Chargers coach Anthony Lynn hasn’t seen losses like this before

Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams seems to catch the winning touchdown in the end zone.
With five seconds left in the game, Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams seems to catch the winning touchdown in the end zone against Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Isaiah Johnson, but the ball comes loose when he hits the ground.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Anthony Lynn has spent nearly three decades in the NFL after beginning his career as a kid playing the game in Texas.

Even with all that experience, he confirmed Monday that what the Chargers have gone through over the last eight games is, for him, beyond compare. Not to mention belief.

“I can’t remember a season like this in my whole football life,” Lynn said. “It’s been a very strange season. But I know that when this is happening we can do something about it.”


The Chargers are 2-6, each of their losses coming by one score. They’ve lost four times after blowing double-digit leads. They’ve lost twice in overtime. Their last two defeats happened after time had expired in regulation.

They’ve lost three games when their offense failed to make a late play and three more when their defense couldn’t make a late stop.

“I think we’ve lost every way that you can possibly lose,” Lynn said. “Hopefully, that’s over and we can get on a winning streak.”

In his fourth season as head coach, Lynn said when he arrived in 2017 he was told that the Chargers were a franchise that historically struggled to win tight games.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert and Dolphins signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa is poised to be one of the most interesting duels of the 2020 NFL season.

The Chargers had gone 9-23 the previous two years and then opened Lynn’s first season by losing four in a row, three of them by a single score.

But that group rebounded to finish 9-7, winning three of its final five one-score games.

The next year, the Chargers dazzled at last call, finishing 6-1 in one-score decisions and 12-4 overall. They advanced to the playoffs and won at Baltimore before losing in the divisional round at New England.

Since then, the waning moments have been remarkably unkind to Lynn and his players, the Chargers dropping 15 of their last 17 one-score games.

Yet, looking back to the 2018 season, Lynn explained that he doesn’t believe his team has issues that run deeper than simply making plays when plays need to be made.

“I don’t think it’s a cultural thing or anything like that,” he said. “When I first got here, we turned this thing around and we were winning close games. Now, we’re finding a way to lose.

“I think we have some young players on the field in key situations, and we’re going through some of those growing pains, for sure … I believe it’s more of an execution issue than a cultural issue.”

In a 31-26 loss Sunday to Las Vegas, rookie middle linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. was removed from the game for veteran Denzel Perryman. Lynn said Monday that Murray was struggling as the defense’s play caller.

Those issues no doubt helped lead to the Raiders rushing for 160 yards and averaging 6.2 yards per attempt. Murray played a season-low 26 snaps, barely half of the 51 defensive snaps the Chargers had in the game.

“There were just some communication issues (Sunday) in calling the defense,” Lynn said. “So we put a veteran guy in to get everybody lined up in the right places.”

The Chargers also had a difficult time controlling the edges, with Las Vegas’ Devontae Booker and Josh Jacobs exploiting the problem by running wide.

Defensive end Joey Bosa, who is recognized for his ability to play against the run as well as rush the passer, missed the game while in concussion protocol.

Jerry Tillery, in his second season, replaced Bosa for the majority of the game Sunday, moving outside, where he has been used at times after spending his rookie year at defensive tackle.

Tough day for Hayward

The Chargers’ issues on defense against the Raiders weren’t limited to young players. Veteran cornerback Casey Hayward was beaten twice — for gains of 45 and 53 yards — in the span of four plays in the third quarter.

“We gotta play the ball better,” Lynn said. “I mean, we’re in position and the ball is going over our head.”

Kalen Ballage has not been a Charger long, but he has been around the league and proved to be a valuable commodity at running back against the Raiders.

Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr threw for only 165 yards, most of which came on those completions against Hayward.

Hunter Renfrow caught the 53-yarder to set up a touchdown. Nelson Agholor scored on his 45-yard reception.

The Chargers’ secondary is without safety Derwin James and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. because of injuries. Slot corner Desmond King was traded last week to Tennessee.

“These guys have all played good football before,” Lynn said. “(Sunday) was just inexcusable.”


Lynn said Bosa and running back Troymaine Pope remain in concussion protocol. … Edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu played a season-low six snaps against Las Vegas. Lynn said he decided to stick with Melvin Ingram longer Sunday because of how well Ingram was performing. … Lynn on the toughest part of this latest loss: “I felt so bad for those young men when they thought they won the game and the referees took it from them. Just that look on their face. That was the disappointing thing for me. But we’ll get through this.”