They had a penalty on the second play from scrimmage, on their first play in the red zone and on the final play of the first quarter.
By that point Sunday, the Chargers had seven penalties in all, five of which came before the ball had been snapped.
Yes, there was a lot of false starting going on for a team that, three quarters later, experienced a finish all too real.
“I wish I could have done a better job of getting this team ready to play,” coach Anthony Lynn admitted, “because that was definitely a game I feel like we could have won and should have won.”
The Chargers coach praised Denver for coming into StubHub Center and ending his team’s six-game winning streak with a 23-22 upset.
But Lynn also knew the Chargers were one late third-down conversion away from winning despite a flood of miscues that, on many NFL Sundays, would have buried the very thought of victory.
“I feel like we can learn from it and make corrections and bounce back,” Lynn said. “We have no choice. We have to.”
At 7-3, the Chargers remain second in the AFC West and are two games ahead of the next closest wild-card contender.
On Sunday, they return to StubHub Center to face an Arizona team that is 2-8 and last in the NFL in yards per game and next-to-last in points per game.
They have a chance to be 8-3 entering December, when the schedule turns decidedly tougher, including games at Pittsburgh and Kansas City and home dates with Cincinnati and Baltimore.
“We’ve had a good run,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “We’re still sitting at 7-3. There’s no satisfaction, no settling. But we’ve got a lot to look ahead to and it’s right in front of us with Arizona.”
And the next game will have to start much cleaner than the game against the Broncos did. The Chargers amassed 10 penalties before halftime Sunday as they appeared almost jittery at times.
Lynn said the presence of defenders like Von Miller and Bradley Chubb played a part in the Chargers’ pre-snap problems.
“When you’re going up against those pass rushers that they have on the edge it can make you a little jumpy when you’re a tackle because those guys do a heck of a job of getting a jump on the ball,” he said. “If they get a jump on the ball, it’s pretty much a wrap. I think that bothered us a little bit early in the game.”
Barksdale to start?
Lynn said it’s “very possible” that right tackle Joe Barksdale could return to the starting lineup, perhaps as early as Sunday. The veteran split time with Sam Tevi against the Broncos.
Barksdale began the season as the starter but injured his knee in the opener. He missed the next five games as Tevi took over.
He returned in Week 7 against Tennessee and has been slowly working his way back into a more expanded role.
Barksdale played a season-high 39 snaps against Denver in part because he has experience against the Broncos.
“Familiar face, you know,” Lynn said. “Joe’s been going up against Von for a long time. Not to say Sam couldn’t. Sam held his own when he was in there. But we wanted to mix those guys a little bit.”
Tough day for Addae
The Denver game was a forgettable one for many Chargers, including safety Jahleel Addae, who had a few open-field mistakes that cost his team.
He was the victim of a bad angle and couldn’t catch Phillip Lindsay on Denver’s first touchdown, a 41-yard run.
In the final five minutes, Addae was called for holding to nullify an interception by Adrian Phillips.
Then, on the Broncos’ last-minute, game-winning drive, he missed a tackle allowing Emmanuel Sanders to gain an extra 20-plus yards on a 38-yard reception.
That catch and Lindsay’s touchdown were two of Denver’s three longest plays in the game.
“He’s getting better,” Lynn said. “[Sunday], there were some plays he wishes he had back. But he’s been progressing well at that spot.”
Part of the issue is Addae is playing out of position at free safety. He’s naturally a strong safety, but the Chargers have standout rookie Derwin James there.
“He was getting better every single week back there,” Lynn said of Addae, a sixth-year veteran. “Took a little step back. But I know Jahleel. He’ll bounce back.”