Chargers offense hasn’t been able to play catch-up
His first six passes Sunday netted only 17 yards, not including the seven yards Philip Rivers lost when he was sacked.
One of those misfires was picked off by Denver defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones, Rivers’ eighth interception in the span of 84 passes.
But, the veteran quarterback said Wednesday, being too conservative — or perhaps even gun shy — was not the reason the Chargers’ offense started so slowly in what became a 23-20 loss at Denver.
“We weren’t necessarily in great rhythm by any means,” Rivers said. “We had the turnover on the screen, but I don’t think it was because of being extra cautious or anything.”
A certain tentativeness would have been understandable, even for a quarterback making his 220th consecutive regular-season start.
Rivers was coming off back-to-back games in which he had a career-worst seven passes intercepted. Coach Anthony Lynn has been adamant lately that the interceptions must stop.
Melvin Gordon’s contract situation with the Chargers is murky heading into the final stretch of the regular season, but the running back hopes to stay in L.A.
At minus-10, the Chargers have a turnover ratio befitting a team in the midst of a disappointing 4-8 season that began with playoff expectations.
In this context, the Chargers came out against the Broncos and, on their opening three series, ran the ball eight times for 24 yards in their first 15 plays.
Rivers was three for six for 17 yards and also sacked the one time. The Chargers picked up two first downs and punted twice.
Rivers explained that the sack was the result of Denver disguising its pass rush well and the Chargers therefore setting up their protection incorrectly.
He said he was extra mindful of protecting the football because he didn’t want to give the Broncos “anything cheap early” since they had a rookie quarterback in Drew Lock making his first NFL appearance.
But Rivers otherwise said he was not handcuffed by trying to avoid making any more major mistakes.
“I didn’t feel any added [pressure] early,” he said. “I really didn’t. If it looked that way, I didn’t feel that way.”
The Chargers did improve offensively starting with their fourth drive. But by that point, they were already down 14-0 and would need the rest of the afternoon to catch up.
They eventually tied the score in the fourth quarter, 17-17, and again, 20-20, before losing on a Brandon McManus 53-yard field goal as time expired.
“We’ve always clawed our way back,” Rivers said. “But it’s a different deal if we can be up 14-0 like we were against Green Bay, or whatever we got it to that game. Getting off to a better start this week is certainly an emphasis.”
In their most impressive victory of the season, the Chargers went up on the Packers 19-0 before winning 26-11 in Week 9.
Mostly, though, 2019 has been marked by early deficits as the Chargers have been outscored 68-43 in the first quarter. In their past eight games, they’ve led only Green Bay at the half.
After the first 15 minutes, the Chargers have won the final three quarters and overtime 201-173.
Those numbers are especially perplexing considering this is a team that has lost twice as many games as it has won.
Rivers, asked to evaluate his overall play against the Broncos, said he was “OK.” He lamented a couple third downs that weren’t converted and the fact the Chargers didn’t score after a fourth-quarter interception by linebacker Denzel Perryman.
“Not good enough to win is the short answer,” Rivers said.
Derwin James hadn’t played a snap since he was injured during the Chargers’ preseason opener, so against the Broncos, he was ready to issue some hits.
He also said he’d like to have back the two third-down sacks that cost the Chargers six potential points.
On their opening possession of the second half, a nine-yard loss pushed them out of field-goal range.
On their first possession of the fourth quarter, a five-yard loss turned a Michael Badgley 50-yard field-goal attempt into a 55-yard try. The ball hooked and was no good after hitting the left upright.
As the pocket was collapsing around him in both cases, Rivers said he was torn among trying to make a play, not turning the ball over and avoiding intentional grounding penalties.
“Certainly, I’m aware of where we are,” he said. “You never want to take a sack. But at the same time, you can’t just yank one too early or too late and cause an even more negative play.”
Williams blanked again
He leads the NFL with a per-catch average of 20.5 yards and has had seven receptions of at least 43 yards.
Yet, Mike Williams still has not scored a touchdown, a season after he produced 11 — 10 receiving and one rushing.
Before the game Sunday, Rivers said he told Williams, “Let’s get in the end zone this week.” To which he said Williams replied, “Who are you telling?”
“It is crazy that he hasn’t gotten in there,” Rivers said. “Hopefully, he gets in there a couple of times here down the homestretch.”
Among the NFL players with touchdown receptions this season are offensive linemen David Quessenberry and Dennis Kelly, defensive tackle Vita Vea and kicker Jason Sanders.
The Chargers signed wide receiver Tyron Johnson and defensive tackle P.J. Johnson to their practice squad. … Linebacker and special-teams player Nick Dzubnar was limited in practice Wednesday because of a concussion.
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