The LA Chargers are trailing the Carolina Panthers in an ugly fashion.
Man, what an ugly game this has been. The LA Chargers are trailing the Carolina Panthers 18-7 heading into halftime and it very well could be much worse. An 18-7 deficit does not sound that bad but this game easily could be 30-7 if the Panthers converted all of their touchdown chances.
The Chargers started the game in a bad fashion, going three and out but then holding the Panthers to a field goal, which is not bad. Then came a Justin Herbert fumble (and Panthers field goal).
The Chargers scored a touchdown to take the lead and it was all Panthers after that. Carolina drove down and kicked a field goal and then Joshua Kelley fumbled, Damion Square had a really bad penalty on fourth down, allowing the Panthers to forego the field goal for a touchdown.
The Chargers blocked the extra point.
Then the Chargers were in a position to make this a really close game with a great deep pass to Mike Williams — before the refs called an inexcusable offensive pass interference call. Shortly after, Herbert made a rookie mistake, was picked off and the Panthers took it all the way back to the red-zone to kick another field goal.
Here is what needs to improve.
1. Not turning the ball over
The LA Chargers have turned the ball over three times in one half. The Herbert fumble was not entirely his fault as it was knocked loose after Bryan Bulaga completely lost his assignment and allowed him to torch the edge.
The Kelley fumble was really bad and the Herbert interception was the classic rookie quarterback interception where he got locked into the receiver and did not see the defender in his zone.
Simply put: if the LA Chargers commit a single turnover in the second half then I don’t think they can win this game. Period.
2. Better third-down defense
The Chargers defense has done a really good job of keeping Carolina out of the endzone and keeping this game from being really ugly. However, they have not been fantastic on third downs outside of the red zone, allowing the Panthers to convert multiple times and get into field-goal range.
3. Use Austin Ekeler more
Austin Ekeler should be the horse in the second half that leads the Chargers back to victory. Ekeler has 45 yards on eight carries (with a touchdown) to go with 43 receiving yards on three receptions.
It is clear that the Panthers cannot keep up with Ekeler. Let him take over this game. Sorry to Kelley and Herbert, but it must be Ekeler time.