The Chargers have dealt with close loss after close loss throughout the entirety of the 2020 season. Most of these losses have come with Justin Herbert and the offense putting up roughly 400 yards per game while the defense struggles to hold on to double-digit leads.
In Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the Bills, the Bolts almost got the chance to flip the script.
In the fourth quarter, with the Chargers down 10, the defense managed to record three takeaways in the span of seven minutes. Yet somehow, the Chargers managed to only turn that into three points. For a team that has been minus-three in the turnover differential for most of the season, this was an incredible streak of luck.
But the Chargers’ offense, which has been the star of the season for this team, rewarded the defense with this:
- Following the first turnover — a fumble by running back Devin Singletary — they turned it into a 27-yard field goal by Michael Badgley.
- After Joey Bosa recovered a botched snap, the offense went three-and-out after gaining two yards on two passes followed by letting up a sack.
- Lastly, following a big interception by Michael Davis, Herbert threw his own pick after failing to see Tre’Davious White who undercut the pass to Hunter Henry.
The Bills looked like they were truly trying to out-implode the Chargers, and in a way they did, but the Bolts wouldn’t take no for an answer.
For what it’s worth, the defense played fairly well to begin the game outside of a critical defensive pass interference penalty on Rayshawn Jenkins that set the Bills up with first-and-goal at the L.A. five-yard line. Just two plays later, Josh Allen hit a wide-open Dawson Knox in the back of the end.
Seriously, there was no defender within eight to nine yards of him. The lack of defensive preparedness really set the tone early on in this one.
The Chargers were able to respond with their own touchdown drive, going 79 yards in 13 plays, topping it off with a bullet from Herbert to Keenan Allen for the wideout’s seventh touchdown of the year. He’d go on to finish with just 40 yards on four receptions and a successful catch on a two-point conversion. Allen and tight end Hunter Henry tied for second on the team with 10 targets apiece.
Throughout the second quarter, the Chargers struggled to find any semblance of offense. With 4:13 left on the clock until the end of the first half, the Chargers gained just 67 yards of offense and punted four-straight times. In that span, the Bills added 10 more points to their score, including a nifty touchdown pass between wide receivers Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis.
Both teams traded touchdowns to begin the second half. The first came from the Bills in the form of a read option in which Josh Allen somehow out-ran Michael Davis to the pylon. The Chargers’ score came from rookie Joshua Kelley, who showed off the benefits of working that agility bag drill by leaping over the pile for a short one-yard score, his second of the year and first since Week 1.
With a score of 24-14 and 4:51 left int he third quarter, the Bills and Chargers would go on to trade a punt or turnover on seven of the final 10 drives of the game. As I mentioned above, the Bolts couldn’t capitalize on two of their three takeaways in the quarter.
After Herbert threw his interception, the Bills were able to turn it into a field to extend their lead to 10. The Chargers would get the ball back with 3:21 remaining in a two-score game.
It was this final drive of the game that got the entirety of Twitter fired up — and not in a good way — about the Anthony Lynn’s lack of clock management skills.
Down two scores, the Bolts couldn’t seem to find any sense of urgency. The Chargers managed to get to the Buffalo 40-yard line before the two-minute warning hit. Over the next 45 seconds, Herbert hit Ekeler for a three-yard gain, had a miscommunication that resulted in an incompletion to Tyron Johnson up the right sideline, and then got sacked for a loss of 10. On 4th-and-17, Herbert threw up a prayer to Jalen Guyton near the goal line that was CAUGHT at the one, but he pushed off on corner Levi Wallace and backed them up another 10.
On 4th-and-27, Herbert broke a sack attempt before scrambling to his left and lofting one up for grabs. T-Billy miraculously skied above four Bills defenders, ripping it from their hands, and chugging to the two-yard line.
But here’s where it gets disgusting.
After completing a Hail Mary, the Chargers RAN THE FOOTBALL with 24 seconds on the clock and ZERO timeouts. That decision prompted an incredible outpour of opinions on social media. This was one of the more straight-forward tweets from NBC’s Warren Sharp, who has been one of the harshest critics of the coaching staff this season.
THE CHARGERS COACHING STAFF IS THE DUMBEST I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) November 29, 2020
Remember, the offense needed two scores to win. That means time for a touchdown, an onside kick, and then another Hail Mary. There’s nothing, at least as far as I can come up with, that would justify running the football in that scenario.
The Bolts threw an incomplete pass to Mike Williams on the next play and then took a timeout with three seconds remaining.
On the final play of the game, the offense came out with Herbert in the shotgun. Before the snap, the rookie looked to make a call at the line before walking up under center. As he hiked the ball, Herbert looked to attempt a quarterback sneak while his entire offensive line shot backwards in pass protection. As anyone could have expected, the play failed and Herbert was run over as time expired.
It was the Chargers’ first loss of the season by greater than eight points and the Bolts fell to 3-8 on the year. They’ll host the 5-6 Patriots who are coming off a last-second victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
As for some silver linings, Herbert tied Andrew Luck with his NFL record sixth game of 300+ passing yards as a rookie. He also joined Patrick Mahomes as the only other rookie QB in history to throw for over 3,000 yards in their first 10 starts.
One final note: Bosa played the game of his life. After returning from his concussion and failing to log a sack against the Jets last week, Bosa exploded for a career-high three sacks and six tackles-for-loss on Sunday afternoon. He also added the aforementioned fumble recovery and a pass deflection.
The Big Bear seemingly put the entire defense on his back throughout the game and it’s painful to see him get rewarded with an ugly, ugly loss. He deserves better and I can only continue hoping things turn around before the season is over.