When the clock finally struck zero, and the Chargers stood stunned in disbelief at the outcome of last night’s 23-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans, there was one player I hoped would finally break out of his normal demeanor and have some thoughts on the whole debacle.
In the locker room, defensive end Joey Bosa had a few more words than normal for the media. Here is what he had to say to ESPN’s Eric Williams:
Joey Bosa on the loss: "I’m going to come in and work my ass off for the rest of the season. I can’t control anybody else. I know we have a lot of guys that want to win, and we’ll see who’s with me on Monday. You can find out who wants it pretty quick after a game like that."— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) October 21, 2019
Now, I’m just as deflated as any other Chargers fans in the country, but these words helped some of the emotional trauma melt away that night.
Usually, players don’t like to make any grandiose statements that may offend or infringe on someone’s respect for them or anyone else. You don’t hear many statements like the one from Bosa because a player or two might take it as him calling them out. It could be seen as a lack of trust or faith in your teammates.
But this is not the time for petty feelings such as that. This is a time for gut-check. It’s time for numerous players to take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves what they could be doing better, or what are they possibly doing wrong.
No player is completely innocent at this point, aside from those who haven’t stepped on the field yet. It seems like everyone has made at least one crucial mistake that’s led them to a 2-5 record. Everyone has had their share of lapses in judgement.
But at some point, the statements made by Anthony Lynn and his staff following these tough losses will have to ring true before everyone starts taking them as smoke blown up our hind ends.
Here was Lynn’s latest:
Anthony Lynn on how Bolts will respond after third straight loss: "I told our players that one yard can bring us together, or tear us apart. And with the character that we have in that locker room, I do believe this group will rally. And we’ll fight."— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) October 21, 2019
When I heard him say these words in his post-game press conference, I halfway thought he was feeding us a line from the classic gridiron flick “Any Given Sunday”. It just sounded way too familiar.
In the end, words are just words. Anyone can make a string of words sound meaningful and impactful with the right cadence and inflection. Actions are what we as a fan base are looking for: Purposeful actions that are visibly scratching and clawing the team in the right direction.
But time, as it always does, will tell. We will not know what this team is made of until they’ve played their last snap of the season. Until then, find some hope. Find some silver lining that can keep your optimism afloat for just one more week, and then find it again, and again, and again.
DE Joey Bosa
I honestly just want to give Bosa a gigantic bear hug and thank him for laying it all out on the field each and every game. If there is one player that visibly exudes effort on every Sunday, it is that man.
Bosa is currently second on the team in total tackles with 35, only behind Thomas Davis who sits with 54. His current pace puts him on track for 80 tackles, which is a little eye-popping for a defensive end.
The thing is, Bosa has taken his run-stopping abilities to new heights this season. Even in games where he doesn’t record a sack, he is consistently one of the highest-graded ends in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
Last night he finished with six total tackles, two tackles-for-loss, a pair of sacks, and three QB hits. He is now up to five sacks on the season and on pace for 11-12 on the season.
RB Austin Ekeler
At this rate, how many more times can a guy prove that he is a top-3 offensive weapon on this team and still only get utilized when the team is trying to throw themselves out of a self-inflicted hole?
Ekeler, as a “back-up” running back currently leads the team in catches and receiving touchdowns, while also being second on the team in receiving yards.
What made Gordon look so great last year is that when he wasn’t finding success on the ground, he usually was able to make-up for it through the air. That’s essentially what Ekeler is doing this year.
In fact, he was taking things to a different level last night as Lynn was utilizing Ekeler as a wide receiver to get the most out of his dual-threat back, and it WORKED.
The former UDFA finished with team-highs in catches and receiving yards, taking seven for 118 yards and a touchdown. He actually could have had a pair of scores were the replay officials slightly more blind than usual and didn’t wind-up reversing the touchdown on the field to him being down just before the goal-line.
Rivers touchdown strike to Ekeler up the right sideline was a thing of beauty and it wasn’t even the first time Ekeler has made that exact play this season.
Lynn NEEDS to stop catering to Melvin Gordon and start giving more of his focus on the players that have made an impact on this team early and often this year.
LB Uchenna Nwosu
Nwosu has done a fine job filling in for Melvin Ingram at the LEO position over the last three games. He finished with six total tackles in Sunday’s game to go along with a tackle-for-loss, a pass defensed, and a QB hit.
