Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley doesn’t buy that last season’s horrific playoff collapse to the Jacksonville Jaguars carried over to this season, and maybe he’s right.
Whether or not that loss still matters, it’s bad for him and the Chargers that they’ve followed up that historic loss by blowing a couple of late fourth-quarter leads to start this season.
After the Chargers’ loss on Sunday against the Titans, Staley said the postseason defeat to the Jaguars hasn’t lingered.
“It has nothing to do with the Jacksonville game and that’s just the truth. It’s a convenient storyline for you and for everybody else, but it’s not the truth,” Staley said after Sunday’s game, via the Titans’ transcript. “We’ve lost two tough games, but the guys in that locker room, the men in that locker room, they are finishers, and they have what it takes, and we’re excited to prove ourselves.”
They better prove themselves fast.
The Chargers are 0-2 and it could get worse in a hurry. Next up is a road game against the Minnesota Vikings, and that’s not a gimme. The Chargers should beat the Las Vegas Raiders at home after that (if they don’t, look out), and then they face the Dallas Cowboys and play at the Kansas City Chiefs.
It’s reasonable to believe the Chargers could be 1-5 if they don’t quickly turn things around. Staley was on the hot seat despite a playoff berth last season, but he was brought back. If the Chargers are 1-5 with a roster that has as much top-end talent as any in the NFL, Chargers ownership would have to consider a change, even with about two-thirds of the season to go.
There’s some strange curse with the Chargers in which they underachieve, no matter the changes in coach, quarterback or the rest of the roster. Their past four games have been a nightmare, particularly from a coaching standpoint:
Week 18 last season vs. Denver Broncos: Staley inexplicably played his starters even though the Chargers’ playoff seed was set and they had to play on wild-card weekend. Multiple starters got banged up, and receiver Mike Williams suffered a back injury that kept him out of the wild-card game.
Wild-card weekend last season vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Chargers led 27-0 and lost. Before that game, only four times in NFL regular-season or playoff history had a team blown a lead of 27 points or more. The Chargers were just the second team to have a 27-point lead and lose in regulation.
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Week 1 vs. Miami Dolphins: The Chargers took a 34-30 lead with less than four minutes left. They allowed a game-winning drive to Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ offense. Staley, who was a defensive coordinator in his previous job, oversaw a defense that allowed Tagovailoa to pass for 466 yards.
Week 2 vs. Tennessee Titans: The Chargers led most of the game, including an 11-0 lead early on. They led 21-17 in the fourth quarter. But they gave up the lead, tied it at the end of regulation, couldn’t do anything with the first possession of overtime and then allowed a field goal to end the game.
That’s a bad stretch. It’s a bit unlucky to be 0-2 this season with two losses coming by five combined points. However, it doesn’t feel that unlucky when these things keep happening to the same team. There’s only one team consistently making new history with the ways it loses.
The Chargers are the 33rd team in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) with 50+ points and 0 turnovers through 2 games
They are the only team to start 0-2
— Doug Clawson (@doug_clawson) September 17, 2023
The Chargers’ roster is very good, and once again this offseason people started talking themselves into Los Angeles being a surprise Super Bowl contender. An 0-2 start doesn’t mean the Chargers can’t have a fantastic season, but they don’t want to dig that hole much deeper. Their head coach definitely doesn’t want to sink deeper into that hole. He might not be given the chance to get out of it.
Here are the power rankings after Week 2 of the NFL season:
If you go by the eye test, the Bears look like the NFL’s worst team. They’re doing nothing at an above-average level. Justin Fields looks worse as a passer this season. The defense is awful again, probably because the Bears decided to invest their free-agency money into off-ball linebackers for some reason. Brandon Staley’s seat might be the hottest, but Matt Eberflus is right there with him.
The Cardinals are better than I figured. They led the Commanders and Giants in the first two weeks of the season and were more effective on both sides of the ball than anticipated. They blew both games (ultimately that’s not bad for the organization, as we know), but this might not be the worst team in the NFL.
