SANTA CLARA – After falling to double-digit point deficits in their previous four games, the Chargers entered Week 10 making it an emphasis to start fast.
In receiving the ball first, the Chargers opened the game with a six-play, 75-yard drive that ended with DeAndre Carter hauling in a 32-yard touchdown grab. It was the first time since Week 4 they've scored first in a game.
As the Chargers got off to a quality start, they went into halftime with a 16-10 lead. But in the final two quarters, the offense fell out of sync and couldn’t regain control, leading to a 22-16 loss to the 49ers Sunday night at Levi's Stadium.
"Zero points in the second half, it's unacceptable at any level," running back Austin Ekeler said after the Chargers' loss.
The Chargers had five possessions in the second half and they did little to nothing with each opportunity. They punted three times, surrendered the ball via turnover on downs and were intercepted.
Ekeler said after the game that he didn’t see a common theme for why the offense couldn’t get back into rhythm but rather, he thought that it was minor issues that ultimately played a part in executing plays.
"Playing this team that's extremely disciplined, we had to play a perfect game or damn near," Ekeler said. "No one really created today. It was just straight up, catch, secure, get up field. We need more playmaking and we didn't have that in the second half."
After rattling off 186 yards in the first half, they were held to 52 yards in the second half. The Chargers turned to the running game heavily on first downs in the second half and were routinely stopped for a minimum to no gain.
Why stick with it if it's not working? Chargers coach Brandon Staley emphasized the importance of not becoming a one dimensional operation in an effort to limit the 49ers' defensive line group from doing what they do best – rush the passer.
"We were just making sure those rushers don't tee off," Staley said of the offensive play-calling in the second half. "You gotta change pace against them because when it just becomes a drop back game, that's when all the risk is in the plan against a team like that. As long as it was close, we wanted to force those guys to play things straight up.
"We're playing with two backup tackles and that's an outstanding team that rushes the passer, so we knew that the danger was in the pass rush and we were able to stay out of it for most of the game. We just weren't able to get that ball movement in the second half."
With right tackle Trey Pipkins ruled inactive before the game due to an MCL sprain, the Chargers elevated Foster Sarell from the practice squad, and handed him the starting role for the Week 10 game.
The Chargers game-planned accordingly, offering help to his side of the offensive line by chipping Nick Bosa as he came off the edge. Sarell allowed one sack to Bosa on the night.
As the Chargers entered Sunday's game being the most injured team by many accounts, the hits kept coming.
After losing defensive lineman Austin Johnson for the season following a knee injury in last week's game, the team suffered two more injuries at the position in Week 10.
Christian Covington and Otito Ogbonnia left the game with injuries and didn’t return. Covington suffered a pectoral injury and Ogbonnia knee injury. Tight end Gerald Everett also went down with a groin injury and didn't return.
"It's definitely tough," safety Derwin James said of the injuries. "Especially those big guys against that type of team that's in and out of personnels. It's tough when you can't rotate those guys. We can't make excuses, just have to man up to it."
The Chargers fall to a record of 5-4 and will face the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football in Week 11 at SoFi Stadium.
"I don't feel like there's moral victories in the NFL," James said. "You either win or lose. I feel like this week we get a good chance to go against the Chiefs in primetime to come out and show what we can do."
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Read more from Charger Report:
- Live In-Game Updates: Chargers at 49ers Week 10
- Pregame Report: Chargers at 49ers Week 10
- Chargers at 49ers Game Day Betting Odds: Week 10 Point Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under
- Chargers at 49ers Week 10 Game Prediction
- Why the Chargers Waived Former First-Round Pick DL Jerry Tillery
Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.