It was a close game from the opening kickoff until the final kneel-down. The Chargers hung in tough against the San Francisco 49ers, coming off a bye week and relatively healthy. It was the mistakes that handed the Chargers their fourth loss of the year after a 22-16 result against the 49ers.
The Chargers had numerous opportunities.
They battled against one of the best teams in not only the NFC but in the NFL. Since making the trade for running back Christian McCaffrey, the 49ers are viewed as Super Bowl contenders. It is anyone’s guess if they will live up to the billing.
The Chargers showed the whole country they have fight, but they are missing knockout power. That is what hurt them on Sunday night.
“I really loved the way our team competed,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “We didn’t execute perfectly all the time. I think that we’ll learn from that we had some opportunities in the first half to score the ball after the takeaways after the punt block. We’re going to learn from that. But our team competed tonight. We make no excuses for anything injury wise.”
Here are some takeaways:
- This offense misses Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.
This might be the biggest “DUH!” takeaway, but it is true. The Chargers offense is barely holding on while Allen nurses his hamstring injury and Williams an ankle injury. Williams told NBC’s Melissa Starks he is ahead of schedule and will try to play next Sunday.
This offense could use a spark because it is not clicking at the moment.
The Chargers offense ran 19 plays in the second half…19! They couldn’t score any points in the second half, and the closest they got to the red zone was the San Francisco 44-yard line on their opening drive of the second half.
“I thought that they did a good job against the run in the second half, we just couldn’t get anything going in the run game,” Staley explained. “Then in the passing game, it was tight. The rush was coming. There wasn’t a lot of error in the second and third level to take advantage of we had a couple guys open, but there was pressure.”
They have Justin Herbert as the quarterback, who showed in the first half what he could do with time and weapons that can get open.
The play calling was also strange in the second half, with numerous runs up the middle that weren’t working. On their third to last drive, they tried a jet sweep with DeAndre Carter that Nick Bosa sniffed out and tackled him for a six-yard loss.
“We’re just making sure those rushers don’t tee off,” Staley said. “You gotta change pace against them because if it just becomes a drop back game, that’s when all the risk is in the plan against the team like that. As long as it was close, we wanted to force those guys to play things straight up.”
There is no offensive creativity because it is missing Allen and Williams.
2. Too many mistakes in the red zone.
This will be quick, but the Chargers are committing too many errors in the red zone. The game quickly could have gone 20-6 or maybe more into halftime.
After the Asante Samuel Jr. fumble recovery, they go three and out on offense to follow up with a Cameron Dicker field goal.
On their fifth drive, from the San Francisco 35-yard line on first down, tight end Tre’ McKitty ran a seam route, and Herbert threw him a nice pass, but he dropped it. He would have probably walked into the end zone.
On the next play, Herbert threw a dime to DeAndre Carter for a 33-yard gain, and it got the ball to the two-yard line. On second and goal, there was a false start penalty on right tackle Foster Sarell, and that drive ended in a field goal.
“We had our opportunities,” Herbert said. “I thought the defense played great all day, they got some big stops. We, unfortunately, fell short. We didn’t execute when we needed to on third down.”
The Chargers needed to take advantage of those opportunities and score touchdowns.
3. Defense gave up yards but kept points down.
The Chargers defense doesn’t get a pass for tonight’s loss, but they weren’t as big of an issue because they held their own in crucial moments.
The 49ers, on three separate occasions, had the ball on the Chargers two-yard line with a first down. The defense was able to turn all three into field goals. They did give up two rushing touchdowns, but for a defense that gives up 25.3 points a game, this was good.
The defense let other players beat them. Running back Christian McCaffrey, receiver Deebo Samuel, and tight end George Kittle are the headliners, but they didn’t do the damage that Elijah Mitchell, Brandon Ayiuk, and Jauan Jennings had on Sunday night.
The headlining trio touched the ball 24 times for 149 yards, while the other had 28 touches for 213 yards. All six players were tough to contain.
That is why the 49ers scoring only 19 points with all the firepower they have is impressive. The defense also couldn’t stop the 49ers on third down, going 9 for 17.
The defense did lose two more defensive linemen, but they let the 49ers offense stay on the field way too long. Jimmy G had the ball for over 36 minutes. That is why they moved the ball up and down the field.
This can’t happen next Sunday against Kansas City. Things need to change.
“It was a very tough fought loss tonight, but as soon as we get back on the plane, we’re going to watch the film, and we’re going to turn our attention to our next opponent, and they’re a really good football team as well,” Herbert said. “So, it’s a quick turnaround, but got to keep getting after.”