Los Angeles Chargers Defense Disappoints in Season-Ending Playoff Loss

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 13: Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots in action against Rayshawn Jenkins #23 of the Los Angeles Chargers during their AFC Divisional Round playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Chargers 2018 season has come to an end with a 41-28 loss to the New England Patriots. Although the score may make it seem somewhat close, it really wasn’t. The Patriots were up 35-7 at the half and although the score was tied at 7-7 early, the Patriots ran away with it after that. This puts an end to the best season the Chargers had played since 2009 when they went 13-3. Obviously, with a loss like this, there are multiple factors to blame. But the biggest gaffe here is the performance of the defense, who completely locked down the Baltimore Ravens in Wildcard Weekend but did hardly anything against Tom Brady’s Patriots on Divisional Weekend.  

Los Angeles Chargers Defense Underwhelms in Loss to New England Patriots 

Lack of Flexibility 

It may seem unfair to expect the Chargers to shut down Brady the same way they shut down Lamar Jackson. And it is. But given the way they played against the Ravens, it still seemed fair to expect something good against the Patriots (even if not as good). Part of the problem wasn’t actually the defense, though. It was the stubbornness of the coaching.  

The Chargers came in and ran a zone defense much of the day. The problem is, it wasn’t working. Brady was dicing them up with it. And that kind of defense seemed ideal for him to dump it off to James White in the flats. Speaking of which, there was scarcely any coverage in the flats all day. The scheme was not working. So, what did they do? They stuck with it until the game was long out of range. Whether that falls on defensive coordinator Gus Bradley or head coach Anthony Lynn or both, that was a crucial mistake. Both have been generally quite good this year; Bradley was especially good in the previous game against the Ravens. A mistake of that magnitude is uncharacteristic of him (or Lynn for that matter). They will have to learn from it in the future.  

Low Voltage Across the Board 

Although the failures of the defense could be partially blamed on the coaching, the fact still remains that they just did not play well. Giving up 41 points is not good no matter how you look at it. The pass rush was not getting enough pressure most of the time. And the tackling was quite poor. Although they didn’t employ the same strategy with putting mostly defensive backs at linebacker positions, they still did put Adrian Phillips out there again, so between him and Uchenna Nwosu, one would’ve expected more out of that “linebacker” core. But White and Sony Michel were able to run all over them and the front four.  

Another problem was that they could not cover Julian Edelman. He had nine catches for 151 yards. This was somewhat surprising as he was matched up with Desmond King for most of the way, who’s been a standout at the cornerback position and has played the nickel/slot position quite well. And no one else could seem to cover him either. One of the few positives was that they held Rob Gronkowski to only one catch, but that didn’t matter much since Edelman, White and Michel were able to shred them anyway.  

And That’s the Season  

The loss doesn’t completely fall on the defense either. After an early beautiful touchdown throw from Philip Rivers to Keenan Allen, the offense went dead silent for quite a while. They recovered later, but they only scored seven points in the first half. Against the Patriots, that’s generally just not going to work. The special teams had some problems too. King muffed a critical punt return in the third quarter, which the Patriots recovered. (If it wasn’t obvious, King really did not do well in this game.)  

And thus, the Chargers 2018 season comes to an end. The good news is that with a strong young defense led by the likes of Joey Bosa and Derwin James, the future is bright. The bad news is that Philip Rivers probably only has about two good years left in him. Unless the Chargers are able to get lucky with their next starting quarterback, the Super Bowl window may be very short. Still, there’s no reason to not expect another strong season and a return to the playoffs in 2019 for the Chargers.

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