CARSON, Calif. (AP) - While Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler recounted his first NFL touchdown on Sunday, Melvin Gordon was slumped into the adjacent locker, clearly frustrated and down after a 26-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The rookie from Western State Colorado was saying all the right things about how the Chargers could bounce back from their latest narrow loss.
The Chargers need consistency, Ekeler said. They need to avoid having to play from behind. They need to establish the run.
When it was finally Gordon’s turn to talk, he said what everyone that has watched the Chargers in recent years was thinking: Whether they’re located in San Diego or Los Angeles, these heartbreaking results are sadly familiar to Chargers fans.
“It sounds like everything we said at this point just gets repetitive,” Gordon said. “We’ve been saying this since I’ve been here. We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to do better. Just no answer right now, to be honest.”
The Chargers (0-4) have now lost nine straight games dating back to last season. All but three of those losses have been decided by a touchdown or fewer, none by more than 14 points. They have lost by three, two and two points this season, and last week’s 24-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was still in doubt before a back-breaking touchdown run after the two-minute warning.
“It’s not the effort, or otherwise we wouldn’t be in these games if the effort wasn’t there,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said.
The first-year coach said the Chargers had to learn how to win close games, pointing to three Eagles drives that were extended by defensive penalties on third down before inadvertently adding an expletive that reflected his frustration with the situation. They also have to learn how to avoid digging an early hole, this time falling behind 13-0 midway through the second quarter.
Developing a rhythm on offense is perhaps the most glaring issue at the moment. The Chargers gained 400 yards, but that includes a 75-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Tyrell Williams, a 50-yard catch-and-run by Keenan Allen, and Ekeler’s 35-yard touchdown run. When it comes to putting together plays on a reliable basis, and then capping those drives with touchdowns, there isn’t any one obvious cause of those struggles.
“I know I’m saying the same old thing, but I just don’t see anything that’s just, ‘Oh, this is the area, (and) once they fix that, they’ll be really good,” said Rivers, who threw for 347 yards and two touchdowns. “It’s a matter of finding a way to score. When you lose by two, lose by three, lose by two, we’re just right there.”
Adding to the familiar feeling was the vocal and vociferous contingent of Eagles fans in a nearly even split with Chargers fans among the sold-out crowd. Opposing fans, especially transplants from the East Coast with allegiances to their old team, always found their way into the venue formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, but their presence is magnified in the intimate StubHub Center in both volume and visual.
Green and white jerseys stood out among the Chargers’ blue. Chants of “Let’s go Eagles” and the singing of “Fly Eagles Fly” echoed from one end of the stadium to the other.
Rivers said the offense never had to go to a silent count to deal with the environment, but it never seemed like an unreasonable possibility, either.
“Certainly not as ideal as you’d love it, but we got to deal with what it is right now,” a diplomatic Rivers said.
And as for what the team is right now, Gordon summed it up.
“It’s been what it is for the Chargers, man,” Gordon said. “We fight hard, and we’ve got to find a way to not make games close.”
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