The Chargers want more, even though “no one really created”
SANTA CLARA, Calif. —
The Chargers fell to 5-4 with a 22-16 loss Sunday night to the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night.
They had their three-game win streak on the road snapped and fell behind New England for the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC.
Here are some observations from another Sunday that featured numerous injured Chargers:
O-line depth being tested
Right tackle Trey Pipkins III was among the Chargers’ inactive players. He aggravated his sprained left knee last weekend in Atlanta and was questionable. Pipkins worked out on the field Sunday afternoon but was unable to play.
He was replaced by Foster Sarell, a former undrafted free agent out of Stanford. Sarell’s only previous NFL experience was five special-teams snaps for the Chargers in Week 6.
The team already was missing left tackle Rashawn Slater, who ruptured his biceps in Week 3.
Down his two starting tackles, coach Brandon Staley said the Chargers tried to stay committed to the run in order to help neutralize the 49ers’ pass rush. Still, the Chargers finished with only 16 rushes for 51 yards.
“We were making sure those rushers didn’t tee off,” Staley said. “You gotta chance pace against them. If it just becomes a drop-back game, that’s when all the risk is in the plan against a team like that.
“As long as it was close, we wanted to force those guys to play things straight up. … That’s an outstanding team that rushes the passer. We knew the danger was in the pass rush.”
The Chargers ran the ball five times for 17 yards in the third quarter and had no running plays — and only eight plays total — in the fourth quarter.
Justin Herbert was sacked twice, and San Francisco had nine total quarterback hits.
Playmaking depth an issue, too
Already down wide receivers Keenan Allen (hamstring) and Mike Williams (ankle), the Chargers lost tight end Gerald Everett (groin) in the first half.
Still, running back Austin Ekeler said the absences shouldn’t be used as a crutch.
“We got some of our guys who are down,” he said. “I get it. That doesn’t matter.”
Herbert connected with DeAndre Carter for gains of 33 and 32 yards and with Joshua Palmer for a 25-yard pickup — all in the first half. The Chargers had no other play that netted more than 17 yards.
“No one really created today,” Ekeler said. “We need more playmaking. We didn’t have that in the second half. We can’t just go out there and play hard. That’s doesn’t win in the NFL.”
Afterward, the Chargers were left lamenting not taking full advantage of a fumble recovery and a deflected punt, both of which gave them possession on San Francisco’s side of the 50-yard line.
Instead of touchdowns, the two series ended with Cameron Dicker field goals.
Derwin James Jr. forced the fumble at the end of a 19-yard reception by Brandon Aiyuk. Asante Samuel Jr. swung Aiyuk around while tackling him and right into James, whose helmet cause the fumble.
Samuel recovered, giving the Chargers possession at the San Francisco 32-yard line.
Reserve linebacker Nick Niemann deflected a Mitch Wishnowsky punt, the ball traveling only 13 yards and giving the offense possession at the San Francisco 46-yard line.
A short time later, Herbert put the ball on the fingertips of Tre’ McKitty deep in 49ers’ territory, but the backup tight end was unable to make the catch.
On the next play, Herbert connected deep with Carter for 33 yards to the San Francisco two-yard line.
But the Chargers then stalled.
“I really loved the way our team competed,” Staley said. “We didn’t execute perfectly all the time. I think that we’ll learn from that.”
Worn down by ‘Niners
The drive that put the 49ers ahead for the first time lasted 14 plays and covered 77 yards while consuming nearly seven minutes of the fourth quarter. Christian McCaffrey scored on a two-yard run to make it 19-16 with 7:54 remaining.
Along the way, San Francisco converted third-and-five, third-and-eight and third-and-10.
“When you’re out there for a long time and you don’t get the stops on third down that you need, fatigue can set in and guys make mental errors and you can become oozy on run fits,” linebacker Drue Tranquill said. “We just needed to make some plays in the second half and we didn’t do it.”
San Francisco ran 25 fourth-quarter plays to the Chargers’ eight. The 49ers had all of the game’s eight first downs in the final quarter.
In his own words
Ekeler on his message to Herbert after the second-quarter hit that knocked the quarterback briefly from the game: “I told him, ‘Take your time, brother.’ I mean, there’s more important things than football, which is our life and our brain, especially. I’m glad he was able to come back and be all right.”