The Los Angeles Chargers continue to put on a good show but come up shy with the game on the line.
In Sunday’s thrilling back-and-forth 36-34 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Justin Herbert and the offense had the chance to swipe the game on the final drive, getting the ball back with 1:45 left. However, they went backward, ultimately losing a yard in five plays, culminating with the game-sealing sack.
It continued a common theme over the years of the Chargers blowing chances to win. Last postseason’s 30-point debacle against the Jacksonville Jaguars was the greatest example of Chargering.
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Running back Austin Ekeler was asked Tuesday why he thinks the club cannot finish games.
“Inconsistency. It’s just straight-up inconsistency,” he responded. “And it’s not just the players, like when you look at the NFL, a lot of the players, yes, there’s outliers, but a lot of the players are very similar in talent, there’s not a huge gap. You might have a few outliers, and if your team has a few of these decent outlier players, then you have a chance to win games.
“If you have no studs on your team, superstars that can hold the rope and make plays consistently, it’s going to be hard for you to win. And that’s what we have salary caps, and that’s why we pay these players, and you know, people have the contracts that they have. And for us, when we have our guys that are getting hurt that are being consistent for us, right, that plays a part into it. And we’ve had injuries over the past years, and you can’t blame everything on injuries. Our coaching hasn’t always been the best. Our play hasn’t always been the best. And when you have a combination of those, then guess what? You’re going to be inconsistent.”
In Week 1, the defense couldn’t get a stop against Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami offense, letting Tyreek Hill torch them. The L.A. offense gashed on the ground — leading the NFL with a .34 average rush EPA, per Next Gen Stats — but the passing game under new coordinator Kellen Moore has a ways to go to get off the ground. Then, after playing well all game, the offensive line collapsed, as Herbert took two sacks on the final drive.
Ekeler, who is dealing with an ankle issue, noted that injuries can’t be a crutch for the Chargers, as that’s something every team deals with. Instead, L.A. needs to find chemistry with their new OC and build on that each week.
“And so for us, we can’t limit the injuries. Those are things you’re going to have to deal with throughout the year. You hope that you’re not going to have a lot of them,” Ekeler said. “But what we can control is our preparation. We have a new offensive coordinator, alright, let’s try the chemistry with Kellen. It wasn’t that Joe was a terrible offensive coordinator, right? We made the playoffs once and then barely missed it the year before. But it’s like, oh, let’s try just a new combination, to see if this type of style fits better.
“And so, a lot of times it’s timing, it’s the timing of the players that you have with the coaches that you have. And we’re trying a new atmosphere, and that’s why you see a lot of coaching changes year after year, every single year. And same thing with players. Let’s try and get a new chemistry that works. Look at Tom Brady and his reign, with him and Bill (Belichick). They had great timing, as far as great coaching and then great players at the same time. And so it comes down to the whole organization being at the same time bought in, consistent, and being able to elevate and stay at that standard and level for a while.”
L.A. will attempt to find some consistency starting Week 2 against Mike Vrabel’s pesky Tennessee Titans, a team that, unlike the Chargers, has found a way to grit out wins over the years despite not having stacked talent on paper.
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