He’s been getting after opposing quarterbacks, consistently finding pressure off the edge and causing some misfires along the way.
He is best suited for LEO duties and staying near the line of scrimmage. It would be a disservice to his capabilities if he were to see any time at off-ball linebacker spots like the SAM. Keep your best pass-rushers rushing the passer and usually good things follow.
RB Melvin Gordon
What do I have left to say that hasn’t already been said by just about everyone in the football community?
Subjectively or objectively, the Chargers offense, and team as a whole, has been piss-poor ever since Gordon came back from his useless holdout.
Here are some eye-popping numbers for context:
Since Melvin Gordon returned, 27 of his 36 carries have gained 3 yds or fewer (75%) with 2 fumbles— Evan Silva (@evansilva) October 21, 2019
11 of his 14 targets have gained 3 yds or fewer (79%)
All told, plays intended for Gordon are averaging 2.3 yds
4 have gained 1st downs (8%)#Chargers 0-3 since Gordon’s return
Gordon has been less than inefficient. He hasn’t even been a blip on the radar for efficiency’s sake.
I just don’t see how this team can attempt to rally from this 2-5 hole unless they make a dedicated decision to change their usage of Gordon. Last year, some of Gordon’s biggest runs of the year came when his former collegiate teammate and fullback, Derek Watt, was lead-blocking for him.
Watt has seen a miniscule amount of snaps in the last three games, including just eight Sunday afternoon, and it’s starting to force us to think there might be some correlation there.
I don’t know. This isn’t an excuse for Gordon’s underwhelming performance either, I’m just spit-balling here.
Either way, he finished with 32 yards rushing on 16 carries and somehow managed -3 receiving yards on a pair of catches, including his two fumbles and the game-sealer he lost at the end.
LB Drue Tranquill
This is a bummer to include Tranquill in this section, but the rookie did blow a big-time play against the Titans and it’s unfortunately something he will have to get over and improve upon.
One of the biggest and most frustrating themes of this year’s defense is that everyone tends to forget how to tackle in some of the most crucial moments of the game. Last night, Tranquill had a bead on tight end Jonnu Smith on a shallow crosser route that was well in front of the chains on a 3rd-and-14. Tranquill had Smith dead-to-rights, wrapping him up in both arms, but swung off of the third-year tight end before he scampered past multiple Chargers defenders and drug a few more for a gain of 35 yards.
The play completely shifted potential field position for the Chargers who wound up getting the ball back at their own nine-yard line.
It doesn’t help that, on further replay, safety Rayshawn Jenkins took a horrendous angle on Smith while Desmond King casually jogged from across the field and didn’t actually attempt to help the tackle until after Smith was already past the chains. Were King to pursue the play like every coach teaches their defenders, the Titans would have never gotten the first.
By no means am I saying that Tranquill is now “trash” or anything like this. Hell, I think it was a plus that he was so on top of Smith’s route to even be in a position to make that play in the first place. He just has to finish. The entire team just has to learn how to finish.
Until they do, we will revolve around this carousel time and time again.
The Offensive line
This is a broken record, obviously. Rivers was sacked just once last night, but that just says more to Rivers’ ability to get rid of the ball than it does to the line’s propensity to keep him clean.
But to be honest, this is about the run game. At this point, it doesn’t matter who is toting the rock behind them, there isn’t a single crack of daylight to be found. Taking a step back, it’s mind-numbing to comprehend how Justin Jackson was able to average eight yards per carry behind the same unit (minus Pouncey).
To be honest, I’ve never seen anything like this. With the Bengals and the Chargers, both lines seem absolutely inept at moving the football on the ground. The Chargers have averaged less than three yards per carry over their last three games.
At one point in time during the Bengals and Jaguars game, running back Joe Mixon had nine carries for seven yards. He also has yet to reach the end zone on the ground this season. Same goes for Gordon. Both backs have caught a touchdown, however.
It just astounds me how a group of grown men are unable to find it within themselves to execute just ONE run correctly. Out of Gordon’s 16 carries, his longest attempt went for just six yards. It truly makes you want to run your head through the nearest wall.
At this point, I’m not sure the presence of left tackle Russell Okung would do much of anything in the way of improving this offensive line.