Column: Short-handed Chargers must find a way to survive upcoming stretch of games

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn speaks with quarterback Philip Rivers during the second quarter of Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Detroit Lions.
(Getty Images)

Reviewing tape of the Chargers’ stumbles and fumbles at Detroit on Sunday confirmed everything coach Anthony Lynn had seen but wished he hadn’t. The missed kicks, missed tackles, errors of inexperience, and veteran quarterback Philip Rivers’ miscalculation in throwing into double coverage and into the arms of Lions cornerback Darius Slay in the end zone late in the fourth quarter passed before Lynn’s eyes in sorry succession, looking no better on repeat viewing than when he had lived it.

“You can’t win in this league when you make those type of mistakes. We did for whatever reason,” Lynn said. “The good news is that everything is correctable.”

For a man supposedly delivering good news, his expression was decidedly somber. There was simply no way to sugar-coat losing a game his team should have pulled out even without an all-star roster’s worth of injured starters.


“Any time you hold a team in their house on opening day on the road to 13 points,” he said, “you should win that game.”

The Los Angeles Chargers’ secondary suffered another big blow Sunday when Adrian Phillips suffered a broken arm against the Detroit Lions.

The Lions were beatable, but the Chargers — who won all seven regular-season games they played outside of California last season and lost on the road during the regular season only to the Rams at the Coliseum — couldn’t put them away.

Detroit’s defense is capable, but the Chargers sabotaged themselves too often, most notably on Austin Ekeler’s fumble on first-and-goal at the one in the third quarter, and Rivers being intercepted on a long pass intended for Keenan Allen inside the final two minutes.

Some people wondered if two missed field goals by backup kicker Ty Long (really their punter) were was in the back of Rivers’ mind when he went long, but he said after the game he didn’t make the throw out of desperation.

Lynn echoed that Monday, and also noted that Rivers had other options on the play in tight end Virgil Green and wide receiver Mike Williams.

“Ty has done a heck of a job since he’s been here,” Lynn said. “He was having an off day, for sure, but we were definitely going to give him another chance to kick that ball if we hadn’t thrown the interception. I don’t think that played into Philip’s decision whatsoever to throw that ball into double coverage. I think it was just a bad decision.

Ty Long and his Chargers teammates react after he missed a 39-yard field-goal attempt against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

“It was just one of the bad decisions that we made all day. You could go back and [point to] any one of those decisions that [if] we hadn’t made we probably could have won that football game. I don’t think it was that play. It was any play.”

And then there are those who weren’t playing. Just two weeks into the season, the seemingly never-ending string of injuries has been exhausting the Chargers’ depth, thrusting players into positions they’re not accustomed to playing. Already short-handed, the Chargers grew even thinner when safety Adrian Phillips broke his arm against Detroit, especially when it came to on-field leadership.

“I expect these guys to bounce back like we always have and go from there,” Lynn said.

With Ben Roethlisberger out for the season and Drew Brees sidelined at least six weeks, the season gets much more complicated for the Steelers and Saints.

Going forward, it’s going to be difficult to rearrange the pieces no matter who they are playing.

On Sunday at home they’ll face the 1-1 Houston Texans, who won the AFC South last season. After that, they seemingly get a reprieve when they visit Miami to play the Dolphins, who were outscored 102-10 in losing to Baltimore and New England. That’s followed by games against the revamping Broncos (0-2) and the now Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers (0-2).

Make no mistake, those games won’t be won on paper. Let’s see where the Chargers stand — and who’s still standing — a month from now when they head to Tennessee for a tough road game against the Titans.

“We don’t normally beat ourselves,” Lynn said, “but there has always been that one game that has popped up. I think, hopefully, that was [Sunday] and it’s over.”

If not, it might be over for the Chargers sooner than anticipated.


The Chargers signed tight end Lance Kendricks and re-signed defensive end Chris Peace, the team announced Tuesday. Kendricks was a second-round pick by the Rams in 2011 and was released in 2017. He also spent time with the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots. Kendricks has appeared in 125 games, caught 241 passes for 2,505 yards, and scored 19 touchdowns. Peace was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia. He suited up in Week 1, but didn’t play a snap. He had been released Saturday. In corresponding moves, Phillips was placed on injured reserve and receiver Andre Patton was waived. Also, safety Adarius Pickett was signed to the practice squad.