By Dave Thomas
Leave the Los Angeles Chargers with a means to a lose a game and they will more than likely find it.
In dropping a 20-17 overtime decision in Jacksonville on Sunday, Los Angeles (3-6) dug itself a larger hole to climb out of with seven games remaining in the regular season.
Coming off of their bye week, the Chargers had hoped to start the second half of the season with a bang. Instead, they began it with what was essentially a thud in their hopes of nabbing an AFC playoff berth for the first time in four years. Now, the pressure gets turned up even higher for first-year head coach Anthony Lynn and veteran quarterback Philip Rivers.
In a game that was there for the taking, the Bolts managed to watch former Chargers kicker Josh Lambo win the game with a 30-yard field goal with a little over three minutes remaining in the extra session. Making matters worse, the kick was partially blocked by Chargers safety Adrian Phillips, yet still found its way through the uprights. Lambo got the Jags to overtime by hitting on a 34-yard field goal with :05 remaining in regulation.
So, one more difficult loss on the road to what is looking like it will be another below .500 season.
Even though Rivers passed for a pair of touchdowns and 235 yards, the Chargers’ old nemesis came back to bite them yet again on this fall afternoon in the Sunshine State. Los Angeles managed a mere 87 yards rushing on 30 attempts. The bottom line for much of the season is that the Chargers simply can’t run the ball with consistency. And when you can’t move the ball on the ground on a consistent basis, you—more often than not—end up with a loss. Austin Ekeler led the way with 42 yards, while starter Melvin Gordon could only muster 27 yards on 16 carries. It was Ekeler’s fumble late in the game that kept Jacksonville’s hopes alive. Meantime, Ekeler had five catches for 77 yards on the day, two of which went for scores. Rivers had an interception late in the game that gave Jacksonville yet another chance to pull this AFC contest out.
Defense: B –
For all the good Los Angeles did on the day in holding Jacksonville and Blake Bortles to only 14 points up until there was a mere :05 left in the game, it was a personal foul on defensive end Joey Bosa (four tackles, one sack on the day) on that game-tying drive that moved Lambo into better position for the kick. Although Bosa is still a relatively young player, he obviously has the talent to be a star in this league. Bosa, who came into the game tied for the team lead in sacks with 8.5, got a personal foul for slamming Bortles to the ground on a tackle that gave Jacksonville an automatic first down on the final drive of regulation. Denzel Perryman returned to the action from injury for the first time since pre-season play, finishing with eight solo stops.
Special Teams: B
It was a busy day for punter Drew Kaser. In all, he punted 10 times, netting a 48.5 yards per punt average along the way. Meantime, kicker Nick Novak made good on both extra point attempts and one field goal.
As Lynn is discovering in his first year at the helm, teams can find all kinds of ways to lose games. While Lynn is not throwing the ball, trying to find holes to run through, etc., he is responsible for his team’s discipline on the field. On this day, that Bosa mistake (personal foul on Bortles) was a killer in the big picture. There’s no telling if Lambo connects on the game-tying field goal without those extra 15 yards in his pocket. Lynn and his counterpart in Jacksonville (Doug Marrone) both need to remind their respective teams (Jaguars had two taunting penalties in the fourth quarter) that silly penalties especially late in games can come back to haunt you.
Los Angeles gets a 5-4 Buffalo squad at home this coming Sunday. The Bills were thrashed at home this past Sunday, with New Orleans rolling to a 47-10 victory. If the Chargers lose this next game, it would put them at 3-7 with six games remaining. Although anything is possible, having to win six straight just to get to 9-7 and maybe an AFC Wild Card berth is next to impossible. For the all-time series between the two old AFL franchises, Los Angeles holds a 23-12-2 lead.