Dec 22, 2019; Carson, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry (86) carries the ball in the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Dignity Health Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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Chargers clash with Raiders behind record-setting Herbert

The Los Angeles Chargers head into Sunday afternoon’s game with the visiting Las Vegas Raiders with just a 2-5 record and in last place in the AFC West. But that record could easily be reversed if they had found a way to simply protect some large leads.

The Chargers have blown leads of 16 points or more in their past four games, including a 21-point advantage in last Sunday’s 31-30 loss at Denver when Drew Lock scrambled and connected with KJ Hamler for a 1-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game, and Brandon McManus followed with the deciding PAT.

Before that, Los Angeles had a 24-7 lead over Tampa Bay only to go on to lose, 38-31; built a 20-3 lead at New Orleans before falling, 30-27, in overtime; and then squandered a 16-0 lead against Jacksonville, falling behind 29-22, before rallying for a 39-29 victory.

Los Angeles coach Anthony Lynn, who said “we’re going to have to figure this sh*t out” immediately after the latest meltdown against the Broncos, was asked if his team might have a mental issue after building big leads.

“I hope not,” Lynn said. “That’s our goal is to get ahead in the game. Now we just need to finish. That’s the only thing this team is focused on.”

Lynn said the Chargers have been open about addressing the situation in the locker room.

“It’s something we’ve talked about,” Lynn said. “No, we’re not afraid to bring it up. We know that it’s a problem, and we know that we need to fix it, and we need to do it soon.”

The defensive collapses, which have put both Lynn and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on the hot seat, also have taken the spotlight away from a sizzling start by rookie quarterback Justin Herbert.

Herbert, who is first in the AFC with an average of 303.3 passing yards per game, has thrown three or more touchdown passes in four consecutive games, joining Deshaun Watson (2017) as the only rookies in NFL history to accomplish that feat. He also is the only quarterback in NFL history to pass for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns in his first six games.

“We’re awfully close,” Herbert said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win last week and we’re on to the Raiders.”

“This young man is a problem for everyone in the AFC,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said of Herbert.

Las Vegas (4-3), which has won the last two meetings with the Chargers, comes in off a 16-6 victory at windy and at times snowy Cleveland as Josh Jacobs rushed for a season-high 128 yards on a career-high 31 carries.

Quarterback Derek Carr, despite battling wind gusts of 50 mph, completed 15 of 24 passes for 111 yards, including a game-winning 4-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow to start the fourth quarter.

Jacobs, bothered by a minor knee injury, was a full participant at practice on Wednesday but eight players didn’t participate with assorted ailments, including safety Johnathan Abram (illness), left tackle Kolton Miller (ankle), right tackle Trent Brown (illness), defensive end Arden Key (foot) and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (ankle) and safety Jeff Heath (hip).

Center Rodney Hudson and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins also sat out for what was listed as “not injury related.”

Defensive end Joey Bosa and running back Troymaine Pope both remain in concussion protocol for Los Angeles and did not practice but offensive guard Trai Turner, who has been sidelined with a groin injury, took part and was limited.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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