February 23, 2024

The Chargers offense was electric but the defense shockingly bad in a 41-38 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Los Angeles Times Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller and NFL columnist Sam Farmer discuss what happened and upcoming prospects:

How would you describe Jared Goff looking like a different quarterback than the one who led the Rams to a Super Bowl?

Farmer: He’s obviously more seasoned, has more offensive weapons and might run a little less. That version of Goff was good too, though, and it’s overly simplistic to judge him on that three-point performance in the Super Bowl. He had some great games that season — the wins over Kansas City and Minnesota come to mind, along with clutch runs against Seattle and Dallas. He was and is a talented player, in the top half of quarterbacks. This season, it’s all coming together for him and he’s squarely in the MVP conversation.

Miller: Doesn’t he play like that every game? Or is it just every decent opposing quarterback who plays like that every game against the Chargers? I wish I was kidding, but this is the same defense that made Ryan Tannehill look like a more efficient Tom Brady in a Week 2 loss. I haven’t seen as much of Goff as Sam has, but he looked like a big-time QB Sunday.

The Chargers went deep on their wide receiver depth chart, but wasn’t Jalen Guyton a big surprise with four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown? He returned last week but was little used. Otherwise, he had not been around in quite a while.

Farmer: Not a huge surprise, but a welcome one. Guyton is the type of stretch-the-field threat the Chargers need with Mike Williams out and Keenan Allen getting banged up against the Lions. Justin Herbert and Guyton had chemistry a couple of seasons ago and they had some big games down the stretch, so it’s not really out of the blue.

Chargers receiver Jalen Guyton celebrates his touchdown catch against the Lions.

Chargers receiver Jalen Guyton celebrates his touchdown catch against the Lions.

(Denis Poroy / Associated Press)

Miller: Guyton and rookie Quentin Johnston both scoring touchdowns Sunday captures well where this team’s wide receiver depth is at the moment. When Keenan Allen (shoulder) was out for a stretch against the Lions — with tight end Gerald Everett (back) also out — Justin Herbert had to reach deep. This is probably about as much single-game production as the Chargers can expect from Guyton. They need more for Johnston.

The Chargers’ defense certainly does not look good enough to compete for the Big Game, but five of the Chargers’ next eight games are very winnable. Do you think 9-8 would garner an AFC playoff spot?

Farmer: Probably not. With the Raiders winning Sunday night, the Chargers dropped to 13th in the AFC playoff race. Odds are, the Chargers are going to have to go 6-2 in the second half and get to 10 wins just to be in the mix, and even then they’ll need help with the tiebreakers to sneak in. They don’t have much margin for error anymore.

Miller: I’m with Sam on this. The AFC is much too tight — seven teams have four or five victories at the moment — to expect nine wins to be enough. I don’t expect the Chargers to beat Baltimore at SoFi Stadium in two weeks, even though the Ravens blew their home game Sunday against Cleveland. That means there’s likely only one other game they could lose and still have a shot at the postseason.

The Packers had trouble in Green Bay scoring against the Rams, who did not have their quarterback and had more trouble, losing 20-3. What would be the Chargers’ worries about the Packers, who have not had a consistent offense this season.

Farmer: Green Bay is bad. The Packers have lost five of six, and there’s not much about them that scares anybody. But the Chargers’ worst enemy is themselves. They’re just unreliable and don’t have a killer instinct. Since drafting Herbert, they’ve lost 13 games decided by a field goal or less. That’s not only the NFL’s worst over that stretch, it’s a really troubling trend.

Miller: Well, we do know the Chargers can beat teams with lousy offenses and lesser quarterbacks, so that would seem to be encouraging. The Chargers opened as three-point favorites against the Packers, who haven’t scored more than 20 points in a game since Week 2. But with this team, who can be sure of anything? One certainty would seem to be that a loss in Green Bay would be devastating.

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