The Chargers finally were able to exercise some demons with their 30-27 victory over the Raiders on Thursday Night Football. They not only recorded their first win-streak of the 2020 season (first since 2019 Week 8-9) but they also managed to beat an AFC West opponent for the first time since beating the Broncos to end the 2018 regular season.
With that now behind them, and the team seeing some rare momentum, they’ll look to make it three-straight with the Broncos coming to town this Sunday.
Here are my three takeaways from the Chargers’ recent victory over Las Vegas, including how the franchise managed to exercise some demons in the process.
1.) Justin Herbert has what it takes to get it done against an AFC West opponent
The thing about the Chargers, and subsequently Justin Herbert, taking so long to beat a divisional opponent is that it almost forces you to creep into the dreary mindset of “will we ever beat an AFC West team again?”
It sounds crazy when I type it out, but I’m quite serious. It was just this odd, invisible hill that seemed to be impossible for the Chargers to get over. In 2019, I would have put good money down that the team would have swept the Raiders and Broncos with the way those teams looked. Then, this season, they lost their first three before winning this past week in overtime.
But that’s not what happened. Herbert and the offense, with their backs against the wall, took it upon themselves to go down and win the dang game. It didn’t matter how it got done as long as it did.
With that weird boogeyman now behind Herbert and the team, the game against the Broncos this Sunday looks about as daunting as it should, which is to say, not that daunting that all.
2.) Michael Badgley is showing no signs of shaking slump
Just one week after making the game-winning field goal against the Falcons, Badgley was right back to the worst of his ways as he missed two more field goals against the Raiders. Luckily, thanks to the team’s rookie superstar, the Chargers managed to pull out the close win in the end.
The two missed kicks were Badgley’s 11th and 12 of the season. When he missed his first, that gave him the NFL lead. The 12th missed was just added cushion. Leading the league in missed field goals is certainly tragic, especially given the success of former Bolts kickers who were cut by the team, i.e. Josh Lambo and Younghoe Koo.
With those two in mind, it’s understandable that Anthony Lynn doesn’t want to make the same mistake a third time. He’s willing to deal with these bad kicks as he believes Badgley is awfully close to turning the corner on his slump. However, it’s not 100 percent certain that that situation will come to pass. Lynn is taking a huge risk by sticking with Badgley and it is fair to say that the kicker may have been a part of the head coach’s expected downfall in L.A.
3.) Playing more man coverage could be a double-edged sword for defense
This past Friday, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley told the media that he believes the team has been able to record more interceptions due to them using a lot more man coverage than usual. He said his defenders are being put in better position (closer to opposing pass-catchers) and good things are starting to come about from it.
To an extent, I have to agree. The proof is in the pudding here. Four interceptions in the past two games speak for themselves, but I believe the success will only last for so long before the bad starts creeping back in. Neither Harris and Hayward are in their prime and neither have ever had the top end speed to keep up with receivers with above-average speed. Against Atlanta, both of them got abused by Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage. Against Las Vegas, both bounced back while Michael Davis struggled mightily, including allowing a touchdown to tight end Darren Waller on a simple go route up the left sideline.
Yes, more man coverage seems to have been a positive for this defense as their four takeaways have been a big reason as to why they were able to win these close games, but the adherent risks it poses are still readily apparent.
Lastly, the coverage of Kyzir White and Kenneth Murray have improved drastically compared to earlier this season, so that’s also a huge positive going for this unit.