By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

Following their Sunday night defense of their home field. The Los Angeles Chargers would travel to Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday to take on the Denver Broncos. Not only would the Chargers have the issue of playing their division rival. This game would also be a match-up, of the pupil vs. the teacher as Chargers HC Brandon Staley previously coached under Broncos head coach Vic Fangio. Making this the classic mentee vs. mentor game. that being the case, Chargers Staley was also openly appreciative of Fangio for giving him, a young division III coach, an opportunity to coach in the National Football League. 

“Vic means a lot to me! As much as anybody in the NFL that I’ve been able to work with. He’s made a huge impact on the way I coach, the way I view the game.” Staley reflected this past week. “Consistency and performance. I was a Division III assistant coach. For one of the best coaches of the last 30 years to see something in you and to take that chance on you when so many others wouldn’t, in a place like Chicago that’s known for defense, to be able to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to hire this guy that no one’s ever heard of to coach the position that I coach.’ He’s an outside rusher coach, so I always took that seriously!” Staley added this past week, in the lead-up to their matchup with the coach that he respects for giving him an opportunity.

Though the Chargers beat a formidable Steelers team last week, they would be looking the put together consecutive wins for the first time since weeks four and five of this season. However, they would have to do so without their starting left Guard Matt Feiler, who would be out with an ankle injury. After he’s started each game of this season. The Chargers would also be without Safety Alohi Gilman (Quadricep) and rookie Cornerback Asante Samuels Jr. (Concussion).  

The Chargers opened the game up with back-to-back three and outs, which did not allow the offense to get into any rhythm. They also allowed the Broncos to go up 14-0, before Austin Ekeler took a Justin Herbert pass into the endzone, just before the half. Teddy Bridgewater led the Broncos to a touchdown early in the fourth quarter which was followed up by a 70-yard Patrick Surtain interception return that bounced of the hands of the aforementioned, Ekeler.

Coach Staley said post-game, “the way we played offensively in the first half was more reflective of our defense in the first half. We put them in some tough spots – they start the game on the one-yard line, and then we didn’t convert that third-and-three early in the game. Then we went turnover on downs on our third possession and then another punt. I just felt like we had a lot to do on defense. Our side of things had a lot to do with our offensive rhythm in the first half. Then in the second half, we played a lot more like we’re capable of. But, you know, we had far too many penalties today. I think penalties had a lot to do with our offensive flow and rhythm.”

Coach Staley would add, “We had a chance to make winning plays today, and we didn’t make enough of them, and I think we’ll learn a lot from this film. It’s not going to be as bad as it seems right now—it won’t be. I just didn’t feel like we had our best stuff today.”

By accumulating nine penalties for 75 yards against the Broncos, those penalties played a factor in another loss for the Chargers. For the third straight game, they amassed seven or more penalties for fifty or more yards. Causing their starting quarterback to admit, “Too many penalties. We can’t overcome them all and we have to be better at that this week. You can have all these penalties and expect to win.”

After holding their past two opponents under 3.5 yards per carry they allowed the Broncos to run for 4.5 yards per carry on Sunday. Which they have done in seven games this season, leading to their 32nd ranking of 32 in rushing yards allowed per game. Additionally, they are ranked 29th in yards per carry and 30th, out of 32, in touchdowns allowed this season.

Even after this loss, all is not lost for the Chargers this season. They are currently second in the division and clinging onto the final playoff spot in the AFC. Their final six opponents on the schedule have a combined record of 32 wins and 34 losses this season, and they still had some record achievements again yesterday.

Chargers’ second-year quarterback Justin Herbert threw for over 300 yards for the 14th time in his young career. He also became the second-fastest quarterback to pass for 7,500 yards, doing so in 26 games. Against the Broncos, Herbert also became the franchise leading rusher as he finished the game with four carries for 32 yards.

Austin Ekeler’s 12-yard touchdown catch and run in the second quarter gave him seven receiving scores on the season. His seven touchdown runs and seven touchdown catches mark only the fifth time in NFL history a player has done so through their team’s first 11 games of a season. His 31 rushing yards and 68 receiving yards put him over 1,000 yards from scrimmage this season and 5,000 for his career. Ekeler becomes only the third undrafted player in the common draft era to eclipse 5,000 scrimmage yards in his first five seasons.

Against the Broncos, the Chargers’ wide receiver Keenan Allen reached 700-catches in his career. By accomplishing this in 111 games, he ties Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown as the fastest to do so in NFL history. The Chargers All-Pro player Joey Bosa also resets the standard for his peers as he leads the NFL with four strip-sacks on the season. In keeping with achievements, All-Pro Safety Derwin James needed one interception to reach five for his career. He became just the fifth defensive back to have five sacks, five interceptions, and three forced fumbles through the first 35 games of a career; since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

I expect that the Chargers will cure their penalty ills before the season ends. However, they have been inconsistent at best at stopping their opponents rushing attack on the season. Though oddly enough, they have shown some improvement in recent weeks by holding opponents to 3.6 yards a carry in three of the past four weeks. Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill would say earlier in the week, “no one wanted to be sitting at 32. We wanted to continue working from this point to get better. I think that the biggest part of it was that everybody was buying into getting this fixed. We didn’t want to brush over the week, even though we were sitting in a good spot, as far as the record went. We knew that we had a lot of work to do. I think that everybody did a good job of attacking it and understanding that we had issues that needed to be fixed. It was just getting everybody on the same page.”

It looks like they need to revisit the penalties and focus on stopping the run. Whether it’s the scheme or the player’s not playing aggressively enough? I expect Coach Staley to address these issues moving in the final six weeks of the season. Kindly share your thoughts on what is holding the Chargers back this season by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or email me at info@whatsgoodinsports.com. I encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics, angles, or players on this Los Angeles Chargers team you would like to read about this season.

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