Nico Collins might be having a much-anticipated breakout. He has 226 yards through two games. He has never broken 500 yards in a season before. Collins has good chemistry with C.J. Stroud, and his emergence is a positive for the Texans.
I don’t think Bryce Young is the problem for the Panthers. He isn’t playing great as a rookie but it seems clear that the talent around him isn’t good enough. The Panthers have time to fix that in the years to come. Young looks reasonable enough so far. The results will come once Carolina upgrades the offense.
I can’t believe officials didn’t call defensive pass interference on a two-point conversion with no time left. It was a clear penalty. The Broncos shouldn’t have been in that position anyway. They led 21-3 at home and couldn’t finish. After three touchdowns on three drives, the Broncos had four first downs in their next six drives. Those drives: fumble, punt, punt, interception, field goal, punt. For a brief moment it looked like Russell Wilson was back, and then the rest of the game happened.
Anthony Richardson was the first Colt with two rushing touchdowns in the first quarter of a game since Edgerrin James in 1999, according to NFL Research. He is the next generation Cam Newton, a huge man with exceptional running skills, a cannon arm and a much better passer than anticipated as a rookie. Now he needs to stay healthy.
Josh Jacobs has 46 yards on 28 carries. That’s an astonishingly slow start for last year’s rushing champ. Presumably Jacobs will get going soon, but being gone all of August due to displeasure over his franchise tag isn’t helping so far.
The Sean McVay-Cam Akers on again/off again relationship is wild. This is the second straight season Akers has been buried, with trade rumors flying. Last season, Akers reemerged to become a difference-making back down the stretch. That seems unlikely this season, but who knows.
The Giants had a great comeback win. Daniel Jones was really good in the second half. It’s also impossible to give the Giants all the credit for the second half without acknowledging the errors they made in digging a 28-7 hole to Arizona. It’s better to be 1-1 figuring things out than 0-2, but the Giants need to be a lot better. And it will get tougher with running back Saquon Barkley out a reported three weeks with an ankle injury.
Last season the Vikings were an astonishing 11-0 in one-score games, which was an NFL record. This season they’re 0-2. Regression is a real thing.
Last week you could find a lot of “The Jets are going to be good even without Aaron Rodgers!” optimism. Then Sunday happened. It’s a repeat of last season, where we spend all season wondering how good the Jets could have been with average quarterback play.
The defensive issues the Chargers have are troubling. Brandon Staley was supposed to be a defensive guru. That’s how he was billed when he came over from the Rams. His defense struggling like it has is not a good look, to say the least.
Rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez was a great value at the 17th pick of the draft, and he’s paying off. Gonzalez played really well against the Dolphins’ speedy receivers on Sunday night and had a fantastic interception. He’s getting praise from Bill Belichick. The Patriots are beat up at cornerback, but Gonzalez’s fine start helps.
Ryan Tannehill went from looking bad in Week 1 to completing 20 of 24 passes in an overtime win on Sunday. That’s another negative on the Chargers and Brandon Staley, but it was a huge performance for a Titans team that was looking at an 0-2 hole to start the season.
The Buccaneers have played two bad defenses, but Baker Mayfield has been very good. He has completed 69.1% of his passes for 490 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s the continuation of a strong preseason, too. Mayfield has to keep doing this against tougher competition, but the Buccaneers should be pleased so far.
Sam Howell has a long way to go as a quarterback. For starters, he holds the ball way too long. But he also has an innate playmaking ability. He brought the Commanders back from a 21-3 deficit with 299 yards passing. This 2-0 start hasn’t been pretty for the Commanders but there are some positive signs.
Maybe it’s unfair to keep wondering about the Falcons’ skill-position players not having enough production when they’re 2-0, but what’s going on with Kyle Pitts? He has four catches for 59 yards through two games. Pitts is one of two tight ends ever to get 1,000 yards as a rookie, he was perhaps the best draft prospect ever at the position, and by his third year he’s just a below-average option? It’s hard to figure out.
