They dropped touchdown passes, whiffed on special teams and never led a game they were favored to win.
Yet, since their season-opening 38-28 loss to Kansas City, the Chargers have grinned more than they’ve growled, perhaps the most self-assured 0-1 team in the NFL.
“We knew we had a lot of missed opportunities,” linebacker Denzel Perryman said. “There’s a difference between when a team flat-out beats you and when you leave plays out on the field that could have changed the outcome.”
So that’s their perspective, a view through rose-colored facemasks, as the Chargers prepared for their first road game, Sunday at Buffalo, a game they really, really can’t afford to lose.
See, next week, the Chargers have to visit the Coliseum to face the celebrated all-star roster of the Rams. The prospect of starting 0-3 isn’t inviting to any NFL team, but particularly not to one that opened 0-4 a year ago and wound up missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
“We’re better than we were last year at this time [but] that only goes so far unless you start showing that in wins,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “But that definitely gives you the confidence.”
Rivers’ optimism visibly bubbled just minutes after the Kansas City defeat as he talked about all the good things the Chargers’ offense did while amassing 541 total yards, the most by any team in Week 1.
The Chargers fell to the Chiefs mostly because they couldn’t track down Tyreek Hill, make Patrick Mahomes uncomfortable enough or catch more of Rivers’ passes.
“We didn’t make the plays we could have made and really made too many mistakes against a good team,” Rivers said. “But, yeah, I was encouraged and excited.”
The better news for Rivers is Buffalo isn’t Kansas City, so the Chargers — even playing on the other side of the country and kicking off at 10 a.m. PDT — are more than double the favorites they were a week ago.
The Bills are coming off the second-most lopsided loss in franchise history — 47-3 at Baltimore — a defeat so comprehensive that they went into halftime still with zero first downs.
They played two quarterbacks and didn’t protect either, surrendering six sacks, which might have had something to do with the fact those quarterbacks completed only 11 of 33 passes.
When the embarrassment was over, it still wasn’t over. The Bills’ Zay Jones had to apologize to fellow receiver Kelvin Benjamin after Jones’ mother went on Twitter and implied that her son had to tell Benjamin where to line up on certain plays, a revelation that, if true, would be quite stark seeing how Benjamin is in his fourth season.
All of this blew up just about the time Bills coach Sean McDermott finally announced that quarterback Nathan Peterman would not be starting against the Chargers.
Peterman, who threw five first-half interceptions last November at StubHub Center in what became a 30-point Bills loss, started against the Ravens and made it into the third quarter before being benched.
He was replaced by Josh Allen, a rookie from Wyoming drafted seventh overall after Buffalo moved up to grab him. Allen is known both for his arm and his legs, and he’ll probably need all three to distance his team from its putrid start.
The Chargers intend to make Allen look and feel like a rookie. “He might be a little rattled, first game starting,” Perryman said.
Entering last year’s game against the Bills, the Chargers had lost two in a row and were 3-6 overall. Then they triumphed 54-24, the start of a four-game winning streak and 6-1 finish.
This date with Buffalo arrives earlier, though the need for a win is just as strong.
“It’s a long year,” Perryman said. “Losing at home was tough. We failed the first test. We got 15 more to go.”