J.C. Jackson and Mike Williams injured as Seahawks halt Chargers’ winning streak
He hobbled out of the locker room Sunday on an ankle that had been screaming at him since a tackle late in the fourth quarter.
“Brutal,” Austin Ekeler said, and this was the Charger who had just scored two touchdowns and totaled 127 yards from scrimmage.
The rest of Ekeler’s teammates were equally beaten up or — in a couple of very notable cases — even worse, the Chargers falling to Seattle 37-23 at SoFi Stadium.
With a chance stay even with Kansas City in the AFC West and remain half a game behind conference-leading Buffalo, the Chargers fell behind 17-0 in the first quarter, failed to find any consistency and ultimately faded.
Brutal, indeed, for a team that genuinely limped into its off week with its three-game winning streak in tatters and numerous body parts in need of rest — if not repair.
Along with a football game, the Chargers also lost cornerback J.C. Jackson to a knee injury that coach Brandon Staley called “significant” and wide receiver Mike Williams to an ankle injury of unknown severity pending further testing.
“We’ve had to fight really hard to be 4-3,” Staley said. “We’ve endured a lot. … The reason why we’re 4-3 and not 5-2 is because we didn’t play good enough football today. We didn’t coach well enough today.
“What we need to do is get rested, take advantage of the bye and get rested, and then come back, as a team, and really focus on playing the way we’re capable of playing. Today certainly was not it.”
Quarterback Justin Herbert had an interception and a fumble that led to 10 early points for the Seahawks.
The Chargers were unable to rush the ball against the NFL’s 31st-ranked run defense, Staley saying, “We got beat up front.”
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Defensively, the Chargers saw Seattle convert five of nine third-down plays and also gave the Seahawks four more first downs via penalty.
“When you’re a competitor and you lose that way,” linebacker Drue Tranquill said, “it leaves a sick feeling in your stomach.”
After their early 17-point deficit, the Chargers closed to within 17-14 barely five minutes into the second quarter when Herbert connected with Williams for a 13-yard touchdown.
At that point, the afternoon began to assume a familiar feel, the Chargers falling behind 14-0 and 10-0 in their previous two games before rallying to win.
This time, however, the comeback ran dry as their offense bogged to a halt. Following the Williams score, the Chargers punted on five consecutive series before turning the ball over on downs for a sixth straight empty possession.
“We couldn’t run the football,” Staley said. “We didn’t protect the passer very well. So, it’s going to be tough to move the ball and score points. That’s where it started today. …
“The fact is that, at the point of attack, it wasn’t good enough. There wasn’t a lot of room to run the football. We have to do a better job coaching, and we have to do a better job playing. That’s all of us.”
Even with Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley back after sitting out a game because of food poisoning, the Chargers finished with only 53 yards rushing — 31 of which came in the fourth quarter — in 15 carries.
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Herbert was hit eight times, three of which were sacks after taking only seven sacks through the first six games. The Pro Bowl quarterback looked slightly off, even with wide receiver Keenan Allen back.
Allen, who had been out since the second quarter of the season opener because of a hamstring injury, played extensively in the first half but not at all in the second as the Chargers limited his snaps as a precaution.
Herbert finished 33 of 51 for 293 yards and two touchdowns. His interception — No. 4 of the season — came when he attempted to squeeze the ball to DeAndre Carter in tight coverage over the middle.
“I think that our passing game … we have to play with better rhythm and timing,” Staley said. “I think it starts up front. Then, our receivers have to run and get open. We have to play within the rhythm and timing of the play.”
Entering Sunday, the Chargers had won three in a row — two coming on the road at Houston and Cleveland — with performances that were more good enough than flat-out good.
Then they lost to Seattle with another shaky, jarring home effort four weeks after being embarrassed at SoFi Stadium by Jacksonville 38-10.
During a season in which much of the NFL looks mediocre, the Chargers are more than doing their part to contribute to the so-so play.
“The game of football, I don’t believe, is always about who’s the most talented,” defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day said. “If that was the case, we would have won. Sometimes, I think it’s just about the details and the grit and the fight.
“We have the grit. We have the fight. Right now, it’s the details. We have great people on this team, great guys. We’ve just gotta put it all together. We haven’t done that yet.”
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