Alex Highsmith was great on Monday night. He had a pick 6 early and a strip sack that led to the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Highsmith is overshadowed by T.J. Watt on Pittsburgh’s defense, but he’s a heck of a player.
Jordan Love has played well and made some nice throws Sunday. But part of his development will be making winning plays in the fourth quarter, whether that’s with the Packers trailing or leading. On Sunday, Green Bay led 24-12. It wouldn’t have taken much to get over the finish line, but Love and the offense didn’t put the game away. It’s not the end of the world, especially without Aaron Jones, Christian Watson or David Bakhtiari, but Love has to be better in that spot next time.
There were real reasons for concern after how bad the Seahawks looked in Week 1. Sunday’s win was a great rebound, particularly for Geno Smith. If you told the Seahawks before the season they’d be 1-1, they probably would have figured on a season-opening win against the Rams and a loss at the Lions, but either way it’s not a terrible start.
Of all the things we saw in Week 2, the inability of the Bengals to get much offense going again might have been the most surprising. Seeing Joe Burrow limping at the end of the game wasn’t a good sign either. The Bengals are very talented and they have started slow before, but this seems dire.
It was tough to see Trevor Lawrence miss as many throws as he did on Sunday. He has come a long way, but those bad games are still not completely out of his system yet.
The Browns need much more out of Deshaun Watson. It didn’t matter as much before Monday night. But then Nick Chubb suffered an awful season-ending injury and the offense is on Watson’s shoulders going forward. From what we’ve seen through Watson’s eight games with Cleveland, that’s not a good thing.
The Saints have some explosive players. They’re going to have to figure out why they’re not turning yards into more points though. For the second straight week it felt like they should have scored way more. But they’ll gladly take the 2-0 start.
Sunday’s loss wasn’t a great one for the Lions, but it happens. What’s more troubling is the injury report. David Montgomery could miss multiple weeks with a thigh injury. Amon-Ra St. Brown suffered what appeared to be a toe injury, and that can linger. Left tackle Taylor Decker missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury. Those are some problematic injuries.
Beating the Texans at home was expected. But to go on the road without four starters and knock off the Bengals in pretty easy fashion was impressive. It’s no surprise the Ravens are competitive again. They always are under John Harbaugh. Maybe there’s a deep playoff run coming. They’re a team worth watching closely.
Tua Tagovailoa is the new betting favorite for NFL MVP. That spot means very little after just two weeks, but Tagovailoa deserves it. He has played very well since the start of last season. It seems people are finally coming around to him being an elite player.
The Bills might have found something out with James Cook on Sunday. He had 123 yards on 17 carries. Can he be a true No. 1 back and much-needed offensive weapon around Josh Allen? It looked like it against the Raiders.
The Chiefs’ defense hasn’t gotten a ton of attention yet, but it will if it continues to play well. Kansas City has allowed 23 points, if we remove a pick 6 the Lions got in Week 1, through two games. And it’s not like Detroit and Jacksonville are bad offenses. If the Chiefs are good on defense this season, that’s a big development. We know the offense will eventually come around.
Putting up 382 yards and 30 points on that Jets defense is impressive. We all saw what the Jets did to the Bills’ offense in Week 1. The Cowboys, with their plus-60 point differential, have looked better on both sides of the ball than anyone could have expected through two weeks.
A.J. Brown’s sideline disagreement got some attention, and it is strange how he has just 108 yards in two games. That will likely turn around very soon. The Eagles’ passing offense, with a new coordinator, isn’t off to a great start and Brown’s production is the easiest way to spot that. If it continues for another week or two, then we’ll have something to worry about.
Deebo Samuel had 63 yards receiving, 38 rushing and looked like the all-around threat that made him an All-Pro in 2021. As we know with the 49ers, the only player that is guaranteed touches and production each week will be Christian McCaffrey. The rest will rotate. In Week 1 it was Brandon Aiyuk. Week 2 was Samuel. George Kittle’s big game is coming soon. It’s not a bad thing.