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Chargers in Need of Quick Response Following Consecutive Losses

The Chargers have dropped back-to-back games. Where do they go from here?

The Chargers have faced adversity this season in more ways than one, and after dropping back-to-back primetime games, they're up against it yet again.

Now 10 games in the books, the Chargers hold a 5-5 record. Their last two games, against the 49ers and Chiefs, have come to abrupt endings with the opposition forcing a turnover to seal it as the Chargers looked to string together game-winning drives with the clock ticking down.

“When you get put into that type of position, with that little time left, you know that you have to go make plays. I think that’s just the nature of being in that type of situation," Chargers coach Brandon Staley said of the last two games ending with interceptions during the final minute. "When the time and score is like that, you can’t just be throwing check-downs to get yourself into field goal range. 

"A lot of pressure on both of those plays in that two-minute [situation]. ... In those last-play type of two-minute situations, you have to try and push it. He was trying to give us a chance.”

So as the Chargers have dropped each of their last two games in a rather close fashion, how do they formulate a response in the week's ahead?

The most obvious need for making the proper adjustments starts with the team's third down defense. The Chargers haven't been able to get off the field on third downs nearly all season, allowing a 44% conversion rate.

During the Chargers' two-game losing streak, they allowed the 49ers to convert on third down at a 53% clip and the Chiefs at 50%. Despite still being in position to win each of the last two games late in the fourth quarter, the defense's third down flaws have made life quite difficult when facing teams as talented as San Francisco and Kansas City.

“We have to make more plays. It’s as simple as that on third down," Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. "We’re not covering well enough on third down. That’s all there is to it.”

Kansas City converted five of their 10 attempts on third down Sunday night at SoFi Stadium, and four of them required seven or more yards. The Chargers had opportunities to put drives on pause, being just one play away from forcing a punt, but long conversions were a reoccurring theme.

"We didn't do good in the run game, we didn’t do good in the pass game and we certainly didn't do good on third-and-long," linebacker Drue Tranquill said after the Chargers' 30-27 loss in Week 11. "There were a few times when he had that team pinned, and against that team, you have to get off the field on third-and-long. We didn't do that."

Meanwhile, the offense has had its flaws this season, as well. Particularly during the later stages of games. The Chargers have scored a touchdown just one time in the second half during their last five games. 

During that same span, they've been reliant on field goals, converting seven times. But getting the ball in the end zone has been quite the chore.

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“We just have to convert on third down," quarterback Justin Herbert said of the second half offense. "We have to execute and we have to be better. Offensively, we have to keep moving the ball."

The team did, however, receive a jolt on offense from Keenan Allen making his return after a lingering hamstring injury has sidelined him for most of this season. Sunday's loss to the Chiefs was the first time Allen has played all four quarters of a game. He caught five passes for 94 yards, including a 46-yard chunk play that setup a Joshua Palmer red zone touchdown.

Allen said he "felt great" in his return and should continue playing a pivotal part of the Chargers offense barring any setbacks.

"I thought he exceeded my expectations, for sure," Staley said of Allen. "I thought he played well in the game. He felt good all week and he kind of played how he practiced.”

The way things currently sit, the Chargers have fallen a far distance from the AFC West lead and remain a game out of the last Wild Card spot.

To reach the playoffs, it will likely require at least 10 wins. In an attempt to get there, the Chargers will need to go 5-2 during the final seven-game stretch. 

"The AFC is a dogfight right now," Allen said. "We still have hope, still a chance. Anytime you can get a chance, that's all you can ask for."

The Chargers entered the season with ambitions to not only make the playoffs, but get through the playoffs. Those lofty temptations have been hampered with a multitude of different factors, injuries being the primary component.

They'll head to Arizona on Sunday in need of a response to persevere the season and prevent their record from dipping below .500.


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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.