The Chargers slipped to 3-5 when their three game winning run come to an end at New England on Sunday, the Bolts blowing a good chance to defeat the reigning Super Bowl champions. Once more bad decision making and a lack of experience proved costly but there were was still a lot to enjoy about the 21-13 loss.
Foxborough may not be the fortress it has been in past seasons this year, especially when the weather is still good, but it still ranks as the ultimate test, at least in my eyes, when it comes to a road game.
Trying to defeat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick is a test not many have succeeded at since the pair came together but the Chargers certainly gave it their best shot.
It took until the second half for Anthony Lynn’s boys to hit their stride and by that point they were eight points behind, needing to chase the game against a team to who winning has become second nature.
The Bolts had their chances though and not for the first time this season, LA’s loss was down to fine margins. If Travis Benjamin doesn’t stupidly concede a safety then the Bolts do not find themselves two scores behind, or if they did not concede yet more dumb penalties on offence which wipe two touchdowns off the board, then how does this game turn out?
No doubt Lynn and a lot of his players went to bed with these kind of thoughts swimming round their minds. That’s good because Sunday was another valuable lesson for this improving Chargers team.
After a few teething problems early on in the season, defensive co-ordinator Gus Bradley is really starting to get the best out of a talented bunch. Brady might have had 333 yards passing on the day but the Pats did not score a touchdown after half-time as Joey Boas, Melvin Ingram and co all stepped up.
Bosa now has more sacks during the first 20 games of his career than anyone in NFL history and his threat alone is opening up holes for so many others, Darius Philon and Desmond King getting in on the act this week.
There are still major areas of improvement, tackling in particular still needs work, although it has got better, while there is some bad execution costing this team, King missing a great chance for another sack as he whiffed it.
The safeties also stink as well. For a man with the nickname ‘Hitman’, Jahleel Addae certainly does not perform as advertised.
2. You can run but you can’t hide, Benjamin
What a turn around from a week ago for the Week Seven AFC special teams player of the week. Benjamin might have caught one touchdown and racked up 64 yards but he also made himself look like a clown in the second quarter when he dropped a punt before collecting it, running in to his own end zone where he was tackled, conceding a safety.
There was also a not getting out of bounds incident during the final drive. One step forward, three back for Benjamin.
3. Special team especially bad
For as long as I’ve been a Chargers fans, the team have always been bad on special teams and Sunday was a prime example of that. Benjamin’s mistake for the safety was the highlight but Nick Novak’s inability to kick anything over 40-plus yards is a worry.
Novak’s inability to kick out the back of the end zone is another major flaw and one they looked to have addressed when they brought in Josh Lambo last year, only to then cut him during the summer. Special teams can make or break you, and too often they have broken the Chargers.
4. Blunt offence
Rivers has come in for some stick for his performances at times this season, in the belief being that he is letting down a talent bunch on the offence. However, on Sunday it felt like it was more a case of talent on offence letting him down.
Benjamin (again) and Tyrell Wlliams dropped a couple of simple opportunities and were more guilty than most but is not alone in failing to aid Rivers. Antonio Gates looks a shadow of him former self, Mike Williams is still getting in to ‘football shape’ and Keenan Allen looks to have lost a step after knee surgery last year.
In eight matches this season they have only racked up more than 21 points so far. Who knows where they would be without Melvin Gordon.