The Chargers treated their fans to another heart breaking loss on Sunday as they conspired to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game was in the palm of coach Anthony Lynn’s hands late in the fourth quarter, but instead of celebrating a fourth win of the season, the 3-6 Bolts are left picking up the pieces from a gut-wrenching 20-17 overtime defeat in Florida.
The wound from this defeat will fester for some time if you are a Charger. Up by three with two minutes to play, Tre Boston helps himself to an interception which seemingly ends the game. Instead, what comes next is a ridiculously dramatic end to regulation followed by an old Charger coming back to hurt his former team.
Trying to explain how this game finished would consume the entirety of this review, and still would not do it justice so go and watch the highlights to see for yourself.
One interception should have been enough to win the game but getting two in the final few minutes gave the offence multiple opportunities to get the job done. Instead, they couldn’t get the first down they needed to seal the deal, leading to fans calling for offensive co-ordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s head.
The defence did its job, playing lights out for the majority of the day as Joey Bosa continued to write his name in to the record books. However, despite the O- line giving quarter-back Philip Rivers good protection from the second quarter onwards, the offence yet again struggled to put up the necessary points with wide-outs Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin the most guilty of letting the team down.
The depth of the mental scars from this loss are yet to be uncovered but the physical toll has already been laid bear with Rivers’ 194-game consecutive starting streak in jeopardy after being placed in the concussion protocol. If he misses the next game against Buffalo then the chances of the Chargers shaking off their Jags hangover will greatly diminish, even though the Bills are benching Tyrod Taylor.
For now, here are the takeaways from the Jags game:
1. Dumb mistakes
Lynn called it after the game, slamming those who had conspired to lose the game for the Chargers with their foolish errors. First in line should be Austin Ekeler, whose fumble in the fourth quarter nearly resulted in a Jags touchdown.
The other costly screw-up came from Bosa, who hit Jacksonville quarter-back Blake Bortles late, putting the home team in excellent position to kick a game tying field goal.
There were plenty of other errors on Sunday but those two stick in the mind and end up detracting from the performances of two players who otherwise had stellar afternoons.
2. Ekeler is now the undisputed RB2
My heart went out to Ekeler when he fumbled late in the game, and not just because it looked like the Jags had grabbed a touchdown.
The undrafted free agent had a day to remember up until that point, helping himself to two touchdowns out of the backfield and rushing for a season-high 42 yards. The Chargers were ready to ride Ekeler to victory before his error, given the problems Melvin Gordon was having and to see it blow up in his face was a tough watch.
However, the rookie is now without question the second best running back on this roster, jumping Brandon Oliver on the depth chart and should get plenty more opportunities going forward.
3. Denzel the destroyer
The Chargers have been lacking at linebacker this year. Jatavis Brown hasn’t quite kicked on as hoped while the rest had been carried by their fellow defensive colleagues. It was therefore great to see Denzel Perryman, back from an ankle injury, blowing up Jags left, right and centre.
Jacksonville had been excellent running the ball before Sunday, Leonard Fournette racking up an average of 99 yards per game but achieving just 33 against the Chargers, thanks in large part to a healthy Perryman adding to an already excellent defence.
4. Defence deserves better
The stats might tell you that this Chargers defence is only the 19th best in the league but on Sunday, not for the first time this season, they put on a clinic. They put the Bolts in a position to win, stopping Fournette, forcing the unconvincing Bortles to try and beat them and grabbing two interceptions in the final two minutes.
Bosa and co are the strongest part of this team right now but time and time again they are being let down by an offence which, on paper at least, should be putting up way more points than they currently are. Rivers lacked the composure late on to march the team down the field, a worrying trait for an experienced quarter-back. He was not helped out by a below-par Melvin Gordon or a receiving core who continue to flatter to deceive.
If you are on the defensive side of the ball it might be tough to hold your tongue but perhaps that’s what the situation needs with a few home truths never going amiss, particularly when you are speaking to Benjamin!