Los Angeles Chargers: Top 5 takeaways from a confusing outing in Denver

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 11: Quarterback Philip Rivers
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 11: Quarterback Philip Rivers /

The Los Angeles Chargers came up short in Denver. Let’s talk about this game and what we can learn for playing the Dolphins in L.A. next week.

24. 45. . 21. 13

The Chargers are a never-ending roller coaster of “What the hell is going on?” so I’ll try to break it down here as succinctly as possible. It’s obviously a very disappointing result after coming back in the fourth quarter, but I think based on the fourth quarter, there’s a lot of positives you could take from the game. The rest of the game… I’ll get to that.

1. We need to have a more balanced rushing and passing attack

The Chargers ran the ball well in the first quarter. Melvin Gordon started the drive off with a bang for a 20-yard run. Then, as most Chargers fans will probably selectively remember from this game, he flips his way into the end zone for a big score on a pass from Philip Rivers. After that, the offense crashed entirely.

The Chargers tried running the ball with Gordon on first and second downs on ensuing drives, then forced Rivers to throw on third-and-8 or third-and-7 to try to convert. I understand that head coach Anthony Lynn wants to put more of an emphasis on the running game, but we can’t play so conservatively if Gordon is getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage play after play. Also, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that once the Chargers started airing it out in the fourth quarter down 17, they were able to score two quick TD’s to Travis Benjamin and Keenan Allen.

This comes from a guy who loves Melvin Gordon. I think he’s a breakout talent who’s really developed in the last year or so. But when he’s getting stuffed at the line for multiple drives in a row, you have to change the game plan, especially when you have a quarterback like Rivers.

2. Tackling Trevor Siemian really shouldn’t be this hard

I laughed a little when Rex Ryan questioned, “Is that Trevor Siemian or Michael Vick?” during the telecast. But to answer his question, Trevor Siemian obviously is not Michael Vick. The way that he got out of the Chargers’ pass rush play after play by scrambling was sickening. I don’t even want to bring up the juke move on Joey Bosa. It was gross.

It’s not bad for Siemian to escape the pocket for four or five yards once or twice a game. But the rate at which he was doing it with the success he was having looked really bad for the Chargers. The Chargers had issues with tackling for a lot of the game, and the problems certainly aren’t limited to how they tackled Siemian. But their issues with him were pretty bad, especially for a defense that found ways to pressure him in the Thursday night game last year.

3. Casey Hayward had a bad day at the office

I nearly jumped out of my seat when Casey Hayward had that pick-six in the first quarter, but then he bobbled the football. Hayward is the best corner the Chargers have, but after his dropped pick-six, he got burnt by Demaryius Thomas on a couple of big catches. This is not to put all the blame on Hayward either, as there were problems all around the secondary and defense as a whole. But Hayward seemed so focused last year.

I think about how that game goes differently if Siemian throws a pick-six to start the game. Broncos likely become cautious about throwing it and become a more conservative offense. It’s hard to blame a guy for one play, but that would’ve been a massive game-changer in that position.

4. Where were the tight ends? Did they disappear? 

Antonio Gates was one TD away from franchise and league history. He caught two passes for 17 yards. Hunter Henry, who had a huge game against Denver last year in the Chargers’ win over the Broncos, was left with no catches. The Chargers have easily the best TE unit in the league. It’s not even close.

Ultimately, the Chargers have to use their tight ends to their advantage. If the receivers can’t get open, Henry and Gates have to get open. That’s just the bottom line. They’re both two dynamic weapons that are too good to go virtually unused.

5. Melvin Ingram is proving to be worth the extension

Melvin Ingram had some big pressures on Trevor Siemian and finished with 1.5 sacks on the night. He was probably the best defensive player in the game last night. I’ll be honest, I was initially very hesitant on the extension; but if he can apply pressure to offenses like that play after play and be a dynamic force on the defense, he’s worth all the money we are giving him. He was really what kept us in the game last night.

OVERALL: The Chargers struggled in various aspects of Monday’s game. From missed tackles to a conservative offensive attack, to Siemian looking like Vick in Madden 2004, it was a subpar night all around. But I don’t think it was all bad. Gordon and Ingram played well for a lot of the game, and Allen finally got back into the rotation without getting injured.

While there’s a lot of things to improve upon in the next five days leading up to the Chargers’ home opener vs. Miami, I think they’ll do a good job this week in practice. I expect them to clean up their game for Week 2. I do think it’s a promising sign, however, that the Chargers came within three points of winning after playing far from their best game. The team certainly has talent and potential.

Going into Week 2 vs. Jay Cutler and the Dolphins, I expect the Chargers to clean up their mistakes and come out full force. It’s imperative that the Bolts win this upcoming game with some of their difficult games coming up soon, as well as to avoid the hole of going 0-2 in a competitive AFC West.