COSTA MESA – The Chargers’ offense spent a lot of time on the sidelines last week watching their defense battle the Houston Texans run game.
The Texans dominated possession time with running back Rex Burkhead having a career day, but Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen didn’t feel any real trouble until the fourth quarter.
âI felt solid about it until Burkhead realized that last (touchdown),â Allen said Thursday.
The Chargers’ defense took most of the blame for the surprising loss to the struggling Texans (4-11), but Allen, quarterback Justin Herbert and the rest of the offense had their moments to make an impact. , despite the limited opportunities.
The Chargers totaled 417 yards and never set a punt despite the absence of wide receivers Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, running back Austin Ekeler and center Corey Linsley. All four starters were on the COVID-19 reserve list.
As the Chargers managed to move the ball, two costly Herbert interceptions turned into 14 points for the Texans.
With the Chargers leading 12-10 at the end of the second quarter, Herbert threw a flat pass to rookie wide receiver Josh Palmer near the end zone which was intercepted by safety Jonathan Owens. The Texans took the opportunity and scored a touchdown to enter halftime with a 17-12 lead.
Later in the fourth quarter, Herbert had poor communication with tight end Jared Cook and threw an interception as defensive back Tavierre Thomas came back for a touchdown to end the Chargers’ hopes of a comeback.
Herbert is now tied with four other quarterbacks for 14 interceptions, a league-high this season. The Chargers have raved about his decision-making and aren’t concerned about the surge in interceptions, but the second-year quarterback has experienced costly turnovers in 2021. The Chargers (8-7) are 0- 4 when Herbert throws several interceptions in a game this season.
Herbert, who threw just 10 interceptions as a rookie, had two interceptions, including a pick-six, against the Denver Broncos in their Week 12 road loss.
The Chargers will have to make adjustments and can’t afford missed opportunities in Sunday’s rematch against the Broncos, whose defense is allowing up 17.3 points per game, the lowest in the league. A loss wouldn’t knock the Chargers out of the playoffs, but it would be a big blow no matter what other results play out in the league this week.
âInterceptions, I think each has a story,â Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. âWhat you’re looking for is if they are the product of bad decision-making and none of them are the product of bad decision-making. This is the only thing, as a head coach, that you are looking for. He is an outstanding decision maker. As a second-year player, he’s a top decision maker. ”
Herbert threw a bad pass for the first interception in Houston, but maybe the outcome would have been different if he had thrown to Williams or Guyton – the team’s two best threats in the field.
Williams and Guyton will be available this week after the COVID-19 list wide receptors are activated this week.
“This is one of those where I probably called it a little tight – which means I wish we had 10 or 15 more yards (of ground) to work with,” said the offensive coordinator of the Chargers, Joe Lombardi, on the first interception. “Would you like Josh to look and speed up and Justin to put it on him?” Sure, or Justin throws it at the back of the end zone, but this is one of those rooms where it was a little new as a concept and their time spent on the task probably wasn’t. what it should have been before we unboxed this game in a live match.
It was a learning lesson in chemistry for Palmer and Herbert, and the same can be said for Herbert and Cook. He struggled to get on the same page with Cook, the veteran tight end who joined the Chargers in the offseason.
Herbert has had two interceptions for touchdowns while targeting Cook this season, the first against the New England Patriots in Week 8. There have also been a handful of header games between Herbert and Cook this season that have been charged. to “poor communication”. ”
âThe Patriots’ one was probably an experience issue with Justin on that one, the moment he pitched was probably a bit early,â Lombardi said. “Then on the one against Houston, I think it’s just Jared taking a little time to figure out what he was doing.”
Herbert also struggled to connect with Allen in Houston, but Lombardi said it was because of the lack of games. The Chargers only played 39 offensive games before Burkhead scored his second touchdown to extend the lead to 24-15 with 13:37 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Texans controlled possession time by having the ball 34:52 versus 25:08 for the Chargers.
Herbert and Allen were selected for the Pro Bowl because they have been very successful in Lombardi’s schedule this season. But they’ll need their best performances on Sunday and likely can’t afford costly mistakes or a slow start against the strong Broncos defense in a critical game.
The Chargers are under the pressure, but it helps get Williams, Guyton, Ekeler and Linsley off the COVID list.
âI’ve been saying all year he’s our guy,â Allen said of Williams. âHe will bring us the big points, the major points that we missed. It would be great to find him. ”
Lombardi said losing players a day before match day to COVID-related reasons – as he did with Williams last week – wasn’t too much to deal with.
Lombardi said it was more difficult when he lost key players to injuries early in games. That’s what happened with tight end Donald Parham Jr. when he suffered a concussion early in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15.
The Chargers missed Parham’s presence in Houston as a versatile tight end who can help as a blocker and receiver. He was recently placed on the injured reserve and will miss the last two games of the regular season against the Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders.
âDonald played such an important role in our game plans until the point where he had this concussion,â said Lombardi. âWhen he came out early in that game, it’s tough because there are so many roles – he was supposed to be the primary blocker on that role and the receiver on that role. We really have to thank Chris Beatty, our receivers coach, and Kevin Koger, the tight ends coach. When Donald got hurt Kevin said, ‘Hey call that like it’s on the sheet. We will fix this. We got it.
âThese guys did a great job of making me successful in their position groups. These guys did a great job, the assistant coaches and the players knew the roles they needed to fill as these guys fell. The players and coaches made it a little easier for me, that’s for sure. ”
Chargers safety Derwin James (hamstring) was a limited participant in training for the second day in a row.
Linebacker Drue Tranquill (leg) missed his second straight training session this week.