For the second straight week at home, Anthony Lynn had no answers.
He thought his team had it. Entering Week 6’s Sunday night contest against the Steelers, the Chargers’ coach believed his unit would rise to the occasion. They were facing a Pittsburgh offense with a third-string quarterback under center. They were playing in Los Angeles, under primetime lights. He was “feeling the juice," hopeful and optimistic that the Chargers would respond to the opportunity in front of them.
They didn’t. Instead, the Chargers showed no fight. No hustle. No drive.
There was nothing that Lynn, in his third year at the helm in Los Angeles, could draw up—no play or scheme he could put together—that would solve the lack of urgency his team was showing in a 24–17 defeat, the absence of effort that would drop the team to 2–4 on the season.
The onslaught started from the get-go. After punting on the first drive of the game, the Chargers’ second possession ended with a fumble from Philip Rivers (26-of-44 for 320 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions) that was returned for a touchdown by Steelers rookie linebacker Devin Bush nine yards the other way. Five plays later, Bush found his way into Rivers’s nightmares again, this time intercepting the quarterback’s pass to Keenan Allen. The takeaway set up a 12-yard touchdown run by James Conner and gave Pittsburgh an early 14–0 lead.
Things got even worse in the second quarter when Conner added another score to his total with a 26-yard reception from Devlin Hodges, who was 15-of-20 for 132 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his first career start. Pittsburgh took a 21–0 lead into the halftime break and held Rivers and the Chargers' offense scoreless until one minute into the fourth quarter.
Los Angeles began showing some signs of life after Rivers found Hunter Henry for a five-yard score. The Chargers’ defense forced a punt on the Steelers’ ensuing possession, and Rivers once again marched the team down 79 yards to make it 24–17 with an 11-yard strike to Henry.
But by then it was too little, too late. The Chargers had dug themselves into too big of a hole to get out of. With his back against the wall and a chance to tie the game, Rivers threw his second interception of the outing, sealing the team’s fate and squandering the chance to get back in the race after the AFC West-leading Chiefs lost a second straight game earlier in the day.
Six weeks into the season, this Chargers team is unrecognizable from the one that went 12–4 and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs in 2018. Back then, they were hard to beat. Now, they’re beating themselves.
Trying to find a fix is no easy task, either. Look to the defense, and you’ll find a unit that, despite boasting a number of standout stars on paper, has been unable to prove its worth on the field. Look at the offense, and you’ll find a group that has failed to run the ball (32 yards on 14 carries) and continues to turn the ball over. Attempt to make sense of the strange lack of usage for Allen––or the eight penalties for 74 yards, or the complete inability to account for Conner in coverage––and you won’t be able to.
But with two games against the Chiefs and Raiders, a contest against the Packers and potential challenges in meetings against the Bears and Vikings still ahead, it no longer matters how Lynn and his team do it.
Los Angeles needs to right this ship. Otherwise, these Chargers might just be on the edge of disaster.