Their bumbling was on full display last weekend, the Chargers’ festival of errors in Detroit, by the end, as glaring as Ford Field was blaring.
In the hushed locker room afterward, visible only to a few dozen who had been so intimately involved in the fiasco, another telling image could be found at the cubicle of quarterback Philip Rivers.
“After that game, just seeing how Phil reacts, how passionate he is, I felt bad,” running back Austin Ekeler said. “I’m mad that we lost, but I see Phil and he wants it so much. It’s easy to follow a guy like that.
“It’s contagious throughout the whole team. We really care about each other and want to do well for each other. When one of us does something bad, we feel like we let everyone down.”
A team-wide effort was required to produce the volume of letdown the Chargers generated in their 13-10 loss to the Lions.
Rivers, with the offense already in position to attempt a tying field goal, threw an interception on his final pass.
Ekeler fumbled while inexplicably trying to leap into the end zone from the one-yard line, his apparent desperation ignoring the fact it was first down.
Wide receiver Dontrelle Inman and right tackle Sam Tevi both committed wholly unnecessary infractions to wipe out touchdowns.
By the time the misery was over, there was plenty of doubt and a bunch of questions.
But the only answer that matters going forward is how the Chargers now respond against Houston at 1:25 p.m. Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“I’d expect us to be fired up and ready to bounce back,” Rivers said. “We’ve seen an ability to do that over the years when we’ve lost some tough ones.”
The Chargers haven’t dropped consecutive games since mid-November of 2017. Last year, they followed their four regular-season defeats with victories over Buffalo, San Francisco, Arizona and Denver.
None of those four teams went on to make the playoffs. But the 2018 Texans sure did, meaning this challenge to avoid a losing streak figures to be greater than any from a year ago.
“I know the character and heart of this football team,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “I’m looking forward to it. When you lose one like we lost last week, you can’t wait to get back on the field. I think everybody in the locker room feels that way.”
The loss to the Lions was reminiscent of two other recent, particularly anguishing Chargers defeats — in 2018 to Denver and 2017 to Jacksonville. Both were games during which the Chargers basically stiff-armed away victory.
At the time, Lynn called the loss to the Jaguars “inexcusable,” while adding, “We had a couple of guys do some dumb things.” That was during his rookie year as Chargers coach.
Since then, Lynn’s teams are 19-6, which helped prompt a question about how he reacted to the loss.
“That was two years ago,” Lynn said, smiling. “That was a first-year head coach. That approach was a whole lot different. Some people got fired after that game. I’ve calmed down a lot.”
Whatever approach he took in meetings and at practice this time, the Chargers will have to deal with a Houston team certainly talented enough to leave Carson with a road win.
The Texans had New Orleans beat in Week 1 before allowing the Saints to wiggle free for an improbable win on a walk-off 58-yard field goal.
Last week, they struggled to move the ball and manufactured just a single touchdown but still held off Jacksonville by preventing a final-minute two-point conversion.
And dealing with Houston, more specifically, means dealing with quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“He’s insane,” Lynn said. “There’s nothing he can’t do…His ability to escape, extend plays. He can beat you with his legs. He can beat you with his arm. He’s an outstanding young quarterback.”
Defensively, the Chargers will be down to their third-string strong safety, undrafted rookie Roderic Teamer replacing the injured Adrian Phillips who was replacing the injured Derwin James.
But they also are set to get back linebackers Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown, both of whom have been slowed by ankle injuries.
And the Chargers also will be pushed by the possibility of putting more distance between them and what happened back in Detroit.
“I told the guys on Wednesday, ‘Man, I’m really ready to practice for some reason,’ ” Ekeler said. “I was pissed off. We were not a good representation of ourselves that day.”
The opportunity to right so much that went wrong couldn’t arrive soon enough for a group — with all its injuries and other absences and now with one gnawing defeat — already being significantly tested.
“We’ve had a great week of preparation,” Perryman said. “I say it all the time, ‘Stay tuned.’ ”
The Chargers thought they were about to welcome back Michael Badgley, who missed the first two games because of a right groin injury. But his status was downgraded Saturday to doubtful, meaning punter Ty Long likely will fill in again. Long was AFC Special Teams Player of the Week against Indianapolis before missing two crucial field goals against Detroit.
“Ty is very confident,” Lynn said. “We’re confident in Ty. If we have to kick him again, we’ll do it.”
Long does have a net punting average of 46.3 yards. Neither of these teams has done anything notable yet in returning kickoffs or punts. At some point, that would seem certain to change. Houston’s kicker is former UCLA Bruin Ka’imi Fairbairn, who has made both his field-goal attempts and all five of his extra points.