The Chargers are either cursed or just poorly coached. How else can you possibly explain what happens on a week-in and week-out basis with Brandon Staley’s football team? Every freaking week the Chargers find a new, innovative way to lose football games. Whether it’s San Diego or Los Angeles is irrelevant — the Chargers have been disappointing us for a while now. The latest was an overtime road loss to the Titans which featured the Bolts as three-point favorites. As a result, Staley’s seat is now scorching.
Sunday’s Week 2 loss was a classic case of Chargering, with the Titans taking a three-point lead on a field goal with 3:38 remaining in the game. Austin Ekeler was out of the game, but Staley’s squad still had plenty of weapons for Justin Herbert, starting with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and moving on down to rookie Quentin Johnston, backup running back Joshua Kelly and tight ends Donald Parham and Gerald Everett. That much time against a questionable defense should have absolutely resulted in a couple of looks to score a touchdown.
Instead, the Chargers moseyed on down the field, entering the red zone with less than a minute remaining. Staley didn’t use his first timeout until it was third-and-3 from the Titans seven-yard line with 21 seconds remaining. I understand you want to make sure you don’t leave the Titans time to go win the game, but the Chargers should have been attacking more aggressively instead of dinking and dunking and playing for overtime. Herbert promptly got sacked on third down, the Chargers kicked and we got free football.
Just like against the Dolphins, the Chargers promptly flipped their plan, dropping Herbert back on three straight snaps to start overtime, all three ending as incomplete passes, giving the ball back to the Titans with Tennessee needing just a field goal to steal a win. Yada yada yada, the ball went through the uprights seven plays later and the Chargers fell to 0-2 to start the season.
The Titans scored 27 points in this game, the first time Tennessee’s gone over 20 points since Week 14 last year and the first time they’ve scored 27 points or more since Week 11, the only time the Titans did so all 2022 season. Against the Saints last week, the Titans barely mustered 15 points and looked horrendous on offense.
Why does this matter? Because Brandon Staley is a defensive coach and the Chargers consistently fail to play good defense. The Dolphins’ passing success from last week is well documented and today’s performance might be worse given how bad the Titans looked in Week 1.
Staley is an analytics coach who has changed his mind about using analytics. Staley punted on a fourth-and-4 on the Titans 44-yard line. In overtime, he called timeout on a third-and-2 with Derrick Henry on the sideline trying to get rest because his defense wasn’t set, only to see Henry come back on the field and, with the benefit of the timeout, pick up a first down.
The Bolts just signed Herbert to a massive contract extension and it sure looks like they’re going to set another one of his prime seasons completely on fire. Los Angeles, by all accounts, could have landed Sean Payton this offseason, but for various reasons (money, power struggles, etc) decided to stay the course with Staley. Now they’re 0-2 and with their backs up against the wall just two weeks into the season.
Last year’s Bengals team is the only 0-2 team (out of 23) to make the the postseason since the NFL expanded to the seven-team bracket. There aren’t many things worse than blowing a massive playoff lead, but missing the playoffs with a healthy Herbert absolutely qualifies. Since the Super Bowl era began, 34 teams have scored 50+ points with zero turnovers through their first two weeks. The Chargers are the only one of those teams to start the season 0-2.
Staley is the leader in the clubhouse for first coach fired right now. That Week 5 bye is looming large.
Bills bounce back in a big way
Losing to Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t have been a big deal for Josh Allen and the Bills. But when Buffalo lost to the Zach Wilson-led Jets on Monday night in Week 1, it caused a wave of panic around the Bills organization. Less than a week after Allen lamented the “same shit” on a “different day” following the loss, the would-be MVP candidate uncorked on the Raiders with a three-touchdown performance in a get-right beatdown of the Raiders.
The Bills were almost double-digit favorites in this game, so it was hardly a shock to see them win. But the performance was impressive nonetheless and a stark reminder that first-week impressions may not always be firm and fast moving forward.
Allen finished the game 31 of 37 for 274 yards and three passing touchdowns. It could have been a truly outrageous performance if the Raiders had mustered more than 10 points. Las Vegas actually came out of the gates and scored first, taking a 7-0 lead on its first drive, but the Bills essentially locked down Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. for the rest of the game, not allowing a drive of longer than 46 yards the rest of the way while piling up three touchdowns to take a 21-7 halftime lead.
The Bills’ lead could have been even larger if they had converted a fourth-and-goal from the Raiders one-yard line. Allen spread the ball around, an especially interesting notion since Stefon Diggs apparently was the leader in the locker room handing out hype speeches throughout the week. Diggs wasn’t a squeaky wheel — though he did catch all seven of his targets for 66 yards, it was Gabe Davis who led the team in receiving and Davis, Dawson Knox and Khalil Shakir who caught the touchdowns from Allen.
The rushing game for Buffalo was stout, too. James Cook went for 123 yards on just 17 carries and Damien Harris and Latavius Murray both plunged into the end zone for scores.
