The Chargers’ might have made thoughts of a playoff berth disappear with a 23-20 road loss to the Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, the Rams were able to bounce back and complete a sweep of the Seattle Seahawks, 17-16. Los Angeles Times Rams beat writer Gary Klein, Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller and columnist Helene Elliott discuss what happened and upcoming prospects:
Coaches will say one play does not lose a football game, but after a day-long grind filled with self-inflicted wounds the Chargers finally had taken the lead late in the fourth quarter and then … Asante Samuel Jr. penalty on third-and-20 on a pass that did not look very catchable. Isn’t that one?
Miller: There were way too many losing-type plays by the Chargers on Sunday to pin this one on just that penalty. Samuel postgame also said he thought the pass was uncatchable, by the way. The Chargers still had a chance to stop Green Bay after that call and failed. They also had a chance to tie or take the lead after that call and failed. This was just an all-around poor showing by a team not good enough to survive poor showings.
Is Joey Bosa’s injury record likely the reason the Chargers drafted Tuli Tuipulotu? There is an “out” from Bosa’s contract after this season. Think the Chargers would consider moving on from Bosa?
Miller: The Chargers are facing an offseason of some significant financial gymnastics given all the dead-cap money hanging over their heads. Bosa definitely is one player whose future is in question. Right now, though, the more immediate uncertainty is who will be making those moves. General manager Tom Telesco and head coach Brandon Staley both could be let go, leaving the roster retooling to someone else.
As a weekly observer of the Chargers, do you see them attempting to do anything differently on defense week to week in order to deter the pass? More of this or more of that?
Miller: The Chargers used safety Dean Marlowe much more extensively Sunday against the Packers, while linebacker Eric Kendricks and cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor saw their playing time drop as Staley tried to get safety Derwin James Jr. closer to the line of scrimmage more often. The results were better but the Chargers still gave up 322 passing yards to Jordan Love. All season, I’ve thought the Chargers should use more pressure in order to speed up opposing quarterbacks. The back end of their defense just hasn’t proven capable of covering receivers consistently enough.
Is Puka Nacua a more effective receiver for the Rams when Cooper Kupp it out of the lineup or is that just a mirage?
Klein: It’s a mirage. Nacua is seemingly more effective when Kupp is not on the field simply because … Kupp is not on the field. Because of that, Nacua seems to become Matthew Stafford’s primary receiver, so he gets more targets. But the Rams need Kupp and Nacua. You can be certain that opposing defensive coordinators would gladly face the Rams without having to account for both.
Royce Freeman looked like a different running back for the Rams, carrying 17 times for 73 tough yards. Think that was the result of acclimation to the role or did the line just do a superior job?
Elliott: That’s probably a combination of him realizing he had to seize the moment and good work by the line.
Klein: Kyren Williams is due to return from injured reserve on Sunday against the Cardinals, so yes perhaps Freeman wanted to make a statement that there was no need to remove him from the lineup. Or at least make him the primary rotational back. Regardless, he showed he can contribute.
Ernest Jones returned from injury to finish with a team-high 12 tackles, half a sack, and two quarterback hits. Has he turned into a difference-maker on defense?
Klein: There have been few if any concerns about Ernest Jones since he established himself as a starter midway through his rookie season in 2021. He took a back seat to veteran Bobby Wagner in 2022 but he is the defensive signal caller and, along with defensive lineman Aaron Donald and safety Jordan Fuller, the heart of the Rams defense.
The Chargers play the worst pass defense in the NFL and every opposing quarterback seems to look like Joe Montana. Next they face a 7-3 Ravens team with the lightning-fast Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Figuring the defense will have its usual issues, how many points would you guess the Chargers would need to score to have a chance?
Miller: During his rookie season, Zay Flowers’ high for receiving yards in a game is 78. I’d take the over in this game for the Baltimore wideout. Drafted immediately after the Chargers took Quentin Johnston, Flowers is speedy and elusive and just the sort of weapon Jackson could use to drive the Chargers crazy. The Chargers likely are going to have to reach the upper 20s to have a chance. The Ravens have allowed more than 24 points only once — a 33-31 loss to Cleveland in Week 10.
Playing the Cardinals on the road with the fleet-footed Kyle Murray back at quarterback offers different challenges. What do you think gives the Rams’ defense more difficulty — the efficient pocket passer or a scrambler?
Klein: A scrambler, or at least quarterbacks with the ability to make plays out of the pocket. Anthony Richardson, Jalen Hurts and Dak Prescott all gave the Rams problems this season. The Rams have mostly had success against Murray, winning six out of seven games he started against them. But Murray burned them in a 2021 victory at SoFi Stadium.
Elliott: Agreed. Scramblers can be so elusive and unpredictable that I think Kyler Murray will present a major challenge.