The Chargers continued their slow descent to the bottom of the pack in the ultra competitive AFC standings. Here’s what we learned, what we heard and what comes next after they lost 23-20 to the Green Bay Packers and Coach Brandon Staley lost his composure Sunday:
SEASON ON THE BRINK
Staley’s anger at reporters who asked serious questions about serious shortcomings in the defense he designed and coached seemed misplaced. It’s not often a coach lets his temper get the best of him or suggests matters weren’t as they appeared and offers alternate versions of the facts.
Now, was Staley penalized for pass interference on third-and-20 late in the game? No, that was cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., who needlessly grabbed Packers wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks ahead of a pass that was destined to hit nothing but the Green Bay logo near midfield.
Now, was Staley at fault for failing to tackle Wicks two plays later, a misplay that turned a modest 5-yard gain into a massive 35-yard gain? No, that was safety Michael Davis who failed to wrap up Wicks, who would set up Jordan Love’s game-winning 24-yard touchdown pass with 2:33 left.
Staley is responsible for what happens on the field, which he acknowledged without reservation after Sunday’s game, during a postgame session with reporters that unexpectedly became heated over the course of six-plus minutes deep inside the underbelly of historic Lambeau Field.
Staley came to the Chargers as a defensive wunderkind, the kind of bright, young coach they needed to harness a potentially great offense with something resembling an effective defense. Instead, well into his third season, the Chargers’ are desperately lacking on the defensive side of the ball.
It’s true they have lost five of their six games by a grand total of 14 points this season, but that’s missing the overall point. Justin Herbert and the Chargers’ offense keep them in contention, building leads or tying games with excellent late-game possessions only to see the defense fail to hold on.
Staley continues to oversee the defense and continues to call the plays. When he was asked why he continues in those roles and why he hasn’t made significant changes to a defensive unit that either struggles to buy into what he’s selling or can’t implement what he’s been teaching.
Or maybe it’s both.
Or maybe it’s just too complicated, especially in the secondary, where the Chargers would seem more suited to playing a version of the old schoolyard game of you-got-’em defense. After all, have you ever played zone defense in a Thanksgiving game of touch football with family and friends?
It’s easier to just play man-to-man, right?
Staley’s stubbornness, his unwillingness to alter his game plan or his personnel, was evident when he said he had “full confidence” in the way the Chargers play defense. You saw it when the Chargers settled into a soft zone on one short yardage play after another, playing well beyond the first down yard maker.
Packers receivers ran a few yards, turned around and were wide open because the Chargers’ defensive backs were playing in what amounted to a prevent defense, and you know what they say about prevent defenses? That’s right, they prevent victories, and that’s what happened Sunday.
So, will Staley adapt or suffer the consequences of his inaction?
WHAT COMES NEXT
The Chargers play host to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night at SoFi Stadium, trying to end their third two-game losing streak of the season and keep their faint playoff hopes alive. The Chargers are 4-6 and in last place in the AFC West. The Ravens are 8-3 and in first place in the AFC North.
“It’s a tough situation for sure, but all we can do now is keep moving forward and learn from it,” Herbert said of the Chargers’ dire situation. “Nothing we can do now is going to change the past results. We are exactly where we are and we have to find a way to keep moving forward.”
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