Week 12 of the NFL season has come to an end, and there were a number of surprises waiting for NFL fans. On Thanksgiving, the 5-5 Las Vegas Raiders beat the 7-3 Dallas Cowboys 36-33 in a sloppy, yet competitive overtime thriller. Meanwhile, on Sunday, the 6-4 Cincinnati Bengals abslutely curbstomped the 5-4-1 Pittsburgh Steelers 41-10 in what was expected to be a close slugfest. The Miami Dolphins continued their 4-game winning streak by dominating the Carolina Panthers 33-10.
However, for Los Angeles Chargers fans, NFL Week 12 was not as exciting. The Chargers traveled to the Mile High City to face off against their division rivals, the Denver Broncos. In what fans expected to be a fairly easy win for the Chargers, the Broncos completely shut them down. What went wrong? What possible reasons could there be for such a mediocre performance? These are the Chargers-Broncos takeaways.
Did Anything Go Well?
To be honest, there is very little to praise the Chargers for in this game. The Chargers’ performance was dreadful on every front. From the offense, to the defense, to even the special teams, none of these went well for the Chargers. The offense could not gain any sort of momentum to build on. They were able to drive down the field well, as shown by their 30 minutes of ball possession, but they were rarely a real threat when they had the ball. For a better picture, the Chargers had more punts than touchdowns and field goals.
The Offense’s Stagnation
The biggest issue on the field on Sunday was, surprisingly, Justin Herbert. This may incite some angry reactions from Chargers fans, but it’s the truth. Herbert simply did not have a good game in Denver. Herbert completed 28 of 44 passes (64%) for 303 yards and two touchdowns. That may sound like a decent statline, but add on his two interceptions (one being a pick-6), and it starts to look much more grim. Herbert ended up being more of a liability than a boon for the Chargers, but it’s unlikely the Chargers would have had more success with any other quarterback. After all, Herbert’s performance was only a part of what went wrong for the Chargers.
The Porous Defense
The Chargers’ defense did not do much better. The Broncos offense did not put up particularly eye-popping stats, with only 302 total yards of offense. However, 147 of those yards came from their run offense. That’s right, the Chargers’ awful run defense is back, baby! Melvin Gordon, former Chargers running back and current Broncos running back, finished the game with 17 carries for 83 yards (4.9 ypc). As a whole, the Broncos finished with 147 yards on 33 total carries (4.5 ypc) with two rushing touchdowns. The Chargers’ defense was a laughingstock on Sunday, and it inspired doubts and anxiety in many a Chargers fan’s mind.
What Could Have Caused This?
Well, there are quite a few possibilities, but any idea would be, at best, just guesswork. It was clear that the Chargers simply underestimated the Broncos after their embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Perhaps they slacked a bit in film study? That’s doubtful, considering how meticulous head coach Brandon Staley appears to be.
Could it be that offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s offensive scheme is too basic? Many Chargers fans on social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram seem to think so. While it is certainly a possibility, given how mediocre the offense has played in recent weeks (save the Sunday Night Football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers), it can’t be conclusively decided that Lombardi is solely to blame.
Could the Chargers simply not be as good as their hot start led people to believe? That’s a possibility, but also doubtful since the team has so much talent on the roster. At almost every position, the Chargers have at least average-to-elite talent at their starting positions.
What about their plethora of key injuries? That wouldn’t explain the whole slump, but it certainly contributes to their poor performance. As it stands, the Chargers are missing three of their five starting offensive linemen. Right guard Storm Norton has filled in at the starting spot for Oday Aboushi, and his level of play leaves much to be desired. However, many other teams have a similar or greater amount of key injuries, so that can’t really be seen as a valid excuse.
In the end, it could simply be a combination of various factors. It could be partly due to Lombardi’s poor excuse of an offensive gameplan as well as their lack of depth at key positions. It could be due to various other reasons, such as the receivers inexplicably dropping simple passes at times. In the end, it’s all just guesswork, and Chargers fans need to remember that these struggles are still natural, even expected, for a rookie head coach trying to figure out what it means to lead an entire NFL team.
In the end, Staley and the Chargers will figure it out. Sure, there likely will be some bumps like Sunday along the way, but this team feels special. Given time to work it out, these guys inspire the confidence to right the wrongs and hopefully reach the promised land one day. It likely won’t be this season, but the future still looks bright even on this dark day up in the clouds of Mile High City. These were the Chargers-Broncos takeaways.