Missed field goals, penalties and turnovers prove costly in Chargers’ loss to Lions

About an hour earlier, he had secured his first career NFL interception.

But now Rayshawn Jenkins was standing in the visiting locker room at Ford Field looking down at his empty hands.

“I gotta keep it real. They didn’t beat us,” the third-year Chargers safety said. “We beat us. Don’t get me wrong. That’s a good team. But you see the points we took off the board. We took our own points off the board.”


Then Jenkins spread his fingers wide, looked down again and, with emphasis this time, added, “We literally saw the game slip [away].”

The Chargers lost 13-10 to the Detroit Lions on a Sunday stuffed with touchdown-robbing penalties, two turnovers at the goal line, multiple dropped passes and a pair of crushing wayward kicks.

A team that opened 2018 by winning nine consecutive games played outside Southern California hit the road again, and this time the road — with the Chargers’ abundant assistance — hit back.

“Detroit’s a good football team, but they damn sure didn’t need our help,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “We made way too many mistakes today to beat anybody. That’s what this game boiled down to — mistake after mistake.”

LA Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park has reached a 20-year agreement that gives SoFi the naming rights for the Rams and Chargers’ future stadium.

Even with so many things going wrong — defensive end Melvin Ingram captured the breadth of Chargers failure by calling this “a three-phase loss” — they still had a chance in win or tie in the final two minutes. But quarterback Philip Rivers threw into double coverage trying to hit wide receiver Keenan Allen and Lions cornerback Darius Slay, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, intercepted the ball in the end zone.

Allen finished with eight receptions for 98 yards and was targeted by Rivers a game-high 15 times. Allen also had drawn holding and pass-interference calls on Slay. But the matchup, no matter how productive, was one Rivers went to one too many times.

“In hindsight, I want that one back,” the quarterback said. “I didn’t feel I was being careless. … I didn’t throw it in a desperation mindset, although it may have looked that way.”

Rivers said he decided to try to make the play because Slay’s back was turned at the time he released the ball. But Slay adjusted to win a game that the Chargers simply couldn’t corral.

Just a minute earlier, they had moved as deep as the Detroit 19-yard line but then went backward with a four-yard loss on a run by Justin Jackson and a delay of game penalty.

Rivers’ final pass came on third and 19 from the Detroit 28. The play was very similar to one in the Chargers’ opener when Rivers lobbed the ball toward a tightly covered Allen and he rose to make the grab for a touchdown.

Ty Long kicks 39-yard field goal.
Chargers kicker Ty Long makes a 39-yard field goal late in the second quarter against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

“Yeah, we probably should have just run the ball with the coverage they were in,” Allen said, “kicked the field goal and gone into overtime.”

Without gaining another inch, the Chargers could have tied the score with what would have been a 45-yard field goal. But, by that point, Ty Long already had missed in the second half from 39 and 41 yards. Long, the Chargers’ punter, was filling in for the second consecutive game for Michael Badgley, who is dealing with a groin injury.

“It happens,” Long said. “Obviously, I wanted that last field goal. It happens, man. I let my teammates down, but I tried to prepare the best I could. I’m human.”

The Chargers were all too human Sunday, especially in the second half when they amassed 12 first downs and gained 256 total yards but still made too many mistakes to score a point.

They did produce the game’s first touchdown, on their second possession, and trailed for barely six minutes the whole day. But they trailed when it mattered most.

“It’s a reminder,” running back Austin Ekeler said. “Like, ‘Look, if you don’t show up, you’re gonna get beat. Plain and simple.’ It doesn’t matter who it is. That’s the NFL. It’s a slap on the wrist, ‘Hey, you gotta finish.’ ”

Austin Ekeler’s fumble at the one is one of Chargers’ several miscues of a scoreless second half in 13-10 loss to the Lions.

The Chargers’ opening drive of the third quarter featured two touchdowns nullified by penalties — a holding call against wide receiver Dontrelle Inman and an illegal block by offensive lineman Sam Tevi.

Then, following a pass-interference infraction in the end zone by Slay, Ekeler tried to repeat an earlier touchdown by going airborne and diving in from the one-yard line. Instead, he fumbled the ball away.

“We know we’re a much better team than we just displayed for 60 minutes,” linebacker Thomas Davis said. “In order to get to where we want to go and be the team we want to be, we can’t like days like today happen.”

The loss was atypical of what the Chargers had been most recently. Including their season-opening 30-24 overtime victory over Indianapolis, they had won eight of their previous nine one-score games.

All that ended in a heap of gaffes and forgettable moments.

“This team, we don’t beat ourselves,” Lynn said. “We’ve been pretty good at that. For it to all happen today … it was disappointing. ... We feel like we let one get away. It was our fault. It’s gonna hurt, and it should hurt.”