Here are five top lessons learned from the Chargers' 19-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
1. Who Are the Bolts? – The majority of NFL teams will lose back-to-back games at some point in the season. However, there's a certain stigma attached when those consecutive defeats come in the first two games. The fact that the Bolts could just as easily be 2-0 is of little comfort. All that matters is that they sit at 0-2 following the first two games of the 2017 season. Thus, the Chargers enter Week 3 at an early crossroads. What type of team are they? Are they truly the resilient group of men they believe themselves to be, showing the mental fortitude to right the ship? Fourteen games still remain, which is an eternity in the NFL. Yet, as Philip Rivers explains, the team is about to find out who they really are:
"It's really simple. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. You find out about our group, what we always talk about, the tightness, the toughness, the character of our group. It's times like these that it gets tested. We've got a division opponent coming here next week that is not going to have any sympathy for us for losing two tough ones down at the buzzer. We can be sick about it for a little while, but we'd better get ready to go."
2. Run Defense Must Improve in a Hurry… – The Chargers struggled to contain Jay Ajayi, as the third-year running back carried the rock 28 times for 122 yards (4.4 ypg). Through the first two games, L.A. has surrendered the seventh most yards per game (125.0), and the task won't get any easier next week when the Chiefs come to town. Kansas City ranks second in the NFL in yards per game (148.5), boasting the league's leading rusher in Kareem Hunt (229 yards). Melvin Ingram is one of the leaders of the Bolts' defense, and he succinctly summed up the team's attitude:
"We have to take our losses with a grain of salt and we have to learn from them. No matter how you see it, we have to learn from them. It doesn't matter if the Chiefs are coming. We can't worry about any of that. We have to get in the classroom, see what our mistakes were, correct them and get ready."
3. …And So Does Special Teams – A pair of missed field goals pushed wide right. A blocked punt. A penalty on a kickoff return at a critical juncture, starting a drive at the six-yard line. A 40-yard punt late in the game returned for 15 yards. Overall, a litany of special teams miscues added up to cost the Bolts in the end. The most notable were the missed field goals by Younghoe Koo, which Head Coach Anthony Lynn addressed with reporters:
"He didn't kick well today. He missed two field goals. Last week it wasn't his issue. I thought he kicked fine last week even though he got a kick blocked, but he didn't kick well today so we'll see. We'll see how he responds…. We had a blocked kick (last week) and a blocked punt today. It's not good enough. It's not acceptable. That type of stuff has to be cleaned up."
4. No Time to Be Stubborn – Lynn emphasized a commitment to the run game heading into Week 2. However, against a loaded Dolphins' front led by perennial All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Lynn quickly saw the team was better equipped to move it through the air rather than force it on the ground. As a result, Rivers passed the ball 39 times while the team attempted only 14 rushes. While that isn't the type of balance the team wants going forward, it showed how the offense won't be stubborn if something isn't working during a particular game. Here is what Lynn said, explaining the offensive play calling:
"What I saw early was I saw [Dolphins DT Ndamukong] Suh dominating up front and I got away from that. I think at the end of the day, they averaged five or six yards a carry. I look for run efficiency. If we're running it efficiently, I'll run it again. They were giving us the pass and I thought our receivers and Phil did a good job moving the ball down the field and running whenever we could."
5. Clutch Keenan and Hunter – Keenan Allen came through for the Bolts, hauling in nine of the 10 passes thrown his way for 100 yards. It was the 12th time he reached the century mark, and the first since the 2015 season in Green Bay. Meanwhile, Hunter Henry hauled in all seven passes thrown his way for 80-yards, setting a new career-high in receptions. Overall, Rivers was 16-of-17 for 180 yards when targeting the young pair of playmakers. Still, despite success moving the ball, number 17 summed up how all that matters was that they failed to put the ball in the end zone:
"We moved the ball well. The name of the game was scoring, and we didn't score enough points. We talk about it all the time and it sounds silly, but yeah, score more points than the other team and we haven't done that. We moved the ball well; we didn't turn it over. We've just got to finish some of those drives with touchdowns."