Buffalo’s offense was efficient, varied and explosive. It was a complete 180 from what we saw the Bills do on Monday night in New York after being gifted a free space with the Rodgers injury in Week 1. No one needed to panic about Buffalo’s performance to start the season, but it was at least reasonable to be a little nervous if you backed the Bills after seeing Allen’s turnover issues last year into the semi-drama of the offseason and the bad offensive struggles in Week 1.
As it turns out, the Jets might simply be Allen’s Kryptonite and the Bills are just fine for 2023.
Concerning omens in Indy
Through two weeks of the season, Anthony Richardson’s been a fun watch and he’s making the Colts a compelling football team with his athletic skill set and tantalizing upside. But, man, how can you not feel a little bit of concern for the future in Indy when seeing Richardson also suffer multiple injuries in the only two regular-season games of his career, both sustained while running the football.
In Week 1 it was a left knee injury that wasn’t considered extremely serious, with head coach Shane Steichen saying later Richarddson could have played if the game had been closer. Today’s injury was a concussion suffered after the rookie signal-caller rushed for his second touchdown.
Richardson would actually stay in the game for two more series before being replaced by Gardner Minshew, a move that resulted in plenty of confusion with the announcing booth and anyone watching/covering the game. Eventually the Colts would reveal he was being evaluated for a concussion. Richardson had taken no more shots on the ensuing two series and it’s clear his head hit hard against the turf on that score. So the timing part of it is a little concerning from a monitoring standpoint, especially given the Colts recent history of mismanaging health situations for their franchise quarterbacks.
Again: Richardson has insane, tantalizing upside and he’s a fun fit in this offense. But even as big a physical freak as he is, he’s not necessarily built like Jalen Hurts (more stout/squat/like a running back). And Cam Newton was built like a defensive end, too, but injuries clearly shortened his career.
Hopefully Richardson is fine and these are just early flukes, but suffering injuries so soon into his pro career while running is definitely a red flag to keep an eye on.
Return of the Rams?
Sean McVay’s squad lost on Sunday so suggesting the Rams are “back” after a one-year hiatus from being good is a little weird, but hear me out. For starters, they lost to the 49ers. With Brock Purdy playing at a high level, the Niners might be the best team in all of football right now. We knew their roster was fantastic, it was just a matter of whether or not the quarterback position would be a question mark during the season or not. Purdy has put that issue to bed pretty emphatically. Kyle Shanahan also owns McVay, having won nine consecutive regular-season games against the Rams.
The Rams are really interesting, though, because everyone buried them before the season. Vegas gave them a 6.5 win total, people talked about this being McVay’s last year, Matthew Stafford’s name was floated in future hypothetical trade rumors. The Rams were discussed as being one of the worst teams in the NFL and a threat for the No. 1 overall pick.
Two weeks in, that notion seems pretty ridiculous, because the Rams look like a strong playoff contender right now. Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell have emerged as legit receiving threats in Cooper Kupp’s absence. Kyren Williams has been a revelation in the rush game, with Cam Akers dealing with some … stuff lately. Stafford threw a pair of picks on Sunday but he’s looked completely healthy for the first time since the Super Bowl season and is making elite level throws that most human beings can’t pretend to consider throwing. Aaron Donald is a PROBLEM and will emerge as a contender for DPOY by midseason in my opinion. The Rams need to stay healthy and find a way to go 2-2 or better against the Bengals, Steelers, Eagles and Cowboys (they get the Colts and Cardinals as well, both need to be wins obviously) between now and Halloween and they’ll be right there in the mix.
Cowboys answer the other question
When Dallas skunked the Giants last week, there was little doubt the defense was going to be an elite unit under Dan Quinn yet again. But we didn’t learn anything about the offense against New York, mainly because Dak Prescott and his teammates on that side of the ball weren’t required to do much thanks to the general gamescript. With Mike McCarthy changing offensive coordinators and taking over play-calling, it was important to know if Dallas could be dangerous on offense. Well, turns out they can, because Dak, CeeDee Lamb and Tony Pollard put a whipping on a Jets defense widely believed to be elite.
Pollard averaged just 2.9 yards per carry, but he looked very effective late while piling up 25 carries in the game. It was a strong indication he can be a legitimate bellcow for Dallas this season. Dak went 31-for-37 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He FED Lamb, targeting him 13 times for 11 catches and 143 yards. That’s something worth watching given how McCarthy’s previous offenses in Green Bay generally featured an alpha receiver who soaked up targets. Lamb absolutely fits that profile.
Zach Wilson and the Jets were no match for Quinn’s unit, not that we needed more proof the Cowboys are talented on that side of the ball. Micah Parson recorded the 10th multi-sack game of his career. Only Reggie White (16), Richard Dent (12), Aldon Smith (12), Shawne Merriman (12) and Dwight Freeney (10) can claim that … but Parsons is only two weeks into his third year.
The Cowboys are now the 11th team in the Super Bowl era to get through their first two games with a point differential of 60 or greater. (Oddly none of them won the Super Bowl and only one, the 1976 Raiders, even made it to the Super Bowl.) The Cowboys +60 net point differential is the second-largest number in franchise history.
By dropping 30 on the Jets, the Cowboys showcased a balance on both sides of the ball that may very well make them a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2023.