Justin Herbert is 0-2. However, that stat doesn’t tell you anything that remotely resembles the real story: simply, the Chargers are a better and far more entertaining team with Herbert taking snaps.
The question you should ask yourself is, how does a team put up such a great fight in an overtime loss against one of the NFL’s best teams in the Kansas City Chiefs; then proceed to completely drop the ball (quite literally) against a bad Carolina Panthers team, without their superstar running back Christian McCaffrey, in a 21-16 loss?
Lets dive into what went right — and mostly what went wrong — to sink the Chargers below 0.500 early in the season.
Keenan Allen is still elite. He is earning all $80 million of his contract. Allen racked in a total of 13 receptions and 132 yards, along with a ridiculously-contested touchdown catch in the back of the end zone . Keenan was cooking that subpar secondary all game long.
Austin Ekeler continues to prove himself as a threat, not only running the ball, but catching it as well. With 12 carries for 59 yards and a rushing touchdown alongside 11 catches for 84 yards, Ekeler was sure to make his fantasy owners everywhere a happy man. Now, if you had both Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler starting in a PPR league this week like I did, you were grinning every time you checked the score!
I have to give credit where credit is due; although I’m a Tyrod Taylor guy, Justin Herbert has been showing a lot of promise these past few weeks. On a whopping 35 completions, Herbert recorded 330 yards and one touchdown, while completing 71% of his passes. Herbert showed up when it mattered on third down, going 11-of-12 with 103 yards and a touchdown. However, there were some things I didn’t like, which I will touch on later.
I also want to recognize the real MVP of the Panthers offense on Sunday: kicker Joey Slye. Slye was 5-of-5 on his field goals and 1-of-1 on extra points. Slye, alone, scored as much as the Chargers did, as he accounted for 16 of the Panthers’ 21 points. Sorry, Charger fans; it’s all love.
I am going to keep it nice and simple here: although they only gave up 21 points, the whole Chargers defense was a Dud this week. Now, I’m not saying every Charger defender sucked on Sunday, but they were not playing cohesive as a unit and looked very sluggish.
Perhaps it was because they were demoralized after a loss. Maybe the defense had some bad pizza Saturday night. Likely not the latter, but I do know this: Teddy Bridgewater, a.k.a. “Teddy Two-Gloves,” seemed to quietly nickel-and-dime the entire L.A. secondary all game.
Though he only had 235 yards and one touchdown, he was very efficient doing it, recording a 71% completion percentage and a 113.5 Quarterback rating. Bridgewater made sure everybody ate, as four of his receivers had at least 45 yards.
The Chargers defense didn’t force a single turnover all game, which can really be the deciding factor in close games like this. This is the reason things started to go downhill.
What Went Wrong?
The Chargers had three turnovers to the Panthers’ none. It is no secret that many games are decided by the turnover battle. This is why coaches preach ball security. Herbert threw an interception and lost a fumble, and Keenan Allen lost a fumble as well. The near pick-six Herbert threw to Donte Jackson with less than 20 seconds left in the first half really hurt them. That resulted in an 18-7 Panthers lead going into halftime. That is the number-one way to lose a close game.
The Chargers managed to score late in the fourth, making it 16-21 with four minutes left. The Chargers attempted a two-point conversion that ultimately failed, which really slimed their chances. The Panthers bled the clock out until the final minute, and then downed the ball on the one-yard line with a beautiful punt.
The Chargers drove and managed to get the ball to the Panthers’ 25-yard line. With six seconds left, Tre Boston of the Panthers broke up a pass intended for Keenan Allen, which would have been the game winner. On the last play, the Chargers completed a pass to Allen, who used the old “Hook and Ladder” technique, but resulted in a lost fumble on the final play.
Tough break for the Chargers.
That said, if Justin Herbert can minimize the mistakes and keep zipping that ball with confidence like he has been, there is a bright future for this team. Herbert has made some eye-opening throws that can really grab your attention and glue your eyes to the television when he is on the field. Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler will keep balling, and the defense will try to bounce back against a stacked offensive arsenal in Tampa Bay. I’ll have more on that for you later in the week.
Until next time, folks.
(Featured Image Credit: Mike Nowak / Los Angeles Chargers)