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Making Sense Of The 4-8 Chargers

Photo by Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times

Written By Matthew Nereim

3rd-year wide receiver Mike Williams leads the league in yards per reception at 20.5 yard a catch. Yet, somehow, he has yet to score a touchdown in 2019 (after scoring a whopping 11 the year prior).

In a pass-happy league, the Chargers Defense in 9 of 12 games has allowed 226-yards or less passing. Yet, somehow, they are 3 and 6 in those games.

In 2018 the Chargers were 6 and 1 in 1 score games. Yet, somehow, they are 2 and 8 this year.

In 2018 the Chargers had a +1 turnover differential. This year they are -10.

The Chargers have scored 244 points, 3 more than they’ve given up. Yet, somehow, they own a 4 and 8 record.

These analytics, especially the +3 point differential don’t point to a 12-4 type team, but neither do they suggest this team should be anywhere near 4-8? It is almost unimaginable had I not witnessed it. The reality is that this is a team that is close to being really good (again) with just a little better offensive execution and timely turnover and/or defensive stop. The Chargers showed in the Packers game that when they play their “A-game” that they can be more than a handful.

In the 7 games that the Chargers have had 2 or more turnovers in a game since an overtime win in week 1, they are 0 in 6 in such games.

The Chargers have committed 0 turnovers in just 2 games this year. They won both by a combined score of 56-22.

Last year in 8 games the Chargers had fewer turnovers than the other team. They were 8-0 in those games.

Over the last 3 seasons, the Chargers have won an incredible 18 games in a row when they’ve won the turnover battle.

Turnover battle won: 18-1

Turnover battle lost: 3-13

Turnovers even: 5-6

How do they compare to the “gold standard”, the Patriots over the last 3 years?

Turnover battle Won: 23-4

Turnover battle lost: 7-2

Turnovers even: 9-5

What can be clearly seen from the comparison to the Patriots is that what separates them from the Chargers is New England’s ability to overcome their “off-days”. The Patriots have managed to go 16-7 in games where the turnover battle is neutral or lost, where the Chargers are 8-19.

The Chargers have obviously not played the most efficient brand of football this year. But what has exasperated it is their red zone inefficiency which includes a staggering 6 turnovers in the red zone.

Offensive Red Zone:

2018: 34/53 64.2% TD rate 10th best

2019: 19/41 46.3% TD rate 26th best

Had we replicated last year’s conversion rate that is 7.3 more TD’s scored through 12 games.

Couple that with a defensive red zone dip from last year’s 50% TD allowed to this year’s 58.6 and that is an additional 3.5 TD’s allowed so far this year on the 29 red zone trips allowed..

10.8 TD’s over 12 games when all 8 losses have been by 7-points or less has turned this season upside down!

I don’t want to excuse all of this to simply “dumb-luck”, but there is a huge element of that involved...especially when it comes to turnovers which are volatile in nature! But there have been too many times where the team has been in a good position to score or have been in 2nd and 3 type situations and they have failed to convert these opportunities at an efficient enough clip. Turning the ball over 6-times in the red zone is simply inexcusable too, especially Ekeler’s fumble at from the 1 in Detroit on 1st and goal. That is not just 6-TD’s not scored, that is an additional 18-points left on the table in chip-shot FG’s.

And while yes, Phillip Rivers deserves his fair share of the blame, he is not the one who fumbled at the goal line twice. He is not the one who fumbled punts. He is not the one who had a pass interference called on him with 3-seconds left on the clock. He is not the one who let the Raiders travel the length of the field for a TD in the final minute. He is not the one who dropped TD’s in the end zone. He is not the receivers who oftentimes get no separation. He is not the one who went 4 games in a row rushing for less than 39-yards. He is not the one who had multiple long TD’s called back in the same game because of penalties.

Rivers play has no doubt taken a dip since Week 13 of last year. But, When Andre Patton caught a pass against Denver it was the 1st wide receiver other than Keenan Allen or Mike Williams to catch a pass since week 6 against the Steelers. Think about that!!!

I just don’t know how an offense can be efficient without having a # 3 and 4 receiver that can step in to make the occasional play? We are seriously missing Tyrell Williams 41 grabs for 663 yards & 5TD, not to mention his speed to run “clear-outs”. Dontrelle Inman appeared poised to take over much of that load but unfortunately was sent to IR after his 5 catch 76-yard performance in Week 4 @ Miami. In the 1st 3 weeks Keenan Allen averaged nearly 10 catches for 135 yards a game, he had 404 yards total. The last 9 games he has had just 460 and has topped 70-yards once!

As such, until you have a better option, which is pretty darn tough to find, it is foolish to suggest “El Capitan” retire. Also, did you forget his last year with Norv Turner where he appeared washed up when he posted a career-low 225 yards a game, which was 74 yards less than the year prior? How about Mike “Visor” McCoy’s last year where he led the league with 21 interceptions?

Rivers understands how to run an offense and what defenses are trying to do better than all but a handful of QB’s. He has made “wow” throws his entire career so of course at times he is going to force the ball and try to make something happen. It is Coach Lynn and Co’s job to figure out how to design an offense that caters to what this team’s strengths are. They simply have not done that this year.

I am not saying that this team can win a Super Bowl with Rivers because, in truth, I think he would have won one in the first 6 years had it been in the cards. He has played in the Tiger Woods of football era having to beat Belichick and Brady. But what I am saying is be careful what you ask for! Inept (which is FAR WORSE than average or bad) QB play could make this team unwatchable in short order! Say what you want about this team...but what you can’t say is that it hasn’t been entertaining.



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