It seems like a regular thing now. Not the Chargers losing, but the way they lose. They make terrible mistakes, questionable play-calling, and bad clock management. They looked bad on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills and suffered their eighth loss of the season, 27-17.
It started in the first Bills offense drive.
The Bills were on their 48-yard line when quarterback Josh Allen went deep to receiver Stefon Diggs which fell incomplete, but he was interfered by Rayshawn Jenkins. The ball was placed at the five-yard line, and Allen hit a wide-open Dawson Knox in the end zone for six.
The Bolts scored a touchdown on their second drive, but the offense struggled.
"Offensively, I thought we were out of sync a little bit," said head coach Anthony Lynn. "We dropped some balls early. Threw some bad balls. At times, we didn't run it consistently. We were just out of sync. I thought they did a good job mixing the pressures and making us adjust some things at the line of scrimmage, but we have to be better offensively for sure."
Some passes from rookie quarterback Justin Herbert were off while guys were dropping balls as well. They punted five out of the six times they had the ball in the first half.
The Bills started moving the ball well in the second quarter. They got helped on a drive-by a roughing the passer call on defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, leading to six points. In the second half's opening drive, he had a 15-yard face mask penalty on third and four. On television, after the penalty, Lynn went up to his defensive tackle and told him something.
"That he can't hurt the team that way because they went down to field and score on that first personal foul, but you just can't keep giving cheat 15 yards like that," explained Lynn. Jerry's a very aggressive player. Sometimes he'll push the envelope a little too far. Not necessarily a bad thing for a defensive lineman, but today it hurts."
What also hurt was the play call on offense in the second half.
Towards the end of the third quarter, the Bolts offense drove to the Bills 25-yard line. On third down and one, they ran it up the middle with the returning Austin Ekeler for no gain. Next play, almost the same thing but with Joshua Kelley. Turnover on downs.
The Bolts defense steps up and gets a fumble recovery. Chargers get the ball to the Buffalo seven-yard line.
Here is where it gets weird.
On third and one, the Bolts offense runs an option play with Kelley at running back. It loses three yards.
"You love it when it works," said Lynn. "I mean, it's been 100% this year, but they stopped it, so I have no problem with the call that Shane (Steichen) made right there. Yeah, I like to run right at them for four inches, but we have circled the defense before with that play. That play has been really good for us. They played it well."
Lynn said they had spotted it fourth and two, so he was going for it. Then they put it at fourth and four, so he decided to call a timeout and talk it over. They decided to let Michael Badgley kick the field goal, even though he had mixed an extra point in the first scoring drive by the Bolts. The team was down 24-17.
The defense had two straight turnovers, but the Bolts couldn't capitalize. The Bills did.
Herbert tried to find tight end Hunter Henry, but cornerback Tre'Davious White read it all the way and intercepted the rookie quarterback.
"He just made a great play on the ball," said Herbert. "I kind of went through my reads and thought I could hit Hunter with a back-shoulder ball. He made a great play on it, and we got beat there."
Bills got three points and extended their lead to 27-17.
Here is where the bad clock management showed.
Bolts faced a fourth and 27. Herbert threw up a hail mary, and receiver Tyron Johnson came down with the 55-yard reception. He got the ball to the Buffalo two-yard line.
They wasted a lot of time getting up to the line, and Ekeler got the handoff to which he was stopped for only one yard.
Why would you run it down by ten with no time outs?
"Complete miscommunication," said Lynn.
Would Lynn say it is bad clock management?
"I wouldn't say that I would sit down and talk you through every one of our decisions," said Lynn. "I'm not saying that it has been perfect at all. But I mean, what happened at the end of the game, like I said, was miscommunication. "
What was Ekeler's thought process?
"I actually was surprised," Ekeler said. "We needed to throw the ball there just to make sure it's either a touchdown or an incompletion just to stop the clock. Ultimately, I wouldn't have really mattered as far as the time you need to get two possessions; wasn't there. But yeah, that was something we could have done better."
On the final play, Herbert ran a QB sneak while the offensive line was pass blocking. That sums up the game perfectly.
The Chargers could have scored a touchdown and had their rookie quarterback feel good about the final drive, but it just leaves more questions, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
"We didn't make the plays," said Lynn. "They pressured, and we knew they would. They got to us three or four times today in sacks, and when they weren't sacking us, they were getting a lot of pressure on us. So, we didn't get to push the ball downfield like we normally do in our vertical passing game. Sometimes you got to throw quick and run long, and we just didn't get that done."