Falcons, Chargers seek bright spot in difficult seasons
Call Sunday’s Los Angeles Chargers-Atlanta Falcons matchup the Mirror Bowl, pitting a pair of teams that need to take a good hard look at themselves.
The Chargers host the Falcons at Inglewood, Calif., and even though it’s December, there will not be many playoff scenarios bandied about.
The Chargers (3-9) officially were eliminated from playoff contention with an embarrassing 45-0 wipeout by the New England Patriots on Sunday, at home no less. The Falcons (4-8) hang by a thread, and a loss this week will trigger elimination possibilities.
Yet, plenty is left to play for, if ominous scenarios are captivating. Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn appears to be in job-saving mode.
The Chargers failed to hold double-digit leads early in the season and disastrous special teams have led to the reassignment of coordinator George Stewart. While rookie quarterback Justin Herbert had been spectacular with multiple touchdown passes in seven consecutive games, he has just one in the last two contests.
“Yeah, I’m having a down year, and I understand people are going to take shots and people are going to be critical,” Lynn said. “That’s to be expected. But we have had some success here, as well. I think I’m the guy to get this back on the right track.”
This week, Lynn’s team will be matched up against the Falcons, who already pressed the eject button on a pair of team leaders.
The Falcons fired both head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff in October after the team opened with an 0-5 record. The Falcons started 3-1 under interim head coach Raheem Morris, but enter Sunday with two defeats in their last three games, including last weekend’s 21-16 setback to the New Orleans Saints.
“We are talking about building a winning culture,” Morris said. “We want to develop even in losses, you want to develop in all times what you are trying to do.”
The Falcons put up a fight Sunday against the NFC’s top team, but issues with the running game were their undoing. Atlanta went 0-2 against New Orleans this season, and the Saints had Taysom Hill at quarterback for both games, not Drew Brees.
Two weeks removed from an impressive 43-6 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders, the Falcons still look as if they are trending in the right direction. But running back Todd Gurley is expected to have limited usage moving forward as he copes with a sore knee.
Gurley returns to Los Angeles this weekend, where he was a star with the Rams. But that was before his knee problems surfaced in the tail end of the Rams’ Super Bowl season in 2018 and continued into last season. The Rams cut him in the offseason.
He will finally get to play at SoFi Stadium, the new $5 billion shared venue between the Rams and Chargers, that was talked about ad nauseum while he was racking up impressive statistics in L.A.
“I helped create that stadium, so why not try to go out there and try to do damage?” Gurley said this week, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Chargers were without three players at Wednesday’s practice: running back Joshua Kelley (foot), cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (foot) and linebacker Denzel Perryman (back). Running back Justin Jackson (knee) was designated to return from the injured list and offensive tackle Trey Pipkins III was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The Falcons were without four players Wednesday: safety Ricardo Allen (concussion), guard James Carpenter (groin), punter Sterling Hofrichter (hamstring) and wide receiver Julio Jones (hamstring). Jones is expected to practice in some capacity by Friday.
–Field Level Media