These are dark times to be a San Diego Los Angeles Chargers fan. A pre-season of optimism is circling the bowl after slipping to 0-4 on the season with another narrow loss, this time 26-24 to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Perhaps more depressing were the sights and sounds of Sunday’s defeat to the Eagles, who took over the StubHub Center with huge swathes of green visible, and the chant of ‘E-A-G-L-E-S’ growing louder and louder as the game wore on.
The decision to leave San Diego and move north looks more questionable than ever with LA clearly unwilling to get behind a team that needs all the support it can get, and would likely receive it if a) they hadn’t left town and b) Dean Spanos hadn’t told all the good folk of San Diego to do one.
And so we arrive at a situation where quarter-back Phil Rivers is looking forward to Week Five’s trip to New York because at least on the road it is not a surprise when you are booed by the supporters.
In my season preview I said that if the Chargers wanted to be a success in Los Angeles then they had to change the culture of being plucky losers. So far, there are few signs of the team shaking off that mantle as they lost by two points for the second time this season.
Here are my takeaways from another depressing evening watching the Bolts.
1. There is no light at the end of the tunnel
That is a tad dramatic but at the minute a Chargers game feels like Groundhog day. The team push the opposition close, only to let victory slip through their hands.
Head coach Anthony Lynn says his players need to learn how to win but after four successive losses this season, and with only nine wins in the last 36 matches, this team has perfected the art of losing.
The Eagles raced in to an early lead on Sunday after a dreadful first half by the Chargers, only for the Bolts to claw back the deficit in the second half to make the scoreline look closer than it should have been.
At this moment it is tough to see where a win is going to come from. Next week they face one of only three other winless sides in the Giants, in what is a make-or-break match-up for both teams’ seasons.
2. Rivers is still a top QB
Rivers took a lot of flak for the loss to the Chiefs, and rightly so, it could have been six or seven interceptions as he cost his team a chance at victory. It was looking like a similar story in the first half of Sunday’s game, the fumble, the badly overthrown passes and going off at the coaches all made for tough viewing.
However, his 75 yards touchdown pass to Tyrell Williams was a thing of beauty and he did a much better job after the interval. He protected the football well this week, throwing no interceptions, and showing that there is still plenty of fight left in him.
Yes, the Chargers need to start planning for life without him but that day is not the horizon just yet.
3. STOP THE RUN!
For the third straight games the Bolts allowed a running back to rush for over 100 yards as LaGarrette Blount tore through the defensive line. They are now ranked 31st in the league against the run, allowing a whopping average of 163.5 yards per game. The defence needs to start stopping the run to help them get off the field.
Too often the opposition are converting short yardage situations to keep their drives going and that has to change. Perhaps they could try tackling!
Next week is the perfect chance to work on their ability to stop the run against the Giants, or Paul Perkins could end looking like LaDainian Tomlinson.
4. No sign of rushing improvement
While the opposition are having a field day on the ground, Melvin Gordon is finding the going tough right now. He has 168 yards for the season, only 22 of which came on 10 carries from Sunday’s loss, and just is not being put in the positions to succeed.
He might be a little banged up which isn’t helping but Lynn and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt are not putting him behind the right players to make him the No.1 weapon on offence that he was suppose to be.
5. Credit where credit is due
There were a few rays on a dark day for the Chargers, especially in the form of corner Casey Hayward, who is having another outstanding season. The Pro Bowler might not be racking up the interceptions like last year but is still contributing to any kind of success the defence is having.
Nice to see tight-end Hunter Henry get in on the action as well. Why they don’t go to him more is a major head scratcher for fans.
Finally, great to see rookie running back Austin Ekeler get his first touchdown. Brilliant run, and here’s hoping he can climb the depth chart to be RB2.