Anthony Lynn is changing the culture of the Chargers right before our eyes. The first time head coach is learning on the fly. The first couple games there were clock management blunders. There were questionable 4th down decisions. Putting your players in a position to succeed. The typical things coaches are faced with early on in their tenure, Lynn struggled with. Take for example week 1 against Denver. Branden Oliver had one target that game and that was one more than Hunter Henry. Fast Forward six games and Henry has out-snapped Antonio Gates for the third straight game. Yesterday, their snap differential was 47-18 in favor of Henry. Before Corey Liuget went down he had lost snaps to Darius Philon. While Liuget still started, he was playing about 15 or so fewer snaps than Philon. This proves something Lynn had been preaching, “the best players will play.” Regardless of name.
Rookie Dan Feeney has flashed the last few games. They’ve been trying to find ways to get him on the field. Matt Slauson has been inconsistent at left guard, especially in the run game. Yesterday Slauson played the fewest snaps he has all season at 67%. While Feeney was on the field for 45% of the time as the Chargers mixed and matched lineman. You’re kidding yourself if you think players don’t notice.
That’s exactly what Lynn has done. Put people on notice. There’s been some tough love for Melvin Gordon. Here is his quote on the goal-line series on the 1st possession.
I love that. You’d think it’d be sunshine and rainbows after a 3-game win streak but Lynn understands his team has plenty it needs to improve upon. Right before they were stopped on 4th down the camera flashed to Lynn and you could see him flexing towards the offense shouting “bow up, bow up.”
It’s awesome how engaged he is. He started out saying how “awful” it was that they didn’t punch it in and how they have to take advantage of those opportunities. He’s right.
One thing you notice right away with this team is their effort. Joey Bosa had a comment about that after yesterday’s game:
Bosa hasn’t been subtle about his lack of love for last year’s coach. As for Lynn, this is a perfect example of process>results. Games 2-4 the offense didn’t go for it once on 4th down. I’m not sure Lynn knew what he had on defense. The last two games he’s gone for it three times. They’re one for three. The process gives your offense confidence. With the way the team has kicked the ball, there should’ve been a few more times that the Chargers should’ve gone for it on 4th down. At worst your defense takes over and likely gives you the ball back in manageable field position. Though the results haven’t been there from a conversion standpoint, the process is correct.
The team is physically whipping people up front. That’s a change. The real change is them learning how to win. Last year they were blowing leads. This year they’re starting slow and coming back. The last few weeks we’ve seen this thing called a killer instinct. Take the final drive for example from Sunday. It’s 3rd and long. In years past we’d see a run up the middle. The Chargers tried to sneak out the running back into the flat, but Rivers didn’t feel comfortable making the throw and took the sack. He was open. Again, the process is there. If the Chargers convert there the odds of the Broncos getting the ball back are slim. Even on the drive prior. 5:42 left in the game and it’s 3rd and 11. Maybe run it, make the safe play, and pin the Broncos deep. Nope. Rivers checks to a pass play and finds Travis Benjamin wide open over the middle and he outruns everyone for a touchdown. That’s playing to win.
Lynn his holding players accountable. He’s adapting on the fly. An example is every time they’ve won the coin toss he’s elected to receive. He mentioned that wasn’t working so yesterday they deferred. Little things like that he notices. The team is mentally tough. They’ve given themselves a chance to win. You can tell that they are playing for each other. Players get hyped when other players are making plays. The team is selfless. Then they flat out compete. That’s the new culture for the Chargers.