The Los Angeles Chargers exist on a cycle. A cycle of constant hope, excitement, then a disappointing trek down to reality, depression, then apathy. Take this year for example. The team added an exciting new offensive coordinator in Kellen Moore, finally got defensive stalwarts Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack fully healthy, and finally appeared to have enough to assert themselves at the top of the AFC.
Through two weeks, the sobering journey to reality is already starting. The Chargers are 0-2 and coming off an overtime loss to a Tennessee Titans team that looked offensively moribund. Los Angeles has also found ways to lose despite having what seemingly is one of the most efficient offenses in the entire league thus far:
Top-5 offenses based on success rate (less weight on turnovers and explosive plays) through two weeks before MNF:
29. Panthers (1 game)
— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) September 18, 2023
Even more embarrassing is the fact that of all the teams to lose in the ways the Chargers have to begin the season, none of them have been as good on paper as this team has been. It’s not only losing at this point, but the Chargers are a meme in itself, and when given an opportunity to defeat the meme, Chargering becomes stronger and stronger:
The Chargers are the 33rd team in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) with 50+ points and 0 turnovers through 2 games
They are the only team to start 0-2
— Doug Clawson (@doug_clawson) September 17, 2023
However, the patience is wearing thin, especially at the top of the chain. Moore was brought in to change the offense and make it more efficient, and that has been true. The offense looks different and through two games, and for the better on occasion. Through two weeks they’ve been more efficient on the ground and not everything has been so constrained, unlike the offense under Joe Lombardi. However, this team goes off a cliff in the fourth quarter, inexplicably. In Sunday’s loss, the Titans were able to control the line of scrimmage, making it extremely difficult for them to generate any easy offense. Herbert also wasn’t the best in that quarter, with the offense becoming one-dimensional and so vertical that it created inefficiencies the Titans took advantage of:
UPDATE: Update: #Chargers Justin Herbert had FOUR straight possessions to win this game in the 4th quarter/OT with a TD:
Possession 1: Punt
Possession 2: Punt
Possession 3: FG
Possession 4 (OT): Punt
— Dan W. (@DanWSports) September 17, 2023
However, we have got to talk about the defense. The side of the ball that head coach Brandon Staley is an expert on. Because through two games, they’ve been extremely poor in both the run game and the passing game. In Week 1, the Dolphins threw for 466 yards in a 36-34 victory over the Chargers, but that can be excused because the Dolphins look like the best offense in the NFL right now. Against Tennessee, though, they looked out of place again in the passing game, allowing multiple big plays in the secondary despite sacking Ryan Tannehill five times. The Chargers allowed two passing plays of over 50 yards downfield, allowing the Titans to be explosive in ways they just weren’t projected to be this season.
Eventually, someone has to pay the bill for all the stock being thrown in the Chargers year over year. Last year it was OC Joe Lombardi, but the way things are looking now, the defense and fourth quarter meltdowns seem to be the problems, and that comes back to one man: head coach Brandon Staley. Staley designed this defense to limit explosive plays passing, but through two games this year, the Chargers defense has done everything but that. It’s a problem when you’re constantly putting your QB in the position to have to play hero ball because a defense (one that has multiple high draft picks and big money guys on it by the way) is struggling to defend the pass. It’s a fools’ game to say the Chargers are done after two games in the season, but it’s not looking pretty on the side of the ball Staley said he was going to fix. The team has talent yes, but they’re thin and still susceptible to major coverage busts, which goes back to coaching. The fourth quarter blown leads and poor play comes back to poor preparation and failure to adjust, and that lies on the man wearing the headset.
Again, it’s very early in the season, and the Chargers could end up fine. However, Brandon Staley needs to figure it out with this defense, or the Chargers will move on from him quicker than a bolt of lightning.