Kris RhimESPN5 Minute Read
GREEN BAY, Wis — The Los Angeles Chargers locker room was mostly silent. Quarterback Justin Herbert and safety Derwin James talked quietly at James’ locker, while many other players sat staring forward, seemingly in a mix of disbelief and frustration.
Their 23-20 defeat to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday was the Chargers’ fifth one-score loss this season and their seventh straight defeat by three points or fewer dating back to last season.
It was another game in which the opposing offense had one of its best games against the Chargers.
Last week against Los Angeles, the Detroit Lions’ rushing offense gained 200 yards, including 177 yards and three scores in the first half. It was the most the Lions had gained in a half in at least 30 years.
On Sunday, it was Jordan Love and the Packers’ passing offense.
Love threw for 322 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. It was the most passing yards of Love’s career and the first time the Packers had thrown for over 300 yards since 2021, when Aaron Rodgers was their starter.
“We just fed up,” Chargers safety Alohi Gilman told ESPN. “Something’s got to change.”
In an incensed response to a reporter asking if he would consider significant changes on defense, Chargers coach Brandon Staley said he wouldn’t — as he also did days after the Lions loss.
“I have full confidence,” Staley said Sunday. “Like I’ve told you from the beginning, I have full confidence in our way of playing. Full confidence in myself as the playcaller, in the way that we teach and the way that we scheme. Full confidence in that. We gotta bring this group together and do it consistently. … And that’s where it’s at.
“So you can stop asking that question, OK? I’m going to be calling the defenses … so we’re clear. So you don’t have to ask that again.”
No player could point to what exactly the Chargers needed to change. James noted that if “one to two plays” went differently in games this year, the Chargers’ 0-5 record in one-score games could be different. But the Chargers are seemingly always on the wrong side of these situations.
There was plenty of blame to go around Sunday. Keenan Allen had a career-high three dropped passes, two of which were in the red zone.
“I definitely was on bulls— early in the game,” Allen told ESPN. “Three drops, two of them on the goal line. … I just got to be better.”
Wide receiver Quentin Johnston dropped a pass on second down with 23 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter that would have put the Chargers in field goal range.
“I feel like the game could’ve definitely went the other way if I had just caught that ball, lack of concentration on my part,” said Johnston, who was visibly upset. “I dropped the ball. I’m a receiver. They drafted me for a reason: that’s to catch the ball, and I wasn’t able to do that.”
The Chargers dropped six passes Sunday, three of them in the red zone. Both of those totals were the most by the Chargers since ESPN began tracking drops in 2006.
Then there was the red zone offense. The Chargers entered the day scoring on 72% of their red zone drives, second best in the NFL. On Sunday, they were 0-3 in the red zone.
Still, the Chargers’ defensive struggles have been heightened because of how consistently poorly this unit has played under Staley, who was hired three seasons ago for his defensive prowess. When he was the defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams in 2020, Staley’s defense was the best in the league, finishing first in yards and points allowed per game.
But he hasn’t had that impact with the Chargers despite having proven players such as Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack and James. Coming into this game, the Chargers ranked 30th in defensive efficiency, 29th in points allowed per game (24.6), 31st in yards per play allowed (5.7) and 29th in third down conversion rate (42%) over Staley’s three-year tenure.
Staley was aggravated by questions about his defense’s play postgame, however, citing the other factors that contributed to the loss and the defense’s progress.
“You guys act like we’ve never played good defense,” Staley said. “That’s not the truth. That’s not the truth. You act like we haven’t made any improvements. Today, in the run game, we played outstanding. We’re rushing the quarterback well. What we gotta do a better job of is in the passing game. And that’s where our full attention is. And it’s where it will continue to be.
“There were a lot of other things that caused us to lose today. It certainly wasn’t our defense. It was the way we played as a team. We didn’t play well enough in the red zone on offense. We dropped too many passes. OK? We gave up a few texter sacks. OK? We did this as a team. Stop making it about one unit because that’s not what happened out there today. Our team lost, and I’m fully responsible for it, and I take full responsibility, but we lost as a team today. And that’s the storyline.”
The Chargers next play the Baltimore Ravens (8-3), the No. 2 seed in the AFC, on Sunday night at Sofi Stadium.