Here are five top lessons learned from the Chargers' 26-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles:
1. Run D Must Improve in a Hurry – Much talk in the locker room following the game was the team's inability to stuff the run. The Bolts entered the game ranked second to last in yards allowed, and the Eagles took advantage, pounding the rock 42 times for 214 yards, averaging 5.1 ypc. LeGarrette Blount led the way with 16 totes for 136 yards (8.5 ypc). As Kyle Emanuel explained after the game, most alarming was the team's inability to make a stop when they knew the run was coming:
"That's why it's so frustrating. 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."
2. Poor Tackling Trend Continues – A major reason why the Eagles were able to run over the Bolts was due to the defense's poor tackling. It's been a trend over the first three games of the year, but really bit the Bolts against the Eagles. Take Blount's 68-yard run in the fourth quarter. The Chargers had just made it a two-point game when the running back broke through several tackles, rumbling all the way down to the L.A. three-yard line. Philadelphia was also able to convert several third-and-shorts by breaking tackles and getting the extra yards needed. After the game, Head Coach Anthony Lynn stressed a need to improve tackling fundamentals:
"We've taken steps to try to fix this. 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….You still can work the fundamentals and technique of tackling. We still can do that at practice. Tackling is an attitude. It is a mindset. Sometimes (when) people tackle, they really want to tackle."
3. Revitalized Passing Game – A bright spot for the Bolts was the revitalized passing attack led by Philip Rivers. Number 17 bounced back with a 22-for-38 day, completing passes to nine different receivers for 347 yards, two touchdowns and no picks for a 105.9 passer rating. The team had two players record over 100-yards receiving in the same game for the first time since Week 5 of the 2016 campaign in Tyrell Williams and Keenan Allen. Williams caught five passes for 115 yards and a 75-yard TD while Allen hauled in five balls for 138 yards. KA13 also had receptions for 50 and 49 yards. However, while pleased with the bounce back performance, Rivers was focused on the final score rather than individual stats:
"A lot of (good) chunks. I just briefly saw the numbers and the numbers don't matter, just the number on the scoreboard. Obviously too many incompletions and we had the one turnover, but there's a lot of yards out there and a lot of chunk plays. We've just got to find a way to finish some of those drives to be more consistent and score more points. I know I'm saying the same old thing, but I just don't see anything that's just, 'this is the area and if they just fix that, we'll be good.' It's a matter of finding a way to score. In two games now—you lose by two, you lose by three, you lose by two—you're right there. The flip side is, if we find a way to win any of those three, they're asking the other team the same questions. I understand that, and we've just got to find a way to do it."
4. Ekeler Stands Out – Another standout player was undrafted rookie Austin Ekeler. The running back took his first NFL carry 35-yards to the house in the fourth quarter, showing good vision and burst to reach the end zone. As the team looks to inject playmaking ability on offense, Lynn said to expect more of Ekeler moving forward:
"We wanted to get him in the game and see what he could do, and he is a productive runner. He was productive all preseason and it didn't matter what group we put him in with, he moved the chains."
5. One Quarter Down, Three to Go – One fact is more meaningful than any other at this point of the season – the Chargers are 0-4. That reality was hard to fathom inside the locker room following another close loss. Two of the team's defeats came by two points, while another was by a field goal. Add in Week 3's loss which was a seven-point game until the final minute of play and the Bolts know they've let opportunities slip through their fingers. It was an emotional locker room after the game, with a frustrated Lynn summing things up best:
"Never in a million years did I think we'd be here at 0-4, but we are. I look at football in four quarters, just like a game. And we just stunk the first quarter of our season. We've got three quarters left to figure some things out and get this thing turned around. There's going to be a lot of evaluating going on tonight and into tomorrow. There are some things that are going to change. But we're going to get this figured out and moving in the right direction."