The Chargers defense bent but didn't break for most of the game against the Eagles.
Sometimes that's a good thing.
On Sunday, it most definitely was not.
The Bolts allowed the Eagles to march down the field repeatedly, scoring on six of their eight drives before the final series of the game.
"This bend but don't break on defense, that's got to change," a blunt Head Coach Anthony Lynn said after the game.
One week after a standout performance kept the Chargers in the game, the defense couldn't get the critical stop when they needed it. Poor tackling cost the Bolts the most, which is why the Eagles pounded the rock repeatedly. When all was said and done, Philadelphia ran the ball 42 times for 214 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. It's the first time the Chargers surrendered over 200 yards on the ground since the 2015 season.
"We've taken steps to try to fix this," Lynn said. "We work run fits every single day, all day. We have to tackle when we are in position to make a play. Today, I thought there were a lot of missed tackles. That is a physical, power runner over there, so you have to tackle him a certain way. We didn't get that done."
"That's why it's so frustrating," added Kyle Emanuel. "A lot of times we knew they were going to run the ball. They knew that we knew that, and we still couldn't stop it."
Still, the Bolts had a chance to pull out the win in the fourth quarter. The offense caught fire toward the end of the game, led by a rejuvenated passing attack.
Keenan Allen caught five passes for 138 yards, including a 50-yard catch-and-run midway through the fourth quarter on third down. Tyrell Williams also caught five passes, while his were good for 115 yards including a 75-yard touchdown. It was the first time the team had a pair of 100 yard receivers since Week 5 of the 2016 campaign.
Philip Rivers led the team to a pair of fourth quarter touchdown drives. Unfortunately, after each score, the defense failed to get the stop they needed.
Their first chance came after Austin Ekeler's 35-yard TD run on his very first professional carry just a 1:10 into the final frame, cutting the Eagles' lead to 19-17. However, two plays later, LeGarrette Blount broke several tackles as he rumbled 68-yards to the Chargers' three-yard line.
Needing to hold Philly to a field goal, the Bolts committed a pair of penalties, including an illegal hands to the face foul on what would have been a critical third-down sack. Instead, the Eagles got seven cracks inside the L.A. five-yard line, and Wendell Smallwood finally punched it in on 3rd-and-3.
"We just have to learn to do the little things to win these close games," a frustrated Lynn said. "Like when we stopped them three times on third down, and we gave the ball to them on penalties. (Stuff) like that."
Still, the offense responded.
Aided by Keenan Allen's 50-yard catch-and-run, the Bolts marched 75 yards in a span of just 2:30. Rivers found Hunter Henry in the back of the end zone, and the tight end made an acrobatic one-handed snare while tapping both feet in bounds to make it a 26-24 game with 6:44 remaining.
Unfortunately, the offense would never take the field again. The Eagles picked up four first downs to run out the clock, including a trio of third-and-short conversions.
"We have to win on third downs," Melvin Ingram said. "That's what it's about, playing on third downs and winning on third downs. Give our offense the chance to go down there and win again."
Simply put, the defense needs to learn how to rise to the occasion when a big play is needed. Most importantly, they need to improve tackling immediately.
"It's got to start in practice," Emanuel said. "It's hard to rep a live tackle in practice, but it has to start there. We talk about it all the time, (even when) we're not even in pads, every rep is a tackle…. You've got to believe in yourself and you've got to make a tackle. It's easier said than done, but it's something we have to work on."