The Chargers (3-7) may have beaten the New York Jets (0-10) on Sunday behind rookie quarterback Justin Herbert and receiver Keenan Allen. Yes, they got the victory, but some of their bad habits showed up yet again.
Bolts made some good plays in the first drive but ended up needing to punt. Ty Long's punt was blocked by Henry Anderson of the Jets, who went right by rookie running back Joshua Kelley. The Jets recovered the ball on the Bolts' 29-yard line. They ran the ball four times and finally got it in the end zone on a five-yard run by running back La'Mical Perine.
It felt like déjà vu to last week's start against the Miami Dolphins.
"He got beat and got beat bad, and that's the second week in a row we started out that way," said head coach Anthony Lynn. "it's not fair to put the defense on the field in those situations. But I do expect the defense to step up and protect the endzone. But that that's completely unacceptable."
On the next drive, the Bolts move the ball right up the field until receiver Keenan Allen fumbled at the one-yard line, and the Jets defense recovered it. Two quick turnovers.
Very next play, Jets quarterback Joe Flacco floated a pass up, and cornerback Tevaugh Campbell returned that interception for a touchdown. The first of his career. That play woke the Chargers up.
"The pick-six was huge," said Lynn. "That's what we needed from our defense. We get our hands on balls to score or just get the interceptions. This week we talked about it, and this week we saw it. So, kudos to Tevaugh, he did a hell of a job."
Next drive, the Chargers offense got to the Jets 39-yard line when Herbert hit Mike Williams for a 10-yard reception, but Williams was able to shed two defenders and turned it into a 39-yard touchdown reception.
The Chargers defense gets another three and out.
The offense goes right up the field in seven plays and finishes it off with a Herbert touchdown pass to Hunter Henry. The Bolts were up 21-6.
They snuck in a field goal before the half. Then it began.
The Jets got the ball in the second half; they got to the Bolts 49-yard line until Flacco hits Breshad Perriman for a long touchdown pass over cornerback Casey Hayward.
Chargers answered back, going up the field in 12 plays. They face a long third and goal situation from the 13-yard line. Herbert rolled to his left and threw a rocket into Allen's chest; not even the cornerback could get it.
"It was hot," said Allen about the ball thrown by the rookie quarterback.
Allen finished with 16 receptions for 145-yards and that touchdown.
On the next Jets drive, the Bolts defense held them to a third and eight until Flacco hit receiver Denzel Mims on a 27-yard pass over Hayward that kept the drive alive.
"Casey's got to play the ball better," said Lynn. "He's in position. I'm sitting there watching some of these plays. He's right there with his guy, but he's not coming down with the ball. That's something we need to fix."
The Jets would capitalize when age-less running back Frank Gore ran it in for a one-yard touchdown run. New York was down 31-19.
Herbert took his team to the New York five-yard line, but the offense stalled. Michael Badgley came in and hit the 23-yard field goal to give the Chargers a 15-point lead.
The Jets faced a fourth down on the next possession; Flacco went for the long ball, hitting Mims for a 19-yarder going out of bounds. It felt like the Bolts could win the challenge, but Lynn kept his red flag in his pocket.
"We've got people looking at it upstairs," explained Lynn. "Yeah, if we get a look at it, we can challenge it. But we didn't get a look at it."
Bad decision. It led to a Flacco touchdown to tight end Chris Herndon. The Jets were now down by only eight points. An 18-point lead had disappeared.
"Not discouraging, but definitely embarrassing, I think," said Allen.
The Chargers had three questionable play calls on their next drive, and they punted it back to the Jets with four minutes left.
"I'm definitely thinking that on the sideline," said Allen on if he was thinking 'here we go again.' "They should have never had a chance to get back in the game."
The Jets move the ball down the field after a Joey Bosa roughing the passer penalty. They get it down to the Bolts 32 but turn it over on downs.
The Bolts secured the victory.
"We have to be better in those situations," said Lynn. "We need someone to step up to make a play when we have to win. At the end of the day, we did, but I understand what you're saying; it did not have to be that close, in my opinion."
Even though they won the game, there are a lot of questions marks about this team. They are still giving up leads. One thing is to give up to Tom Brady's Bucs, Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs, or Drew Brees' Saints, but to Flacco's Jets. Not good.
"Any win is positive," said Allen. "It's always going to be some good and some bad with every game. I just think we got to finish better. The second half was nowhere near what it needs to be. Obviously, that's a story of the whole season. We will take this win and try to build upon it."