Anthony Lynn’s team had just won their third straight game.
His special teams, which had foundered for most of the season, had their best afternoon. His defense dominated, shutting out Denver for the first time since the final days of George H.W. Bush’s presidency.
But there was one question that was always going to set him off after his team’s 21-0 victory over the Denver Broncos. It was always going to make his nostrils flare, his muscles tense and his veins on his forehead pulse.
“A goal-line stand can be so emotionally…” a reporter began to say before Lynn slammed on the brakes.
“That was absolutely terrible,” he said.
It was the lowest point in an otherwise dominant victory. The Chargers had four chances from the Denver one-yard line to score a touchdown. And they didn’t.
“Anytime we have the ball on the one-yard line and I give to my back four times in a row and we don’t get it in, that’s awful.”
After the Chargers forced their first of three turnovers, the team quickly moved down the field thanks to tight end Hunter Henry, who continued to be a factor by gaining 34 yards on the Chargers’ first play before drawing a pass-interference penalty in the end zone to give the team first-and-goal from the one.
First, they tried to run Melvin Gordon off the left side of the line, but they didn’t gain a yard. They tried again, and failed.
They tried a push up the middle and were stopped, and on fourth down with the pro-Bronco fans hollering, Gordon again was stopped short of the goal line.
“We talked all week offensively on what we have to do to win this game. Offensively, it was win your one-on-ones, and we didn’t win our one-on-ones,” Lynn said. “I put it on the back. If I get a good back on the one-yard [line], I put it on the back.
“I don’t give a damn what the offensive line does or the fullback, I put it on the back.”
It makes sense that Lynn, a former NFL running back and longtime running backs coach, would allow the failed sequence to irritate a nerve.
Gordon wasn’t too happy, either, the four-straight stops a precursor to a tough day against the Broncos’ top-notch rushing defense. Gordon carried the ball 18 times for 38 yards, the majority coming on a 21-yard run with the game already in hand.
“As a back, I pride myself on when I get into the area, I make it happen,” Gordon said. “Regardless of how it was blocked, my mindset is get in and find away. And I fell short of that for the first time in a long while.
“I just got to bounce back.”
The Chargers had one interception and two fumble recoveries Sunday, and they would have had two more turnovers if strong safety Jahleel Addae and linebacker Jatavis Brown hadn’t dropped what looked like sure interceptions.
Early in the second quarter, from his own 25-yard line, Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian overthrew Demaryius Thomas with a pass that hit Addae right in the hands … and fell to the ground.
With about five minutes left in the third quarter, a Siemian pass from his 16-yard line was tipped by Joey Bosa. The ball wobbled into the air and right into and out of the hands of Brown at the 15-yard line. Had Brown held on to the ball, he probably would have scored a touchdown.
“We had two cakes, man, and we let them go,” Addae said.
“Yeah,” Addae said. “They were soft and nice and pretty and sweet and we didn’t take a bite of them. No excuses. I have to come up with that ball, and Jatavis has to make that play. I would like to have mine back, but it’s not the last time we’ll have an opportunity to make those plays.”
The Chargers, who had been outscored 50-7 in the first quarter leading into Sunday’s game, tried something different, winning the toss and electing to defer their choice for the second half. “If you keep doing the same thing over and over and it’s not working, I call that insane,” Lynn said. “So I decided to defer. I like to take the ball but it wasn’t working.” … The Chargers were without starters on both their offensive and defensive lines. Right tackle Joe Barksdale (foot) was closer than defensive tackle Corey Liuget (back) to playing, Lynn said. “Hopefully, they’ll be back next week.” … The offensive line took another hit during the game with starting left guard Matt Slauson leaving the game because of a biceps injury. Rookie Dan Feeney replaced the veteran, who didn’t return.