Chargers hope heartbreaking loss serves as motivation
COSTA MESA, California (AP) -- Don't tell Anthony Lynn about the Chargers' voluminous recent history of narrow defeats and heartbreaking fourth-quarter mistakes. He wasn't around for any of them -- until Monday night.
The new head coach believes the old reputation doesn't apply to the Los Angeles version of this franchise, even after a loss that felt a bit like so many painful Chargers defeats in recent years.
Even after falling behind by 17 points after three quarters in their season opener, the Chargers were one blocked kick away from taking Lynn's debut into overtime in Denver. If Younghoe Koo's last-second field goal attempt had been allowed to make it over the line untouched, Lynn has no doubt the Chargers would have completed their impressive comeback instead of losing 24-21 to the Broncos.
"Every man in that locker room was hurt," Lynn said Tuesday. "Those guys wanted to win that game so bad. I know they're going to bounce back this week. I'm not concerned about their body language. I know they'll be ready to roll. A lot of character in that locker room."
Lynn and the Chargers returned from Denver with more motivation than disappointment. They have a short week of preparation for the home opener of their relocation season, but they see ample areas in which they can improve against Miami.
Still, Koo's blocked kick was a fresh blow for a franchise that grew familiar with gut-wrenching breaks over the past few seasons. The final San Diego version of this franchise lost eight games by seven points or fewer last year, and the 2015 team lost nine games by eight points or fewer, blowing four fourth-quarter leads.
That was all about to change, according to Lynn.
"We had the momentum," Lynn said. "I feel like we were coming. Koo kicked a nice ball on the first one, and (Broncos coach) Vance (Joseph) did a hell of a job calling that timeout, trying to freeze it. The second kick was just as solid."
Lynn didn't blame rookie offensive lineman Dan Feeney for a mistake that allowed Shelby Harris to deflect Koo's kick. Instead, Lynn put the blame on himself and his staff.
"We just gave up some pressure on the right side," Lynn said. "We had a young player on the right side in Feeney. They went two-on-one and pushed him a little bit. He opened up. It's something we have to put them through more. I take full responsibility for that. They ran a nice little stunt, and we just have to be more prepared for it."
The comeback didn't erase the frustration of a slow offensive debut for the Chargers, who managed just 249 total yards -- with 38 of that on a quick-strike TD pass from Philip Rivers to Travis Benjamin immediately after Denver's fourth-quarter fumble. Los Angeles scored on just one of its first seven drives, and receiver Tyrell Williams acknowledged that Sports Authority Field's extreme crowd noise hampered the Chargers' ability to adjust plays.
"I feel like a lot of us are off it already and on to the next one," Williams said. "I think we have a good group like that. It doesn't fester in us or bother us. Players just keep moving."
Crowd noise should benefit the Chargers while they spend the next three weeks at StubHub Center, their compact home for the next three seasons. Los Angeles hosts Miami, Kansas City and Philadelphia on consecutive Sundays, and that continuity should give the Chargers plenty of time to repair any ragged edges in their game from that difficult opener.
Lynn plans to keep his players out of pads to keep them fresh during their short week of preparation.
"We knew this (short week) was going to happen," Lynn said. "Now, I didn't know (Miami) would have the first week off (due to the hurricanes). But a couple of weeks ago, we had a couple of Dolphin days where we started preparing for the Dolphins. We knew on this short week, we (needed to) have a plan on file for the Dolphins. That's going to help tremendously this week."