Chargers Lose the Turnover Battle and the Game Against the Panthers
The Chargers (1-2) came away with another disappointing loss; this time, it was against the Carolina Panthers (1-2). Head coach Anthony Lynn has been adamant all offseason that he wanted to win the turnover battle every game because that would give the team the best chance to win the football game.
Lynn was right for the third week in a row. The Chargers turned the ball over four times on Sunday afternoon while the Panthers didn't turn it over a single time.
"That was disappointing in the first half," explained Lynn. "I thought they fought hard. That last drive, a young quarterback on the one-yard line, no timeouts, and gave us a chance to win the football game. I am just trying to take some positives away from this. That was impressive. Other than that, I got to do a better job. Coaches have to do a better job of putting this team in better positions of winning and eliminating the stupid and the turnovers."
All three of the turnovers happened in the first half (the fourth came at the end of the game). The Panthers scored 13 points off of the three Chargers turnovers.
Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert had his second straight career start. In the second drive of the game, Herbert dropped back and was stripped sacked by Brian Burns to which the Carolina Panthers recovered.
"I tried to get the ball out but got hit from behind, thought I threw it, but turned out it was a fumble," explained Herbert.
The Panthers would convert that turnover into a Joey Slye 24-yard field goal to give the visiting team a 6-0 lead.
"It is frustrating because it's things that I feel like we are hurting ourselves," said running back Austin Ekeler. "Whether it be turnovers or penalties or dropping ball. Things that it really does take skill to prevent it is on the mental and just being locked into the play. I was a little fired up after the game today because I feel like we should have fun the game. We didn't, so it is what it is. Back to the drawing board."
After the turnover, Herbert drove the offense to the 12-yard line. Ekeler received a handoff in which he was met by two Panthers, but he was able to get away, then gets chased by another two Panthers and outran them for his first touchdown of the season.
On the next offensive drive, the Bolts were moving the ball well against the Panthers defense. Rookie running back Joshua Kelley took a handoff for 16-yards, but as he was going down, Shaq Thompson punched the ball out of his hand.
Carolina would make them pay, finishing off the drive with a 13-yard Mike Davis touchdown that would put the Panthers back in the lead.
"Our potential seems very high," said receiver Keenan Allen. "You know we make a lot of plays, and on the other hand, it seems like we are shooting ourselves in the foot. The quicker we can get rid of that, the faster and better team we will be."
Next drive, the Chargers again driving the ball well seemed like they would get some points before halftime, and they would also receive in the second half. On Carolina 38, Herbert thought he had Allen wide open for another first down, but Donte Jackson came up and intercepted it. He took it 66-yards to the Chargers eight-yard line, where Herbert tackled him. Slye would add a 22-yard field goal.
"Yeah, not throwing it would probably be the smartest decision," said the rookie quarterback. "Hit the check down. The corner sat on it. It was one of those plays we talked about during the week. Corner made a good play on it. Next time I will check the ball down."
In the second half, the Bolts offense stalled twice in a row, settling for Ty Long punts. Then they drove 37 yards for a Michael Badgley 41-yard field goal. The Panthers would answer with their fifth field goal of the game.
On the next Chargers possession, the team ate up over six minutes of clock and finished off the drive when Herbert hit Allen with a pretty nice 14-yard touchdown. Allen had himself an impressive performance catching 13 passes for 132 yards and added that touchdown.
The Chargers defense was able to come up with a big stop on third down when defensive end Joey Bosa sacked Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for his third sack of the season.
The Bolts had the ball on their one-yard line and drove it to the Carolina 28 with no timeouts, only a 1:43 left on the clock, and a rookie quarterback.
On the final play, Herbert was under duress when he threw it to Allen, he pitches it back to Ekeler, and the ball was fumbled.
"We just got to execute that better. I feel like it is a walk-in touchdown," said Allen. I could have put it more in his hands, put it more out in front of him. It's tough."
By the looks of the replay, Ekeler would have had a walk-in touchdown, but alas, the team sits at 1-2. There were some positives from the game. Lynn mentioned that he was impressed by Herbert's poise in the second half and Ekeler came away impressed by the rookie yet again.
"He had a couple situations where he literally changed the entire play and ended it up, making it work," explained Ekeler. "That's starting to give me some confidence saying that this guy knows what he's doing."
Herbert is still winless as a quarterback, and he knows this one will sting.
"Disappointed in the loss," explained Herbert. "Those are games you would love to win. When you turn the ball over three times, you can't expect to win like that. We didn't give ourselves a shot with that. We did our best to drive down the field. We got it close, and next time I know, we will execute."
The Chargers players, as well as Lynn, said that they need to regroup and get better.
"It is a marathon, not a sprint," said the Allen. "We got a lot of learning to do. A lot of ground to pick up on. We have a lot better to get. So, we got to take it a day at a time, a week at a time. Focus on Tampa."
· Bryan Bulaga left the game with a sore back. He tried returning a couple of times, but Trey Pipkins played the rest of the game for him.
· Chris Harris Jr. left with a foot injury and did not return.
· Mike Williams left the game with a hamstring injury and Lynn said after the game he didn’t know the severity of it.
· Justin Herbert took a shot in the fourth quarter. He said he got the “wind knocked out of him,” but he didn’t miss any snaps.