The Chargers have looked outstanding all season long and entered Week 11 having beaten six teams in a row in convincing fashion.
On Sunday, the Bolts beat themselves.
No disrespect to the Denver Broncos, who made the plays they had to in order to escape ROKiT Field at StubHub Center with 23-22 victory on a last-second field goal. But the Chargers seemingly did everything in their power to cost themselves the game.
"Today, we lost that one," Head Coach Anthony Lynn said. "Not to take anything away from the Broncos, that team was ready to play…14 penalties for 120 yards? You have to be kidding me. Those are things we've stayed away from (all year); penalties and turnovers. But they showed up today for whatever reason. I don't know. We'll figure it out there."
"When you make some of the errors we made today in critical moments, you open yourselves up to get beat, and that's what happened today," added Philip Rivers. "(We) had every opportunity to close it out and we just didn't get it done."
It's nearly impossible to win in this day and age when committing the amount of penalties the Chargers did on Sunday. Even worse, they happened at the worst times. Several on offense stalled the Bolts' drives early, forcing them to settle for field goals. Meanwhile, the defense also did themselves in with untimely flags, such as a defensive holding call late in the fourth quarter when Adrian Phillips came up with a huge interception.
However, the team's sloppy play wasn't limited to just penalties.
There were so many mental miscues on the day that the Bolts looked nothing like the team we've seen for much of 2018. Perhaps the most egregious error came on 2nd-and-3 with just over two minutes left in the game. All the Bolts needed was a first down to seal the win, yet Melvin Gordon misheard the play, running the opposite direction of Philip Rivers, who was forced to take a four-yard loss.
"I went the wrong way," a dejected Gordon said after the game. "Ain't no excuses for it. It's the down to go get it and win the game. You just can't make that mistake, and I did today, and I just need to learn from it."
The Bolts also turned the ball over twice while not registering a single takeaway. The turning point in the game was Von Miller's interception off Philip Rivers with the Bolts ahead 19-6. Number 17 felt midway through the third quarter that the game was about to be get blown wide open.
"That spun the whole game," Rivers said. "It was about to be a blowout, and he made that play, and then it's a touchdown and then all of a sudden they made it a game."
If you simply look at the box score, you'd assume that Chargers ran away with the win. Philip Rivers admitted as much, which further shines how the Bolts beat themselves with self-inflected wounds.
The quarterback completed 28-of-43 attempts for 402 yards and two touchdowns. Antonio Gates turned back the clock, hauling in five passes for 80 yards and one touchdown while coming through in the clutch on third down. Meanwhile, Melvin Gordon continued to do it all for the Bolts, amassing 156 yards from scrimmage, while Keenan Allen caught nine passes for 89 yards and another touchdown.
On defense, they held Denver to just 3-of-11 efficiency on third down while limiting them to just 217 yards through the air.
Instead, the team's sloppy play left the door wide open for Denver, keeping the Broncos in the game until the very end where they eventually won it at the buzzer.
"We just made too many mistakes," said Mike Pouncey. "We had too many penalties in the first half. In the second half, we had a lot of mental errors. We gave this team the opportunity to stick around at the very end of the game and left too much time on the clock. We had the final drive and we should've just put them out. We should've never let our defense get back on the field and that's what happens whenever you give an NFL team a chance. They went right down the field and scored. It sucks man, because it felt like we dominated pretty much the whole game, even though we had a lot of mistakes. We could play a lot better, but look at the time of possession, the yardage. You aren't supposed to lose these kinds of games, but you lose these kinds of games when you do what we did at the very end."
Thus, you can understand why the Chargers' locker room was even more angry and frustrated than usual following a loss.
"Penalties, turnovers, not making a play at the end of the game," said an aggravated Keenan Allen. "We dominated the game. (But) turnovers, (we) gave them some points and that's what happened… It's tough, but once again, we shouldn't even be in the situation that we're in. Going back to all six of the games we've won before this, we shouldn't ever be in the position that we're in."
"We just played sloppy football today," Gordon added. "Eventually like Coach said, 'You play sloppy football, it's going to catch up to you.' Today, it did."