Chargers’ Derwin James on finally playing: ‘They were going to have to drag me off’

Denzel Perryman (52) celebrates with his fellow linebackers Kyzir White (44) and Derwin James (33) after intercepting a pass during their game against the Broncos on Dec. 1.
(Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

He hadn’t played in a game since early August or a game that actually counted since mid-January.

So when Derwin James finally did return to the field Sunday in Denver, the Chargers’ All-Pro safety was determined to stay out there as long as possible.

“Once I got on the field it was like I just snapped into my old self,” James said Monday. “They were going to have to drag me off. I wasn’t coming off, first game or not.”


James played all but one of the Chargers’ 57 defensive snaps, finishing with four tackles, including one for loss.

This came just two days after coach Anthony Lynn said, “It would be smart to have him on somewhat of a snap count,” given all the time James missed because of the stress fracture in his right foot.

The Los Angeles Chargers lost another game and another turnover battle Sunday against the Denver Broncos, a theme that’s been woven into their season.

Dec. 2, 2019

“I thought D.J. looked good in his first game back,” Lynn said. “Played probably more snaps than we wanted him to. But it was that type of game.”

Asked specifically what he meant, Lynn added: “Couldn’t get him out of the game. He’s a competitor.”

James spent the first 11 games on injured reserve after being hurt in a training camp joint practice with New Orleans. He returned as the Chargers were losing their third consecutive game — falling to the Broncos 23-20 — to tumble to 4-8.

James wasn’t involved in an abundance of plays Sunday and, he said, committed only one obvious miscue, on a screen pass during which he “got clobbered in the face by a lineman.”


“They didn’t really attack me as much,” James said. “I thought they would, with me not playing as much.”

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers talks with the officials during the second half of a game against the Broncos on Dec. 1.
(Jack Dempsey / Associated Press)

He was on the field for 11 snaps in the Chargers’ preseason opener Aug. 8 in Arizona. Before that, James’ most recent game came in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs, a loss at New England nearly 11 months ago.

About the only hitting he had done since August was against tackling dummies at the Chargers’ training facility. He said he was surprised that he wasn’t more sore Monday.

“I hit a couple dummies,” James said. “I hit some sleds out there just to hit something. … But I’ve always played football my whole life. You just tackle, man.”

Safety Adrian Phillips also returned against Denver, his first appearance since breaking his arm in Week 2. He played 23 snaps on defense and 19 on special teams and finished with four tackles.


“I thought Adrian played well,” Lynn said. “He had a couple nice hits, legal hits. He looked good.”

Rivers’ tentativeness

Against Denver, Philip Rivers took two third-down sacks that potentially cost the Chargers six points.

On their opening possession of the second half, a nine-yard loss pushed them out of field-goal range and forced a punt.

On their first possession of the fourth quarter, a five-yard loss turned a Michael Badgley 50-yard field goal attempt into a 55-yarder. The ball hooked and hit the left upright.

Philip Rivers knows the Chargers’ playoff prospects are virtually gone, but that’s not hampering the quarterback’s outlook for Jacksonville on Sunday.

Dec. 2, 2019

“I’d love to see him get rid of the ball in those situations because we had an opportunity to put points on the board,” Lynn said. “The pocket collapsed and he was trying to protect the football, which I understand.”

Rivers has had eight passes intercepted over the past three games and appeared tentative at times Sunday, especially early.

His 17 turnovers — 15 interceptions and two lost fumbles — are second in the NFL behind Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston.

“After the first three drives, he settled in and started making plays,” Lynn said. “He helped put us in position to win the game at the end. The first three drives were pretty slow, for sure.”

Rivers was three for six for 17 yards with one interception on those opening possessions. He finished the game 20 of 29 for 265 yards and two touchdowns.


Asked if he felt Rivers was playing too conservatively early to avoid another turnover, Lynn said, “I can’t speak for Philip. I don’t know that.”

Tyler Higbee made plenty of memorable catches in the Rams’ 34-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, showcasing his skill and importance to the offense.

Dec. 1, 2019

Lynn calls NFL on interference call

Lynn said he spoke with someone in the league office regarding the pass-interference penalty on Casey Hayward leading to the Broncos’ game-winning field goal as time expired.

Immediately after the game, Lynn said he believed the officials erred in making the call. His stance remained the same a day later.

“We talked about it,” Lynn said. “We can agree to disagree. I didn’t see it the way they saw it. That’s the way I felt. I never put a loss on one play. There were too many other plays in that game that could have made a difference.”

Lack of clutch

A year after they built their season on an ability to make key plays late to win tight games, the Chargers are 2-8 in contests decided by one score.

“Hell, if there was something I could do to avoid being in a close game,” Lynn said, “I would have done it by now.”

The Chargers opened the season by beating Indianapolis 30-24 in overtime. Since then, their only late-game success came in Week 8 in Chicago, a 17-16 victory secured when the Bears’ Eddy Pineiro missed a 41-yard field goal as time expired.

“But it’s just been frustrating this year…” Lynn said. “If you’d have told me we were going to be in eight one-score games and lose all eight of them, I would have told you you were crazy.”