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Chargers

Chargers season on shaky ground after loss to Eagles

CARSON, CALIFORNIA OCTOBER 1, 2017-Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson dives to break up a pass inten
Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson breaks up a pass intended for Chargers receiver Travis Benjamin during the first quarter.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

With the goal posts dismantled on the StubHub Center field and the sun setting late Sunday afternoon, maintenance workers tried to remove any sign of Chargers football from the building.

Using power washers, a group of men meticulously sprayed the team’s iconic lightning bolt helmet from the 50-yard line. The workers erased the words “Los Angeles” and “Chargers.”

But then again, on days like Sunday, it never really was theirs in the first place.

The Chargers couldn’t silence a very pro-Philadelphia crowd with a late-game comeback, falling familiarly short in a 26-24 loss to the Eagles.

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The loss caps a friendly stretch of schedule that could’ve given the Chargers a boost in a new city and introduced them to a new fan base. After losing by three in the final game of the NFL’s opening week, the Chargers have now lost three straight games at home, doing so in front of echoing “Let’s go Eagles” chant.

Winless so far in their first season as the Los Angeles Chargers in 57 years, the season is dangerously close to being lost.

“Never in a million years I thought we’d be here at 0-4, but we are,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “I look at football in four quarters, just like the game. And we just stunk the first quarter of our season.”

And there were real expectations. The Chargers were a bit of a preseason darling, and the players thought they might be part of a special group.

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“It definitely makes the 0-4 freaking tough. We didn’t expect to be in this position at all,” Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget said. “Coming out of training camp, at the worst we thought we’d be 3-1 throughout the first quarter. We had expectations.”

Now, they need miracles.

Only one team in NFL history has ever rebounded from such a bad first quarter of a season — the 1992 San Diego Chargers, who finished the year with 10 wins in the final 11 games to make the playoffs.

It’s not inconceivable that this team could author that kind of turnaround.

Philip Rivers passed for nearly 350 years and two touchdowns Sunday. He had a pair of receivers, Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams, that each had at least 115 yards receiving. Seven other players caught passes.

And while the defense struggled, like they normally do defending the run, pass rushers like Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and cornerback Casey Hayward are top-notch NFL talents. Hayward was credited with defending five passes Sunday, his best game of the season after making the Pro Bowl last year.

But, counting on this group to discover wins when they’ve been so good at mining losses could be a big ask.

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Even with the Eagles running for 214 yards at 5.1 yards per attempt Sunday, even with the defense not forcing a turnover for the third week in a row and even with Eagles kicker Jake Elliot owning the longest leg in Hollywood for a day, the Chargers still had their chance to win.

And like it did against Denver and Miami and like it did in San Diego in the years before their move, something went wrong.

Trailing by just two points and in need of a stop, the Chargers allowed running back LeGarrette Blount to roll his way through the arms of helpless tacklers down to the Chargers’ three-yard line. But with their backs against the goal line, the defense dug in.

They stuffed Blount twice and seemingly stopped him for a big loss on his third try, but defensive tackle Darius Philon got penalized for an illegal use of his hands. The penalty extended the drive, allowing the Eagles to score a touchdown instead of forcing a field-goal try.

The weight of the penalty seemed even heavier after the Chargers responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive that would’ve given them a lead had it not been for the penalty.

A frustrated Lynn said “(stuff) like that” is why his team is 0-4.

“We just have to learn to do the little things to win these close games,” he said.

This is a plea previous regimes have made. It’s a plea Lynn made in tight losses in Denver and against Miami. And even if the Chargers start to figure out some of these problems, it’s probably already too late.

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The Chargers play just twice at home in their next seven games. They’ll have to jet across the country three times in that span. They’ll have to play the Raiders in Oakland. And, they’ll spend Thanksgiving in Dallas.

Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn and quarterback Philip Rivers discuss the “opposing fan” environment at StubHub and the 0-4 Chargers.

It was a missed opportunity, Rivers said, even if the Chargers aren’t enjoying what purists — or realists — would call a “home-field advantage.” And it’s the kind of blown chances that have defined the Chargers in the season’s first quarter.

Hayward dropping a sure pick-six interception to essential open the season was a missed opportunity. Younghoe Koo missing a pair of kicks in Week 2? Missed opportunity. Rivers tossing a trio of picks against the Chiefs while the defense was so tough? Missed opportunities. Penalties like Philon’s on third down? Missed opportunities.

Next week, the Chargers will go out into the real world of the NFL, leaving their cozy Carson confines behind. They’ll face the winless Giants in a battle between a very movable object and an entirely stoppable force.

“It’ll be a barn burner,” Rivers said sarcastically.

Maybe life on the road will suit the team — Lynn said the Chargers will have to embrace it to salvage the rest of the season.

And if things don’t change during this stretch, it won’t take power washers to erase the Chargers from the Los Angeles psyche. They’ll already be gone.

dan.woike@latimes.com

Twitter: @DanWoikeSports


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