New city… new head coach… new luck? You thought wrong.
Over the next week , I’m going to be taking a look back over head coach Anthony Lynn’s first year in charge. The ups and downs in a mixed season of success for the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers managed just one win in their four-game preseason set, winning against their new city rivals, the Rams. However, the results of those fixtures usually mean next to nothing. What did matter to the team during the preseason, happened before a ball was snapped. Firstly, their first round pick, former Clemson receiver Mike Williams, was out due to a back injury sustained before the draft – which the team wasn’t aware of. Next, it was second rounder Forrest Lamp, offensive lineman out of Western Kentucky. Lamp, who torn his ACL, was rated as one of best lineman in the draft, and was expected to come in and contribute straight away to help a group struggling to protect quarterback Philip Rivers.
Week 1 – Loss at Broncos, 21-24
Anticipation was high as Los Angeles headed to Denver for the second of a Monday Night Football special on the opening weekend. Rookie vs rookie at the head coaches position as Lynn took on newly appointed Vance Joseph. A tight first half that was edged by Denver after a 1-yard touchdown scramble by Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian, they led 14-7 into halftime. As the teams came out from the break, the game was poised. Though, Rivers made his first vital error of the year, throwing an interception, setting Denver up with a short field. Siemian’s second touchdown pass to receiver Bennie Fowler III, and a further field goal, would put the Broncos in control at 24-7.
The Chargers would then wake up. The defense forced two key turnovers starting with an interception by Adrian Phillips, and then a forced fumble, which set up two touchdown drives. Another stop by the Bolts defense, and the offense would have a chance to tie, or better, win the game. The final drive stalled, leading to a 44-yard field goal attempt. YouTube sensation Younghoo Koo ‘won’ the kicking battle for Los Angeles in preseason and it was a chance to prove his worth. But then again, this is the Chargers and Koo’s kick was blocked, ending the game, 24-21.
Week 2 – Loss vs. Miami, 17-19
Los Angeles first game at their temporary home, the Stubhub Center. If there’s one lesson I’ve learnt from the 2017 season, it’s that kickers are more important than I thought. This would be Miami’s first game of the year, due to their week 1 cancellation because of Hurricane Imra. The standard wasn’t great; Chargers couldn’t stop running back Jay Ajayi, who attained 122 yards, and Miami couldn’t stop Rivers, but both struggled to score six. The Chargers veteran QB totaled 331 yards, with Keenan Allen having his first 100-yard game of the year. This, of course, came down to kickers. Dolphins Cody Parker scored all four of his attempts. Koo, with an opportunity to redeem himself, missed two of three, including an attempt of a game-winner. The Chargers dropped another.
Week 3 – Loss vs. Kansas City, 10-24
Already their second division game of the year. Games in which the Chargers have been woeful in, in recent times. It doesn’t change in this one. When your first two possessions end in interceptions, and the opposition reply each time with touchdowns, you might struggle. Rivers threw three picks in the first half and the Chiefs happily took advantage of it. The Chargers offense did have some success, too. A Melvin Gordon TD, and a field goal before the half kept it to a one touchdown lead for Kansas City. The second half consisted of punting, punting and more punting – nine (out of eleven) drives ended that way. The only score was a 69-yard rush from Kareem Hunt, who gashed Los Angeles’ run defense all game. The rookie star, who finished the season as the rush leader, totaled 172 yards on 17 carries.
Week 4 – Loss vs. Philadelphia, 24-26
LA fell down early in this one. Receiver Alshon Jeffrey started the scoring for the Eagles with a 8-yard touchdown catch, which was followed by two field goals. A 75-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Tyrell Williams, closed to gap to one-score during the second quarter. The third quarter was uneventful, with only one more field goal from Eagles kicker Jake Elliot added, extending Philadelphia’s lead to 19-10. The two teams traded touchdown blows in the 4th. The Bolts scored through an impressive 35-yard run by rookie Austin Ekeler, and the Eagles with their own rushing TD, from Wendell Smallwood. Next, an extended drive from Rivers and co, which seemed to be the theme of the second half, ended with touchdown to Henry to close the gap once more. Leading by just two, the Eagles had over six minutes of clock to run out, and they did just that, with ease. The fourth loss of the year, and the third by less than three points.
Kickers and close losses were the themes of the opening four games for Anthony Lynn. Yet, they weren’t the only issues for his football team. Offensively and defensively, Los Angeles struggled in the run game, and it hurt badly in all of their losses to date. Lynn’s tenure couldn’t have started worse.
–Thomas Herd is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @chargers_uk.