‘Dangerous’ Jets? Chargers can’t afford to underestimate winless squad

Chargers teammates jog onto the field.
Chargers players jog onto the field before last week’s loss to the Miami Dolphins. At 2-7, the Chargers know they can’t afford to underestimate the winless New York Jets on Sunday.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

The winning coach wept, a thoroughly moved Hue Jackson then announcing that celebratory game balls would be presented to everyone.

Joe Thomas, a future Hall of Fame left tackle, explained that he didn’t want to sound too dramatic before describing the victory as “our Super Bowl.”

It was Christmas Eve 2016 when the Chargers fumbled a lump of coal into the collective lap of their fans with a 20-17 defeat at Cleveland.

The Browns franchise had lost 17 in a row entering that day and would finish the season 1-15.


On Sunday, the Chargers have another shot at ignominy when they play the New York Jets at SoFi Stadium. At 0-9, the Jets are the NFL’s lone winless team and seem well positioned for a run at pure imperfection — 0-16.

Now, the Chargers just have to avoid messing up so badly that they again mess up historically.

Chargers’ Joey Bosa talks about his two weeks in concussion protocol. He has no recollection of the play that knocked him out of a game on Nov. 1.

“You can’t take anybody lightly,” defensive end Joey Bosa said. “I learned that … a few years ago.”

Bosa was in Cleveland that afternoon, when the Chargers failed on two game-tying field goals in the final four minutes. Josh Lambo’s 45-yard attempt sailed wide right as time expired.

Those Browns had lost each of their previous six games by at least 13 points. The next season, Cleveland would indeed finish winless, joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams in league history to go 0-16.

In other words, that was a really poor outfit the Chargers lost to on that chilly Saturday four years ago, the result so sour that Bosa admitted it probably wasn’t worth revisiting now.

“I think I’m the only one that’s mentioned it,” he said. “I’m not going to bring it up anymore. Probably not a good thing to discuss this week.”

Like those Browns, these Jets have inspired little hope. They are last in the NFL in several significant offensive categories. Of their nine defeats, seven have come by more than one score.

They led New England by 10 points deep into the fourth quarter in their most recent game but gave up a touchdown and two field goals in the final six-plus minutes.

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn looks on during a loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Nov. 8.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Still, simple logic and basic odds both suggest New York should win at some point between Sunday and 0-16 because NFL teams so rarely fail so completely.

“This team is very dangerous,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “The chances of a team going winless in the National Football League are slim to none. ... To me, this is the most dangerous team left on our schedule.”

And, to be accurate, the Chargers aren’t exactly in a place where they can look down upon any opponent. They’ve lost seven of eight since opening the season with a victory at Cincinnati.

The Chargers have only three wins in their previous 16 games, dating to last season. Since winning a playoff game in Baltimore in early 2019, this franchise is 7-19.

“They’re all talented,” Bosa said of the Jets. “They’ve got a bunch of good players. I mean, I’d like to think that we have a really talented team and we’re 2-7.”

Kalen Ballage has emerged as the Chargers’ top back the last two games, and against the New York Jets is expected to remain the No. 1 option.

The Chargers have slid to a point where looking forward to 2021 is where many outsiders now find themselves. At the moment, this team holds the No. 4 pick in next year’s draft.

Going back to 2004, that would be the Chargers’ second-highest selection. Bosa joined the franchise at No. 3 overall in 2016.

After playing the Jets, the Chargers’ final six opponents are a combined 31-24. Their two victories have come against teams that are 3-14-1.

“We’ve got pride, the last name on our back, our own legacy,” wide receiver Keenan Allen said when asked about motivation. “I’ve still got a lot to play for, so I’m gonna keep showing up. Hopefully, the guys will see that and will, as well.”

Coming off a 5-11 finish in 2019, the Chargers also are trying to avoid their worst consecutive seasons in nearly two decades.

In 2015-16 — the final two years of Mike McCoy’s tenure as head coach — they won nine games. Shortly thereafter, Lynn was hired.

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen runs with the ball during a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 25.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

That is the franchise’s poorest two-year stretch since winning only six games in 2000-01.

“I think we all understand the group of guys that we have and what we can do,” Bosa said. “To just lay down and give up on the rest of the season is not what these guys are about. We’re gonna play hard.”

Bosa signed a five-year extension in August, cementing his spot on a team that could undergo significant changes in 2021.

As they reach their final game before Thanksgiving, the Chargers are a franchise with few things certain beyond what remains on the schedule. And, even there, the COVID-19 pandemic is always looming.

“We have a seven-game season,” Lynn said. “That’s the way we’re approaching it. Anything that’s happened before this week, we can’t really do anything about and don’t really care about.”


The Chargers placed starting linebacker Kyzir White on the COVID-19 reserve list Saturday. White leads the team with 68 tackles.

They also activated safety Jaylen Watkins and linebackers B.J. Bello and Cole Christiansen from the practice squad.