For third game in a row, the Chargers are unable to protect their halftime lead

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers walks off the field in the final moments of the Chargers' 27-20 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers have led 17-6, 10-6 and 17-7 this season.

And then the second halves happened.

For the third consecutive game Sunday, they were unable to protect a halftime lead.

“Shoot, you tell me,” running back Austin Ekeler said when asked for an explanation. “Come coach for us … Whatever it is, we’ve got to get it figured out because we won’t win games if we only play for two quarters.”

The Chargers rebounded to win their opener in overtime against Indianapolis. But they’ve now lost back-to-back to Detroit and Houston while scoring just three points after halftime.

Chargers’ Keenan Allen played role of slayer again with 13 catches and two touchdowns, but no one else picks up slack in 27-20 loss to Texans.

Sept. 22, 2019

For the season, they’ve been outscored 45-16 in the second half, a team that won so many times last season late in games unable to generate much after intermission.


“It’s just that killer instinct,” safety Rayshawn Jenkins said. “We gotta be able to have our dogs be our dogs in those situations. We gotta some way, somehow come out on top.”

Against the Texans, the Chargers saw their 17-7 edge evaporate quickly. Houston scored three touchdowns in the span of 12 minutes, 51 seconds starting midway through the third quarter.

During that same time, the Chargers’ offense surrendered the ball on a Philip Rivers fumble and was forced to punt.

Rivers lost the ball when he was sacked by linebacker Whitney Mercilus. That turnover set up the drive on which the Texans took the lead for good.

“We have to find a way to finish football games,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “We come out in the second half, and I think they scored 20 points in the damn third quarter. We just can’t have it.”


Said Rivers: “We’ve just got to do a better job in the second half…We just, again, we’ve got to find a way. The aim of the game is scoring, and we just haven’t done that well enough.”

Under pressure

The Chargers gave up five sacks, including two to five-time All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt, who entered Sunday with no sacks for the season.

The Texans were credited with 12 hits total on Rivers, including three apiece for nose tackle D.J. Reader and linebacker Benardrick McKinney.

The Chargers struggled mightily to contain Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, surrendering a 10-point lead in the second half to lose 27-20.

Sept. 22, 2019

“Some of that we have to watch the tape and see,” Lynn said when asked about the performance of the offensive line. “It could be routes down the field. It could be the quarterback holding onto the ball. I can’t put that on the offensive line just yet.”

Right guard Dan Feeney was called for holding twice and left tackle Trent Scott was called once.

“I knew it was just a matter of time,” said Watt of securing his first sacks of 2019. “They come in bunches when they come. Today was a good day. We had guys all over, making unbelievable plays.”

Watt finished with five hits on Rivers.

Challenge denied

Lynn challenged a pass interference call for the first time this season. In the third quarter, he used the red flag after the officials decided to not call interference on Houston cornerback Johnathan Joseph.

Initially, a penalty flag was thrown when Joseph tangled with Keenan Allen on a pass attempt deep in Texans territory. After the officials gathered for a discussion, they opted to not call a penalty.

Lynn’s challenge was denied.

Scrambling ability of Houston’s DeShaun Watson forces the Chargers linemen to chase him around the pocket and defensive backs to cover receivers longer.

Sept. 22, 2019

“We thought he had Keenan by the arm,” Lynn said. “We thought he had him locked. They threw the flag on the field. I tried to convince them to put it back on the field. Just wasn’t enough evidence, I guess.”

The Chargers lost a timeout because of the failed challenge. Making the situation worse, Rivers fumbled on the next play.

Green goes down

The Chargers lost starting tight end Virgil Green to a groin injury. He’ll be reevaluated Monday.

That’s not a position where the Chargers have much depth already playing without Hunter Henry (knee).

They signed veteran Lance Kendricks last week. He had one catch for 13 yards Sunday.

Winless Miami next

Having lost two straight for the first time since the middle of the 2017 season, the Chargers will travel next to face a Miami team that fell to 0-3 on Sunday and quite famously is going through a personnel transition.

The Dolphins have been outscored 133-16 and already have switched quarterbacks, going from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Josh Rosen.

No other team in the AFC has surrendered more than 85 points or scored fewer than 33.

Meanwhile, the Chargers are taking solace in the fact the year is still young.

“You understand that everything you set out to do at the beginning of the season is still in front of you,” linebacker Thomas Davis said. “You just can’t allow yourself to keep going out and letting games slip away.”