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Chargers’ defense, giving up big plays, tries to get pointed in right direction

Chargers cornerback Chris Harris gestures during a season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Chargers cornerback Chris Harris gestures during a season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals in September. Harris, out since Week 3, was activated off injured reserve.
(Emilee Chinn / Associated Press)

The Chargers allowed 28 or more points eight times in Gus Bradley’s first three seasons as defensive coordinator.

On Sunday, they’ll attempt to avoid giving up at least 28 for the eighth game in a row.

In this most offensive of NFL seasons, the Chargers have become entangled in a league-wide scoreboard assault.

“You understand there’s a lot of points being scored,” Bradley said. “But we’re not lowering our standard.”

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Entering Week 12, NFL teams were averaging slightly less than 25 points per game, the highest mark in league history. The week then began Thanksgiving Day with Houston and Washington both topping 40.

The Chargers yielded an average of 19 points through the first three weeks, before this seven-game stretch in which the opposition is scoring 31 per game.

Joey Bosa admitted that he was disappointed in himself against the New York Jets and feels that he sets the tone for the Chargers defense.

The defense’s inability to make crucial stops is one of the main reasons the Chargers are 3-7 and last in the AFC West.

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“It’s hard for me to give into that,” Bradley said of the trend toward increased scoring. “It just feels like we’ve given up a lot of explosive plays compared to other years.”

The most obvious example came Oct. 4, when Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady burned the Chargers for four completions of at least 28 yards — all in the second half — in a 38-31 Buccaneers win.

“We’re giving up big plays at critical times, times when we can get off the field,” Bradley said. “We’re just not making those plays.”

The Chargers are 24th in the NFL in points allowed. They ranked in the top 10 in Bradley’s first two seasons and finished 14th a year ago.

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They’ve given up 273 points, and 60% have come after halftime. That helps explain how the Chargers have lost five times when leading after two quarters.

On Sunday, Bradley’s bunch will face a Buffalo team averaging 27.2 points, 11th best in the NFL.

Being at home and returning from their off week, the Bills should be eager to play since they lost their previous game on a last-second Hail Mary pass at Arizona.

Buffalo’s offense features athletic quarterback Josh Allen, who has thrown for 2,871 yards and 21 touchdowns. At 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds, he’s also the Bills’ second-leading rusher.

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“He doesn’t run like most quarterbacks,” defensive end Joey Bosa said. “He’s going to put his shoulder down and try to run right through you. So you have to be ready for that.”

Ingram back to IR

The Chargers placed defensive end Melvin Ingram on injured reserve Friday because of a lingering knee problem, continuing his tough season.

This is Ingram’s second stint on IR. He missed three games because of a knee injury starting in late September.

Sam Farmer makes his picks and predictions for the remaining slate of NFL Week 12 games heading into Sunday and Monday.

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In the final year of his contract, Ingram has 10 tackles, four quarterback hits and zero sacks. He had his third career interception in the opener at Cincinnati.

With Uchenna Nwosu (shoulder/chest) also out, the Chargers will be thin at defensive end. Coach Anthony Lynn said Jerry Tillery and Emeke Egbule should play more as a result.

Tillery appeared on the injury report Friday with a groin problem, but he was able to practice. Egbule has been a regular on special teams. He has played defensively in only three games.

Hayward streak ending

Cornerback Casey Hayward’s streak of 106 consecutive games will end Sunday because of a groin injury. No cornerback in the NFL had played more games in a row.

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The team did activate cornerback Chris Harris Jr. from IR, clearing his way to return. Harris broke two bones in his foot during a loss to Carolina in Week 3.

Lynn also said cornerback Brandon Facyson is off the COVID-19 reserve list. Facyson’s most recent game came Nov. 1 at Denver.

More injury updates

Running back Kalen Ballage (ankle/calf) was limited in practice all week and is questionable for Sunday.

The Chargers’ No. 1 running back, Austin Ekeler, is nearing a return from IR. Ekeler suffered a hamstring strain in Week 4. Although Lynn didn’t rule out Ekeler, it sounded unlikely early in the week that he would play against the Bills.


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