Following back-to-back losses around the midpoint of the 2022 season, the Chargers were staring at a 5-5 record with seven games remaining on their schedule. Despite fighting through numerous injuries, they were somehow still above .500, but to say things were looking bleak is an understatement.
Against the odds, the Chargers buckled down, came together, and rattle off five wins over their next six games. Entering the regular season finale, the Bolts were 10-6 and had just clinched their first playoff birth since the 2018 season after beating the Rams the prior week.
All of a sudden the world was brighter. Birds sang louder. The sky was a bit bluer.
The Chargers were in Denver to face the Broncos in what should have been an off night for the Los Angeles starters. With the playoffs clinched, it only made sense. Don’t risk the injury bug with a franchise known for being infested more often than not.
That did not end up being the case.
Brandon Staley played the starters because the starters wanted to play. They’re competitors after all and no one was going to pass up another contest to continue their strong momentum into the postseason.
It was this game that began the unraveling.
The Chargers wound up losing this game 31-28. After taking a 17-10 lead with 26 seconds remaining in the first half, the Broncos were got downfield in just one play, a 53-yard completion to Jerry Jeudy. They would score to tie the score at 17 before scoring immediately after the break to take the lead. This was the first blemish in what would become a long list of defensive breakdowns and sputtering that would hamper the Chargers over their next three contests.
We all know how the wildcard game went. The Chargers blew the third-largest postseason lead in NFL history and lost 31-30.
Fast-forward to the start of the 2023 season.
Last Sunday in the season opener, the Chargers couldn’t maintain a 31-27 lead in the fourth quarter and ultimately lost 36-34 to the Dolphins. They became the first team in NFL history to
The following week, the Chargers lost in overtime to the Titans 26-24 on a last-second field goal by Nick Folk.
The Chargers are struggling to finish games. It’s obvious to fans and its gotten to a point where even the players are voicing their frustration to the media, as well.
This franchise is now losers of four straight games dating back to that Week 18 contest against the Broncos. To help quantify just how bad the Chargers have been at closing out games, I went backed and tracked the result of the final four drives in each of the Chargers’ past four games.
Here’s what I came up with.
In the past four games (16 drives), the Chargers have recorded:
- Zero interceptions thrown
- One fumble
- Six three-and-outs
- Two punts
- Two touchdowns
- Three field goals
- One missed field goal
- One turnover-on-downs
Over the past four games, the Chargers’ opponents have recorded:
- Two interceptions thrown
- Zero fumbles
- Three three-and-outs
- One punt
- Six touchdowns
- Three field goals
- Zero missed field goals
The first big thing that stands out to me is the number of three-and-outs the Chargers are being forced into. It’s twice as many as their defense forced in that span that amount makes up a little over a third of the total drives. Averaging one drive per fourth quarter that does nothing to increase your win percentages is not ideal.
In fact, the Chargers ended the Broncos, Jaguars, and Titans games with a three-and-out. When it couldn’t matter any more, the Bolts are crumbling under pressure, and the replacement of Joe Lombardi with Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator isn’t changing the luck.
Opponents are also scoring touchdowns against them in the fourth quarter at the same rate that they’re going three-and-out. Opponents have scored touchdowns six times while the Chargers have managed to find the end zone just twice in 16 late-game drives. With both sides scoring three field goals in this span, we can crunch the math and find out that the Chargers have been roughly outscored 51 to 25 at the end of games.
More salt in the wound? The Chargers haven’t thrown a single interception during this four-game losing streak. The Chargers defense has picked off opposing quarterbacks twice during these late-game moments. One of those times was J.C. Jackson’s pick of Tua Tagovailoa that he shouldn’t have taken out of the end zone. Instead, the Chargers were backed up against their own end zone and went three-and-out. Jackson was beat on the first play of the ensuing drive by Hill for a 35-yard touchdown.
Encompassing all punts, the Chargers have given the ball back to the opponent without scoring points eight times which is half of these pivotal drives. Their opponents have done that at half that rate with just four.
We also can’t forget the missed field goal by Cameron Dicker against the Jaguars. It ended up being the difference in the end, and it was also Dicker’s first miss of his career with the Chargers.
That’s quite the time to break the streak.
Following their latest loss, the tension in the locker room and at the podium was palpable. When asked what the issues were on the three-and-out to end the game, Justin Herbert was shorter than usual.
“The three incompletions.” he said.
When it was Brandon Staley’s turn to face the media, he quickly cut off the first reporter to bring up last January’s wild card loss in Jacksonville, stating that the historic loss has no place in the minds of his players anymore.
I would like to believe him, but the way this team seems to be taking this loss to the Titans just feels different. It might just be me, but it sure seems like something is coming to a head, and I’m not sure what to expect should all of things things rollover into next Sunday’s game against the Vikings.