Battered Chargers Do Just Enough To Beat Falcons In Atlanta

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Ta’Quon Graham dropped the football. Cameron Dicker kicked the football.

Two former teammates at the University of Texas were in the spotlight Sunday as the Los Angeles Chargers beat the Atlanta Falcons 20-17 in Atlanta, but one was carried off the field at the end, the other not so much.

The Chargers were on their third-string kicker and playing with no Keenan Allen or Mike Williams. They were down 10-0 in the first quarter and there’s some ridiculous stat about the Chargers being the first NFL team since 1988 to be down 10 points or more after the first quarter four games in a row.

But what counts in the NFL is the score at the end of the game. Los Angeles is now 5-3 heading into a Sunday night game in Santa Clara against the Niners.

People say the Chargers are cursed, but the Falcons (4-5) have been cursed ever since they blew the 28-3 lead to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. That loss still hangs over the franchise. I’m sorry. I don’t make the rules. It just does.

Los Angeles could have used some help from the Titans last night, but the Chiefs won in overtime, so Kansas City is 6-2 and leads the AFC West by a game over the Chargers. The Broncos and Raiders have dropped back, so it’s a two-team race in the division.

Speaking of dropped things….

I Got It, No, You Got It

It was shaping up for a good finish. Tied at 17, the Chargers got the ball at their own 32 with 4:33 left and began a march to try to win the game.

After some passes by Justin Herbert, Los Angeles was all set, ball at the Falcons 21, Falcons out of timeouts. Simple counter play to Austin Ekeler just to milk the clock, maybe get it closer for a field goal.

Then everything went bonkers.

Ekeler has the ball knocked out. The replay is the closest thing ever, because it looked like his knee was down. Seriously. The ball is pushed forward where it’s picked up by Falcons lineman Ta’Quon Graham.

Graham pauses and takes off. There’s no one near him for 20 yards. Herbert comes close to him and then Graham….

Just drops the ball.

Graham, in his second-year out of Texas, has started six games for Atlanta. This was his first fumble recovery in his NFL career.

He has the ball in his right hand. I swear it looked like he was expecting Herbert to pop him (unlikely) so he went to move the ball in to brace for contact, and then just let the ball slip. It was comical because he kept running without realizing he dropped it. Chargers got it back.

Falcons are cursed.

Texas Connection Two

After the recovery, Herbert slings it to Joshua Palmer for a big gain and now it’s time for the newest Charger, Cameron Dicker, to try a game-winning field goal.

Dicker, another Texas grad, was a punter/kicker for the Longhorns. He was signed by the Rams as an undrafted free agent. I thought he’d win the punter job for the Rams, but he was cut in pre-season.

Dicker then signed with the Ravens, briefly. Then he was with the Eagles and made a game-winning 23-yard field goal in Week 5 in a 20-17 win (yes, same score) over Arizona. The Eagles stashed him on the practice squad when Jake Elliott came back.

Meanwhile, the Chargers lost kicker Dustin Hopkins to a hamstring strain in Week 6. Back-up Taylor Bertolet gets hurt this week, so the Chargers bring in Dicker.

He drilled the 37-yard field goal right down the pipes for the win.

So to recap:

Graham and Dicker were college teammates at Texas.

Dicker has played in two NFL regular season games and both times made the game-winning field goal for his team to win the game 20-17.

Dicker was NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the Eagles after his win. It’s very likely he will be AFC Special Teams Player of the Week this week.

Offense Finds A Way

I don’t know what to make of the Chargers bad starts, but the whole first quarter was abysmal. The Falcons did whatever they wanted and the Chargers couldn’t get a first down.

But I also thought the Falcons were dumb. They ran the ball for 201 yards. Why would you even bother to throw the ball? Yet, with the score tied at 17, the Falcons went two-yard run, deep pass incomplete, pass incomplete.

Meanwhile, the Chargers offense looked like a team missing two of its best wide receivers. But Herbert made it work. His pocket sense is just better and better.

Palmer was the real Chargers MVP for the day, eight catches for 106 yards, and I’m a bigger and bigger DeAndre Carter fan. He was open a lot. Herbert was never sacked, but the Chargers did lose starting tackle Trey Pipkins III near the end of the game with what looked like a knee injury. That would be a monster loss.

Did You Notice

Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson scored on short touchdown run in the third quarter where he trucked Drue Tranquill at the two-yard line. Patterson lowered his helmet into Tranquill’s chest and sent him flying. But hold on?!? If a defensive player initiated contact with the crown of his helmet it’s a penalty. But if a running back does it, it’s ok? That should not be the rule. What Patterson did was dangerous.

Tranquill may have played his best game as a Charger, with 10 total tackles and a sack. He single-handily changed the momentum of the game early on at the end of the first quarter stopping a Falcons drive. He wears a Q-Collar around his neck that supposedly promotes blood flow to the brain and helps prevent concussions.

The Chargers opened with a three-man defensive front of Austin Johnson, Christian Covington and Sebastian Joseph-Day. They combined for eight tackles. They got pushed around a lot.

The last team to trail by more than 10 points after the first quarter in four straight games? The 1988 Tampa Bay Bucs. You remember them, Vinny Testaverde was the quarterback. Ray Perkins was the coach. They finished 5-11. Ok, maybe you don’t remember them.

Yes, they could have called pass interference on Chargers defensive back Nasir Adderley on Kyle Pitts early in the fourth quarter. It was a huge no-call, because the Falcons missed a long field goal.

Chargers rookie running back Isaiah Spiller saw the most action of his career Sunday with seven carries. He looked Ok.

Did Herbert collide with the cameraman on the field running onto the field on the first possession? It looked like it.