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5 Takeaways: Chargers Searching for 4th-Quarter Answers


The Chargers are 4-7 after Sunday night's 20-10 loss to the Ravens.

Here are five takeaways from Week 12:

1. Missed chances late

The Bolts Week 12 game won't go down as a one-score result, not after a late Ravens touchdown pushed the margin to 10 points.

But Sunday night's contest at SoFi Stadium sure felt like a tight affair, especially for the majority of the fourth quarter on national television.

Yet it was a familiar final result for the Chargers, who couldn't make enough plays down the stretch to come away with a win.

"It hasn't happened here. It's, obviously, a fair question," Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said postgame about tight ballgames. "I think that we have the players who have the makeup and the mindset, it just hasn't come together as a football team yet. It, obviously, starts with me. I'm fully responsible.

"But, we need to hang in there. As long as we keep after it the way that we have, coming to the practice field, coming to the meetings the right way, then we'll get the quality that we're after," Staley added.

Keenan Allen added: "Very frustrating. But I mean it's the NFL. They were the No. 1 team [in the AFC] and we gave them a dogfight. That's not an excuse or anything that I'm proud of … but that just shows you how close the league is."

The Chargers trailed by seven points at halftime and eventually cut the deficit to a field goal a little before the midway point in the fourth quarter.

The Bolts then had their opening after Baltimore missed a 44-yard field goal.

A Chargers field goal would tie the game while a late touchdown might mean a close win.

But the Bolts fell short as the offense turned the ball over on downs. The defense then gave up a 37-yard rushing touchdown on Baltimore's longest play of the game.

"At the end of the day, it's always frustrating when you lose," Morgan Fox said. "Especially when you look at yourself and you realize we got to go up and make a stop to win the game.

"We always want the pressure to go on us and it's real frustrating when we can't get it done," Fox added.

All of the sudden, a close game was widened to double digits in the blink of an eye.

"It's normal frustration. We put a lot of time and effort into this," said right tackle Trey Pipkins III. "We just have to make sure we execute in crucial moments in the game."

The missed chances Sunday night echo games against the Dolphins, Titans, Cowboys and Packers — all losses where the Bolts were right in the mix in the final minutes.

The Chargers will now turn their attention to a Week 13 road date against the Patriots.

With the Bolts at 4-7, they know it's now or never in terms of getting hot to chase a playoff spot.

"Our focus is on beating New England. That's what our focus needs to be," Staley said. "The AFC is wide open. It will be to the end, like it has been.

"The only way that we're going to have a shot is if we beat New England, and that's where our focus needs to go right now," Staley added.

Pipkins added: "We just have to keep looking forward and do what we can to get on a run here. It starts with one win and hopefully we can get on a run after that."

Derwin James, Jr. added: "Everyone's frustrated, everyone is disappointed… but like I said we have six more, whatever it is. We got to finish them all out and finish them strong."

Browse through live action photos of the Bolts Week 12 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football at SoFi Stadium.

2. Bolts lose turnover battle

Through the Chargers first eight games of the season, they were among the league's best teams when it came to turnover differential.

That script has flipped.

While the Bolts lost the turnover battle 1-0 in recent losses to the Lions and Packers, Sunday night was magnified as the Chargers turned the ball over four times and didn't create any takeaways.

"That was certainly the difference in the game, and it usually is in the NFL," Staley said. "When you turn the ball over four times and don't get any, your chances of winning aren't very good."

The Chargers turnover struggles were highlighted late in the first half when the offense gave the ball away on three straight possessions before halftime.

Down 7-3, Allen fumbled in his own territory as the Ravens took over at the Chargers 34.

That led to a Ravens field goal, but the Chargers ensuing drive lasted just two plays before Ekeler lost a fumble as well.

"They attacked the ball well. You see in mine, went straight for the ball as soon as I caught it," Allen said. "Ekeler … same thing. That's two guys you want with the ball on our team and we came up short."

Although Baltimore turned the ball over on downs, Herbert's final Hail Mary pass of the half was intercepted.

