Chargers suffer biggest defeat in franchise history in 45-0 loss to Patriots

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, right, and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen engage in a discussion.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, right, and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen engage in a discussion during the Chargers’ 45-0 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers’ descent into oblivion reached its latest low Sunday with a 45-0 loss to New England at SoFi Stadium.

The margin of defeat was the largest in franchise history and came on a day when the opposing team’s starting quarterback passed for only 69 yards.

The Chargers gave up touchdowns on a punt return and a blocked field goal return. They yielded another when the Patriots’ backup quarterback passed 38 yards to a former cornerback from Division II Bemidji State.


Gunner Olszewski also had the punt return touchdown and, asked afterward if the reception was his first offensive score, said, “Shoot, it probably was.”

A few minutes later, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn called the entire affair “embarrassing.” And more.

“That was one of the worst football games I’ve ever been a part of in my 30 years in the National Football League as a player and a coach,” he said. “It’s not acceptable, and it’s not indicative of the men in that locker room.

The Chargers have struggled on special teams all season but their woes reached a whole new level in their 45-0 loss to the New England Patriots.

Dec. 6, 2020

“I watched closely. Not one guy on that field quit. This team will regroup. They will battle, and we will bounce back. And we will make sure — I know I personally will make sure — that will never happen again.”

The Chargers, who have dropped five of six, fell to 3-9. They are now 8-21 since an AFC wild-card playoff victory over Baltimore in January 2019.

Their season-long special teams meltdown continued with the touchdown returns and the fact that three times they lined up for punts with the wrong number of players on the field. They had 12 once — the penalty allowing New England to convert a fourth down — and 10 twice.


The confusion came a week after the Chargers had a calamitous finish with bungled, nonsensical play calls in a loss at Buffalo, a situation Lynn also labeled “embarrassing.”

In his fourth season with the team, Lynn is 29-31 and overseeing the sort of mistake-repeating operation that typically gets coaches fired.

“That is out of my control,” he said Sunday. “I don’t make that decision.”

Asked directly if he expected to remain in charge Monday, Lynn said, “Yeah, I expect to be the coach of this team tomorrow.”

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn looks from the sideline during Sunday's 45-0 loss.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn looks from the sideline during Sunday’s 45-0 loss to the New England Patriots.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Lynn said he speaks regularly with Dean Spanos and that the team’s owner and chairman shares the emotion he’s feeling.

“He’s frustrated as hell, just like I am right now,” Lynn said. “When I came here, we felt like the first couple years we were getting this thing going in the right direction. The last couple years it just hasn’t been that way. So it’s my job to get this back on the right track. And, if I’m here, I will.”


Going back to last season, the Chargers have dropped 16 of 19 one-score decisions. They’ve lost games this season after having leads of 21, 17, 17 and 11 points.

Then Sunday they crumbled right from the start, falling behind 28-0 by halftime and getting shut out for the first time since November 2014.

“It was disappointing,” Lynn said, when asked what he told his players. “I was more so disappointed in myself than them because I’m in charge.”

Three NFL coaches already have been fired this season. The Chargers haven’t dismissed a head coach in-season since June Jones replaced Kevin Gilbride after six games in 1998.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert tries to escape a tackle during Sunday's game.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

On Lynn’s staff, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has been an NFL head coach, going 14-48 in parts of four seasons in Jacksonville. Quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton most recently was a head coach in the XFL.


Along with their special teams, the Chargers’ offense struggled throughout Sunday. Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert finished 26 of 53 for 209 yards and two interceptions.

The Chargers gained just 258 yards on 71 plays, an average of 3.6 per snap. The only time they moved inside New England’s 30-yard line, Michael Badgley failed on a 46-yard field goal try, his ninth miss of the season.

Despite the huge deficit, Herbert never was pulled, even as the Patriots continued to pressure him. He was sacked three times and officially hit 11 times.

“He’s a young quarterback, and he wanted to be in the game with his teammates,” Lynn said. “They wanted to go down the field and get on the scoreboard.

Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Chargers’ 45-0 loss to the New England Patriots at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.

Dec. 6, 2020

“But, more than that, you gotta learn to play through the rough patches. And you’re going to have some rough patches throughout a season. I don’t want to pull him out when things are getting bad. I want him to play through it and turn things around. That was the main reason.”

Herbert has emerged in his first NFL season as a potential franchise quarterback. As such, Lynn was asked if he felt the need to protect Herbert.


“Absolutely I wanted to protect him,” Lynn said. “But I left him in.”

Herbert said he supported that decision and couldn’t remember what happened on the sideline regarding any discussion about the subject with Lynn.

“It was never a question for us to be out there and give everything we have,” Herbert said. “That’s all we can do. I wouldn’t really be able to live with myself if I quit on those guys.”