INGLEWOOD, Calif. — It is always something with the Chargers. In the last few weeks, their losses came because the defense couldn’t step up to the plate and help the offense.
Sunday night, it was the offense that couldn’t get it going after the defense held the high-powered Ravens offense to 13 points for most of the night.
They ended up losing 20-10 to the first-seed Baltimore Ravens. The last time they were held to ten points or under was last season in week three against Jacksonville.
“I thought that our guys played at a high level,” Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said. “That team had scored 30 points for five or six games in a row, and they had 13 points there until the very end.”
The reason why this team lost wasn’t because of Staley’s defense; even though they could have been better, it wasn’t on them.
They managed to hold Baltimore’s offense to a 4th-and-1 situation with 3:02 left in the game. Oddly enough, John Harbaugh elected to kick a field goal and put his team up 16-10 instead of going for it.
His offense had missed on a previous 4th down play, but it was a wildcat that they decided to run with running back Gus Edwards instead of Lamar Jackson.
Justin Tucker missed a 44-yard field goal, which is rare for him. The Chargers got the ball back with 2:57 left in the game.
Justin Herbert faced a 4th-and-6; when he snapped the ball, cornerback Arthur Maulet immediately hit the Chargers quarterback. All he could do was throw the ball into the ground.
“The nickel came, and I didn’t do a good enough of moving, getting off the spot and creating a lane to throw,” Herbert said. “We had kind of seen it, we knew that they were going to bring it, and we just didn’t execute.”
That turnover on downs cost them when Zay Flowers took a handoff 37 yards to put the game out of reach.
What happened on Sunday against Baltimore on that fourth down has happened multiple times this season. Late in games, when the Chargers offense has the ball to try to tie or win, the opposing defense dials up a blitz.
The Chargers’ offensive line has taken a step back, especially with center Corey Linsley out, but it is the next-man-up mentality. The line gave up big sacks against Miami, Titans, Lions, Packers, and now the Ravens.
Late-game two-minute drive struggles are why the Chargers are not 7-4 but instead 4-7. There are many other reasons, but this is about the inconsistencies.
One side plays well, like against the Lions. Herbert and the offense score a touchdown on their last five offensive drives, and the defense can’t stop Jared Goff and the Lions rushing attack.
“We didn’t pick it up well enough and make the right timing with the route and the quarterback,” Staley said. “Credit to Baltimore, they made the winning plays tonight.”
The winning play Staley is talking about is how the Ravens truly fly toward the ball. Multiple times, two Ravens would tackle one player, with one defender securing the tackle and the other trying to rip the ball out.
It happened to Keenan Allen on 2nd-and-7 with 3:42 left before the half when Roquan Smith and Jadeveon Clowney crushed him. Smith ripped the ball out of his hands, and Baltimore turned it into three points.
During the next offensive drive, Herbert hits Austin Ekeler, who is met almost instantly by Patrick Queen. The Ravens linebacker yanked the ball out and recovered by Baltimore. His second fumble was lost in the last two weeks.
Herbert had his offense in the red zone after a 19-play drive when he faced 3rd-and-14 when Clowney hit him. The ball slipped out of his hands, and Baltimore recovered.
“When you turn the ball over three times against a team like that, a team that is the number one team in the AFC, it’s going to be really tough for you to win,” Staley said.
The Chargers offense gave up points and left points on the field. That is a recipe for disaster.
This team has shown the ability to go toe-to-toe against any team all season but hasn’t developed that killer instinct to put teams away.
“We still had a chance there at the end of the game, to go down and take the lead or tie the game up, and we fell short,” Allen said.
The defense still gave up some big chunk plays, but they looked more composed with the moves he made on defense, which is staring Deane Leonard in Michael Davis’ spot. He also included safety Jaylinn Hawkins and cornerback Essang Bassey at star.
They gave up two touchdowns to Zay Flowers, while Quentin Johnston had one catch and held out most of the fourth quarter.
At 4-7, they aren’t mathematically eliminated, but they have a lot of work to do, and they can’t afford to have any more mistakes moving forward.
“We’re going to have to put this one behind us after tomorrow and get on to New England,” Staley said.