"We had too many turnovers. We got to make sure we're holding on to the ball," Ekeler said. "Whether it's catching the ball or not giving it up, you can't cough it up. I think we were hurting ourselves.

"Whether it was me not making a play or breaking a tackle, falling forward for a yard, it's really all I can speak on that," Ekeler added. "I've got to make sure that I'm putting myself in a position to help this team."

Justin Herbert also lost a strip-sack in the red zone early in the fourth quarter. The Chargers had put together a 19-play drive and were in field goal range but fumble marked the Bolts fourth turnover of the game.

"It's tough to win football games when you turn the ball over that many times," Herbert said. "We have to do a better job, as an offense, and I have to do a better job of protecting the ball, not turning the ball over like that. It's really tough to win games like that."

Defensively, the Chargers couldn't come up with a takeaway for the third consecutive game.

"Sometimes it's the bounce of the ball but being more intentional when we're making tackles, coming through to get the ball out, when you get a sack try to strip it," Fox said. "I think we do a pretty good job … trying to get the ball out.

"But we got to make the plays," Fox added. "We had the opportunities to get big turnovers and we just didn't do it."

Staley said: "When it becomes a defensive game, you have to get one more stop, and we didn't do that. We played well, but it wasn't good enough."

3. Defense shows improvement

Sunday night was a step in the right direction for the Bolts defense.

After back-to-back rough outings, the unit responded by limiting the Ravens to just 20 points, which was Baltimore's third-fewest tally of the season.

"I feel like we came out strong, everybody was executing," James said. "We didn't get the turnovers that we wanted, but I feel like overall as a defense, to be able to play a team like that that averages 30 points a game, I feel like we did a good job."

The Bolts went with some fresh faces in their secondary as Deane Leonard started at outside cornerback in place of Michael Davis.

Essang Bassey moved into prominent role as a slot cornerback while Jaylinn Hawkins came on the field in three-safety packages.

"I thought that our guys played at a high level," Staley said. "That team had scored 30 points for five games in a row and the had 13 points there until the very end.

"Our guys played at a high level tonight. They were up for the challenge," Staley said. "We need to build off of this."

The Ravens converted just four of 13 tries on third downs and were also one of three on fourth downs.

4. Offense struggles with consistency

It was an off night for the Bolts offense as the unit compiled a season-low in points.

The 279 total yards generated by the offense came in as the third-lowest total of the season to date.

Herbert was sacked three times and pressured on numerous other drop backs against a stout Ravens defense.

"I thought that we had a good plan. It's up to us to execute, and we didn't today," Herbert said. "I have to do a better job up front, at the line of scrimmage, of making those checks and correcting the protections. I didn't do that today and it cost us."

The Bolts knew the tall task that awaited against a Baltimore defense that entered leading the league in sacks.

"They have a lot of known rushers. They have DBs and linebackers who can rush," Staley said. "They have interior pass rush, edge rush. They're a very complete unit.

"They played the way that they have played all season, so there weren't any surprises out there," Staley added. "We just didn't execute well enough tonight."

Herbert completed 29 of 44 passes for 217 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

He also ran for a team-high 47 yards, with his 35-yard scramble going down as the Chargers longest play from scrimmage.

Outside of Herbert, Chargers running backs accounted for just 40 yards on 13 carries.

The Bolts also failed to score an offensive touchdown in the first half for the first time all season.

5. The late hit on Herbert

The Bolts opening drive looked promising before it was derailed by a questionable non-call.

On second-and-9 from the Ravens 11-yard line, Herbert scrambled to his right and picked up five yards before stepping out of bounds.

He appeared to be hit late but no flag was thrown. The Chargers offensive line, incensed over the hit, charged over to defend their quarterback.

Jamaree Salyer was whistled for a dead-ball personal foul which made it third-and-19 from the 21.

The Chargers had to settle for a field goal and missed a chance to take an early 7-0 lead.

After the game, Staley said he had "no comment" on the play when asked about it.

Pipkins gave his view of the sequence.

"We were all looking at him run the ball," Pipkins said. "It seemed like he was out of bounds. I think we reacted appropriately."

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