COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Brandon Staley knows the Los Angeles Chargers have defied the odds when it has come to rallying from large deficits in the first quarter.
He hopes that the extra emphasis on avoiding slow starts will help turn things around for his team.
The Chargers (5-3) go into Sunday night’s game at San Francisco trying to avoid becoming the first team to be trailing by 10 or more points after 15 minutes for the fifth consecutive game.
The Bolts' streak reached four games last week when they spotted Atlanta a 10-0 lead before rallying for a 20-17 victory. They joined the Denver Broncos (combined in the 1962-63 seasons) and 1988 Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a four-game streak.
Los Angeles has won three of its four games despite the early deficits. The Chargers joined the Dallas Cowboys (2020), New Orleans Saints (2009), Seattle Seahawks (1997) and Philadelphia Eagles (1988) in winning three games in a season when down by 10 or more going into the second quarter.
“I know this record of us getting behind by double digits and us being like 3-1 when you should be like 0-4,” Staley said. “I know that we’re making it seem like we are comfortable being down 10-0 or 14-0, but we know that you can’t live like that.”
The Chargers came into this season 12-77 in their history when trailing by double digits at the end of the first quarter. Since the merger, teams have won only 17.5% of the time when trailing by double digits after the first quarter.
There are common threads why the Chargers have fallen behind early and been outscored 51-3 in their past four opening quarters.
In their first quarters this season, the Chargers have allowed a play of at least 38 yards in three of the games, with two being touchdowns. They have been 0 for 2 on fourth down conversions and seen teams turn that into scores on their ensuing possession.
Los Angeles' offense traditionally has not gotten off to quick starts under Justin Herbert. It has scored a touchdown in the first quarter in 18 of his first 32 starts, but has only done so once this season. That was in Week 4 at Houston.
“It’s on us to make the most of those possessions when we get them, so getting a first down and just getting rolling is always something you can do better. You’re always trying to get down the field and score, so it’s just executing and for us to be better,” Herbert said.
The Chargers also realize they can’t fall behind early in the next two games. After facing the 49ers, Los Angeles hosts Kansas City.
The three wins when trailing after the first quarter have come against teams with losing records — Cleveland, Denver and Atlanta.
The loss came against Seattle (6-3) and was one of the Chargers’ worst games this season.
Staley said he had made a couple of adjustments for practice this week, including increasing the tempo during team drills early in the sessions. He also hinted at being more aggressive in play calls earlier in games.
“Hopefully, we can start faster. I know that hasn’t happened in the last four games, and I think our guys know, ‘Hey, we made it tough on ourselves, and why did that happen?’ I think it comes down to the execution early on in the game,” he said.
NOTES: Cameron Dicker will be called up from the practice squad to kick on Sunday for the second straight week as Dustin Hopkins (hamstring) and Taylor Bertolet (quadriceps) remain sidelined. ... WR Keenan Allen (hamstring) did not practice. Staley said he could practice this week. ... DT Breiden Fehoko was signed to the practice squad after Austin Johnson went on injured reserve. Johnson fractured his knee in the win over Atlanta.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Joe Reedy, The Associated Press