There’s a saying in the NFL that you can’t go 2-0 unless you go 1-0.
For the Los Angeles Chargers, its 24-19 season opening win Sunday was about as good as it gets. The Chargers got sweet revenge on the Las Vegas Raiders after the overtime loss in Week 17 of last season. Khalil Mack, the prize newcomer on the defense, had three sacks. Justin Herbert did Justin Herbert things…although he still wasn’t the best NFL quarterback in LA this weekend (that honor belongs to Josh Allen).
There’s tons of good news for the Chargers today. Maybe the only bad news is that they don’t have very long to enjoy this. Thursday night the Chargers are in Kansas City to play the Chiefs, who throttled Arizona Sunday on the road.
You’ll hear this a thousand times in the next few days, but remember, the Chargers/Chiefs game is only available to watch if you have Amazon Prime.
The team that comes out of the game will be 2-0.
Here’s what the Chargers did right on Sunday and what it means going forward.
Show Me Your ID
Fans always get too high or too low after Week 1. This is because preseason doesn’t tell us anything. Preseason football is Kim Kardashian…the Ultimate Tease.
It’s always better to win than lose, of course, but the way a team wins Week 1 can help establish an identity for a team to build on. And in that case, this was almost the best possible way to win for the Chargers.
The biggest worry about the Chargers has to be their ability to win close games. The franchise just hasn’t done a good job of that lately, the last game of the 2021 season is the perfect example.
And here you go Sunday, the Raiders get the ball down 24-19, the Chargers have looked like the better team all day, and yet, in the pit of your stomach, it feels like a Chargers collapse is coming.
Then Mack comes crashing in off the edge, and Derek Carr gets sacked. Then gets sacked again, and it’s game over.
Let’s bold this entire sentence: When the game was on the line, the Chargers made a play to win it.
Everybody in the NFL is good. What separates teams from ‘just-good’ to making the playoffs and more is Belief. You don’t think the Chiefs believe in Pat Mahomes? Do the Packers believe in Aaron Rodgers?
Vice versa, does anyone believe in the Cowboys today? Lord no. Same for the Carolina Panthers. Same for the Lions. It’s just not there unless you do it.
The Chargers can really build on this belief moving forward. NFL games usually come down to the last few minutes and who can make a play.
No Rest for the Weary
Blame college football. It found the sweet spot of Thursday Night Football and the NFL couldn’t resist piling on.
Sure, we’re all going to watch, but NFL games on Thursday night still feel a little skeevy, you know, like Kim Kardashian. The advantage leans so much to the home team, which is the Chiefs Thursday. The Chargers basically have today and tomorrow to prepare, travel to Kansas City on Wednesday and then play Thursday night. The Chiefs get Wednesday to prepare.
I always feel like road teams on Thursday night games come out slow.
The good news for LA though is they’ve been able to stand up against the Chiefs the last two years (the Herbert Era). Two of the three Herbert/Mahomes match-ups have gone to overtime (the last game of 2021 Mahomes sat out).
The Chiefs won 23-20 in OT in 2020. The Chargers scored in the final 30 seconds to win the first game last year 30-24, and then the Chiefs won on the Kelce TD pass in OT in the second game.
Mahomes threw for five TDs in their win Sunday over the Cardinals. He was not sacked.
And that’s the game right there.
Can the Chargers get to Mahomes like they got to Carr?
Did You Notice?
You could tell right away against the Raiders that the game plan was to bring pressure out of the secondary to get in Derek Carr’s face. Derwin James was a factor all game. That threw off Carr’s timing and I think is what led to the three interceptions.
So many single-digit jerseys on the Chargers is weird to see.
What was Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow doing on that first punt that was downed inside the 5? Was he trying to knock a Chargers player off the ball? If so, that’s dangerous. Renfrow was a non-factor Sunday.
What would a Chargers/Raiders game be without a bad Chargers call on fourth down? The fourth-and-one play at the Raiders 28 just before halftime was terrible. Defenses know that if a team is quick snapping, it’s just a basic dive or quarterback sneak now.
Dustin Hopkins‘ kicks kept sailing on him and I had a bad feeling he was going to miss one. He did and that gave the Raiders momentum. I’m worried he’s going to cost the Chargers a game here.
Yes, it was definitely at least 50/50 Raider fans at SoFi Stadium. They were loud. Herbert had to use silent count multiple times.
I was shocked to see Sony Michel get so much time after just coming in. I’m still not sure he’s better than Josh Kelley though. I still like Kelley’s burst and ability to catch the ball.
I finally figured out who Austin Ekeler reminds me of. The Giants used to have a small-ish running back named Joe Morris in the 80s. He was on 5-foot-7, but could hide behind the lines and really scoot.
Did Mack briefly have Carr’s facemask on that final sack? I think he did. Usually, refs call any contact on a quarterback’s head. But the Chargers will take it. Believe.