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Coach Anthony Lynn lays it on line after Chargers ran into Jets’ brick wall

The Chargers offense lines up against the Jets' defensive front.
The Chargers offensive line did not hold up well against the Jets’ defensive front, and especially could not get a push for a ground attack.
(Peter Joneleit / Associated Press
)

The Chargers’ inability to close out opponents was on glaring display again Sunday, this time in the form of three late play calls.

On their next-to-last possession, in the final four minutes, the Chargers were looking to drain as much clock as possible while squeezing onto a 34-26 lead.

Even with hard-running Kalen Ballage available, their lack of success on the ground against the New York Jets resulted in three consecutive short pass plays.

Justin Herbert went to Keenan Allen each time. The first attempt gained a yard, the second fell incomplete and the third lost a yard.

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The sequence consumed only 54 seconds; New York had to use just one of its timeouts.

“I think it’s safe to say that they were more physical than we were,” coach Anthony Lynn explained Monday. “Their front five is as good as any that we’ve gone up against, effort- and energy-wise.”

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen caught a franchise-record 16 passes in a victory over the New York Jets. He also scored a touchdown.

Lynn praised the Jets for their pre-snap movement up front and their overall athletic ability.

“They did push us around a little bit,” he said.

After taking over following a Ty Long punt, New York’s offense moved within striking distance of a potential game-tying score. Tevaughn Campbell broke up the Jets’ final shot near the goal line with just under two minutes remaining.

Chargers cornerback Tevaughn Campbell breaks up a pass intended for  Denzel Mims to end the Jets' final drive.
Chargers cornerback Tevaughn Campbell breaks up a pass intended for Denzel Mims to end the Jets’ final drive.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

A powerful, pounding run game — just the type of scheme Lynn would love to unleash — could have clinched the victory sooner or at least put the Jets in a more desperate situation.

Instead, the Chargers again had to hold on late to avoid another disastrous collapse, this one against the NFL’s only winless team.

“We have a top-10 rushing game in this league right now,” Lynn said. “We take a lot of pride in being able to run the football. And [Sunday] we simply weren’t able to between the tackles.”

Ballage finished with 16 carries for 44 yards. Herbert had two rushing attempts for 11 yards.

The other two running backs on the active roster Sunday did very little. Troymaine Pope had three rushes for four yards and rookie Josh Kelley four for minus-two.

“You gotta run the football to win most of the time,” Lynn said after the game. “I’ll tell you, we were fortunate. We’ve had a good rushing attack. But, they just outplayed us between the tackles.”

Struggles such as the ones that happened Sunday are why many observers predict the Chargers will take an offensive lineman high in the 2021 draft. Entering Week 12, they would be getting the No. 6 overall pick.

The Chargers have struggled all season holding leads in the second half of games, but coach Anthony Lynn isn’t blaming the issue on players letting up.

The Chargers’ final offensive play against New York officially was a 28-yard rushing loss by Long, who ran backward and through the end zone to take a safety while attempting to chew up the game’s final seconds.

Minus that play, the Chargers rushed 25 times for 57 yards, an average of 2.3 yards per attempt.

They entered Sunday averaging 131.6 yards per game, ninth best in the NFL. The Jets were giving up 120.9 yards on average.

“We probably could have run on the perimeter a little more,” Lynn admitted. “I think we averaged almost five yards a carry off the perimeter and probably should have attacked that more.”

The Chargers continue to play without their top two running backs, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. Both are on the injured reserve list, Ekeler with a hamstring strain and Jackson with a knee problem.

Ekeler appears close to coming back and posted on social media Monday that his next step is a return to the practice field. Jackson’s situation is less certain.

Replay replay

When he met with the media early Monday afternoon, Lynn said he still had not seen television replays of a questionable fourth-down-converting catch by New York’s Denzel Mims. The rookie appeared to be bobbling the ball as he fell out of bounds for a 25-yard gain with 5:40 remaining.

The Jets hurried and ran another play before the Chargers could have challenged the call, had they decided to do so.

Afterward, Lynn explained he didn’t throw his red flag because his assistants upstairs never saw a convincing enough angle before New York snapped the ball.

“At the time, we didn’t get a replay,” Lynn said Monday. “And, even now, just watching it on tape, I can’t tell if it’s a catch or not. Definitely not something I would have thrown a flag on with what I’m seeing on tape.”

Lynn was referring to the game tape that showed the play from the perspective of the Chargers’ bench on the other side of the field. Television replays from the Jets’ sideline appeared less certain.

Canadian product Tevaughn Campbell intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, and made game-saving pass breakout as the Chargers held off the winless Jets, 34-28.

Calling the game for CBS, analyst and former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon said: “He does not catch this. … He doesn’t have possession of it as he hits the ground.”

Chargers safety Jahleel Addae, who was closing on Mims as the play ended, appeared to agree with Gannon. He signaled in the direction of an official that Mims failed to secure the ball.

But because New York’s offense moved quicker than the replay process, the Jets kept possession unchallenged and scored a touchdown five plays later.

“My guy upstairs in the booth, if he sees something that needs to be talked about, challenged, he’ll let me know,” Lynn said. “But, like I said, he didn’t get a chance to see it in time.”

Injuries

Edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu suffered a shoulder injury and is expected to be out multiple weeks.

Right guard Trai Turner missed 26 of 82 offensive snaps after suffering a cut in his mouth and needing stitches. He is expected to play Sunday when the Chargers visit Buffalo.

CornerbackChris Harris Jr., out since Week 3 because of two broken bones in his foot, could be back this week, Lynn said.

Etc.

The Chargers’ victories this season have come against the NFL’s three worst teams. The Jets, Jacksonville and Cincinnati are a combined 3-26-1. Their final six opponents are 33-27. … With 18 receptions over the next four weeks, Allen would set the NFL record for number of catches through 100 career games. He’s at 605 after 96 games. Antonio Brown holds the mark with 622.


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