Eat, Sleep, Lose, Repeat
The Los Angeles Chargers continue to struggle to shake of the mantle of plucky losers they gained in their final few seasons in San Diego as they lost another heart-breaker to the Miami Dolphins 19-17, slipping to 0-2 in the process.
Here are this week’s takeaways from the first game at the StubHub Center…
Signs of progression
Let’s start with the positives before bringing the vibe down to end. After covering up for their mistakes with a strong end to the game in Denver, the Chargers had very genuine claims on the win on Sunday.
In a battle between two mediocre teams, the Bolts looked to have more weapons, successfully switching away from the run when the Dolphins shut down that option to a short passing game. Phil Rivers was given much better protection this week and was able to pick apart the Dolphins secondary, getting tight-end Hunter Henry involved after a barren week for the second round pick in Denver.
Head coach Anthony Lynn wants to run the ball but was wise enough to see the ground and pound was not working before switching tactics. That was something his predecessor did not always have the foresight to do.
Elsewhere, the Chargers defence kept Dolphins QB Jay Cutler quiet, the corners and safeties doing a good job of keeping a strong receiving core under wraps.
Antonio Gates is the GOAT of tight-ends
Gates and Rivers was a long-established duo in San Diego and it would have been great if they had reached the top of the mountain at Qualcomm. However, that takes nothing away from Gates catching the 113th touchdown pass of his career in LA this week.
For a man who wanted to play professional basketball, to overtake Tony Gonzalez as the tight-end with the most touchdowns in the NFL is an incredible achievement and one that will surely earn him a gold bust in the Hall of Fame.
This is not the end for Gates either, despite the Bolts trying to get his Henry more involved, and he could well hit 120 before probably calling time on his career at the end of the season.
StubHub will never feel like home
The sight of so many Dolphins’ fans at the first Chargers game in LA will not have come as a surprise to those who had seen Qualcomm over run with visiting fans during the final few seasons in San Diego.
Having alienated so many supporters when they left San Diego, it is no surprise they are struggling to attract people in LA, especially when the team is not winning.
Until they start winning on a consistent basis, the Chargers will continue to look like the road team on their own patch.
Defence needs to make a play
Lynn admitted after this week’s loss that his team have been taking a bend but don’t break approach to defence in the opening weeks. That kind of mentality, which is aimed at preventing give up huge chunks of yards in one play, meant that Miami running back Jay Ayai was able to rush for over 100 yards.
With the Kansas City Chiefs bringing Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill to LA next week, the Chargers defence needs to step up and start making some stops, or risk being run over by their AFC West rivals.
Chargers must discover winning mentality
The Bolts continue to find new and more depressing ways to lose matches, despite the major changes during the off-season, going down to defeat this week in an eminently winnable match.
Once more Rivers put his team in a position to get a win, only to see someone else screw it up. The Chargers are now 2-9 in games decided by three points or less since the start of the 2015 season.
This week’s public enemy No.1 is kicker Younghoe Koo
He missed two very gettable field goals, including one in the final few seconds which proved decisive. Perhaps if he added a backflip in to his routine he might start making some kicks.
The Chargers need to get a win from somewhere – it is now one win in the last nine matches – as Lynn seeks to put that victorious feeling back in to the squad before the pre-season optimism disappears completely.
The problem for Lynn is the next two games see them take on the Chiefs and Eagles, two teams who have started the year well, before going to the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders. It is suddenly looking like a long season…