The Chargers lost 38-10 to Jacksonville on Sunday on an afternoon when quarterback Justin Herbert was noticeably affected by his rib cartilage injury.
Linebacker Drue Tranquill called the defeat “embarrassing” and, of the Jaguars, said “they whooped our tails.”
The Chargers are 1-2 and play their next two games on the road — at Houston (0-2-1) and Cleveland (2-1).
Five observations from a strange day at SoFi Stadium:
KEEPING IT IN-HOUSE SO SOON? It’s only Week 3, but the Chargers staged a player-led meeting in the aftermath of their four-touchdown loss.
The gathering was called by defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, who is in his first season with the Chargers but is a team captain.
“That’s the way you want it to be, especially after a game like that,” coach Brandon Staley said. “All that needs to be said needs to come from them. That’s the way good teams are.
“There’s a lot of pride in that room. … We’ve got a lot of the right guys to be coaching. We’ve got a group that’s still coming together. This was just one game in the NFL.”
Asked whether he was concerned that it was a team newcomer who called the meeting, Staley said: “If it wouldn’t have been him, it would have been someone else. It’s not just him. But that’s the way you want your teams to be.”
GROUND GAME SPINS WHEELS: The Chargers’ inability to run the ball has reached the point where they are last in the NFL, averaging 59 yards per game. They finished with 26 yards in 12 carries against the Jaguars.
“Maybe we could have run the ball a little bit more early on,” Herbert said, “but we were down, and so we had to throw the ball and we didn’t catch up. That’s the unfortunate part.”
Coming off a season in which he gained 1,558 yards from scrimmage and scored 20 touchdowns, running back Austin Ekeler has been unable to break loose. Through three games, he has rushed 32 times for 80 yards and caught 21 passes for 139 yards.
Ekeler has zero touchdowns.
“We just haven’t established any rhythm offensively,” Staley said. “Just haven’t blocked at the point of attack or in pass protection well enough. Because of that, you’re not going to see the production from the skill players.”
NO PRESSURE, BIG PROBLEM: The Chargers were unable to affect Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who looked quite comfortable while completing 28 of 39 attempts for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
Lawrence finished with a rating of 115.5, the second best of his young career. He was the top overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
The Chargers tried blitzing, but the Jaguars answered nearly every time with superior protection. Only Derwin James Jr. and Morgan Fox — one apiece — were credited with quarterback hits. The Chargers had no sacks.
“We tried to mix up the rush plan,” Staley said. “We just didn’t win enough one-on-ones today. They did, and you have to give credit to them.”
RUN ‘D’ RUN DOWN: The defense also surrendered a season-worst 151 rushing yards, 100 of which belonged to James Robinson. Fifty of those came on one touchdown run in the third quarter.
Robinson’s score converted on fourth and one barely a minute after the Chargers had closed to within 16-10 on a 25-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins.
“I felt like, in the first half, we hung tough,” Staley said. “In the first half, we gave ourselves a chance. Then, that fourth-and-one run that split us … that really took the air out of us.
“There were a couple of killer third downs that forced us to play a lot more plays. We played over 40 plays (41) in the first half, and I felt that in the second half. I felt like we didn’t have that same energy.”
The Jaguars ran 75 plays to the Chargers’ 58 and had a time-of-possession advantage of 16 minutes 54 seconds.
COMPREHENSIVE FAILURE: The Chargers never led, lost the only two turnovers and committed seven of the nine accepted penalties.
Herbert completed a 54-yard pass to Jalen Guyton and a 45-yarder to Joshua Palmer. Otherwise, the Chargers had no play gain more than 17 yards.
Staley was asked afterward about 2022 perhaps teetering already.
“We’re just three games into a 17-game season,” he said. “That’s how the NFL is. You treat it one week at a time. Sometimes games happen like this. … It’s how you respond tomorrow and the next day and next day after that.”