The Chargers lost 38-10 to Jacksonville on a Sunday afternoon when quarterback Justin Herbert realized he was suffering from a rib cartilage injury.
Linebacker Drue Tranquill described the defeat as “embarrassing” and said they “choked our tails” for the Jaguars.
The Chargers will play 1-2 and their next two away games – Houston (0-2-1) and Cleveland (2-1).
Five observations from a strange day at SoFi Stadium:
KEEP IT IN PLACE SO SHORT? It’s Week 3 only, but the Chargers held a player-led meeting after four touchdown losses.
The meeting was called up by the defensive intervention of Sebastian Joseph-Day, who was in his first season with the Chargers but was a team captain.
“This is the way you want it to be, especially after a game like this,” said coach Brandon Staley. “Everything that needs to be said has to come from them. Good teams are like that.
“There’s a lot of pride in that room. … We’ve got a lot of the right guys to coach. We still have a band that comes together. It was just one game in the NFL.”
When asked if he was worried that the caller was a newcomer to the team, Staley replied, “If it wasn’t him, it would be someone else. Not just him. But that’s how you want your teams to be.”
FLOOR GAME TURNING WHEELS: The Chargers’ failure to start the ball averaged 59 yards per game, reaching their last point in the NFL. They finished with 26 yards in 12 carries against the Jaguars.
“Maybe we could have run the ball a little earlier,” said Herbert, “but we were on the ground so we had to throw the ball and we couldn’t catch up. That’s the unfortunate thing.”
Coming out of a season with 1,558 yards on offense and 20 touchdowns, Austin Ekeler ran back. He ran for 80 yards 32 times in three games and caught 21 passes for 139 yards.
Ekeler has zero touchdowns.
“We just didn’t create any rhythm on offense,” Staley said. “You didn’t block enough at the point of attack or the rust guard. Therefore, you will not see the production of talented players.”
NO PRESSURE, BIG PROBLEM: The Chargers failed to impress Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who looked quite comfortable as he completed 28 of 39 tries for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
Lawrence finished with a 115.5, the second best of his junior career. He was the best overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
Chargers tried to strike lightning, but the Jaguars almost always responded with superior protection. Only Derwin James Jr. and Morgan Fox – one each – were awarded quarterback hits. Chargers had no sacks.
“We tried to mess up the rush plan,” Staley said. “We didn’t get enough one-on-one wins today. They did and you have to give them credit.”
RUN ‘D’ RUN: The defense also surrendered for a season-worst 151 rushing yards, 100 of which belonged to James Robinson. Fifty of them came in the third quarter with a single goal.
Robinson’s score turned fourth and a minute later, just after the Chargers approached 16-10 with a 25-yard field goal from Dustin Hopkins.
“I felt like we were hanging on tight in the first half,” Staley said. “We gave ourselves a shot in the first half. Then, a fourth and a run that split us… it really blew the air inside us.
“It’s been a few killer third-outs that forced us to play a lot more. We played more than 40 (41) games in the first half and I felt it in the second half. I felt like we didn’t have the same energy.”
The Jaguars ran 75 games to the Chargers’ 58 and had a ball advantage of 16 minutes 54 seconds.
COMPREHENSIVE FAULT: The Chargers had no leads, only lost two turnovers and committed seven of the nine accepted penalties.
Herbert passed a 54-yard pass to Jalen Guyton and a 45-yard pass to Joshua Palmer. Otherwise, the Chargers had no more than 17 yards of game gain.
Staley was then asked about 2022, maybe he’s already starting to sway.
“We only have three games in a 17 game season,” he said. “That’s how the NFL is. You treat once a week. Sometimes games are like that. … It is how you react tomorrow, the next day, and the day after.”
This story was originally published in the Los Angeles Times.