Behind Enemy Lines: Cardinals travel to seven-win Chargers
After a home loss to the one-win Oakland Raiders, the Arizona Cardinals might have hit rock bottom this season.
Up next is a road game against the Los Angeles Chargers, who had won six games in a row before a loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Even so, the Chargers sit at 7-3 and currently occupy the top wild card spot in the AFC.
Quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown for 2,860 yards and 23 touchdowns compared to six interceptions while running back Melvin Gordon has added 741 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Here’s what’s going on in Chargers Nation as the team prepares to face the 2-8 Cardinals, whose only road win was a 28-18 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5.
Saturday, November 24
The Chargers new kicker, Michael Badgley has not missed a field goal yet this season and has only missed one extra point.
The Miami product missed an extra point against the Broncos, which proved crucial in the one point loss, but the Chargers still have faith.
Badgley was signed three weeks ago after the team released Caleb Sturgis.
He earned his nickname by being nearly automatic through his first three games of the season.
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn sees game No. 11 for the Chargers the way a golfer approaches the third day of a golf tournament.
Lynn hopes that the one-point 23-22 loss to Denver was more like a wake up call as apposed to snap hook into the water.
The Chargers still believe they are a good team and do not want their playoff aspirations to slip away after one upset loss to a division rival.
Friday, November 23
• Three Chargers keys to beginning ‘moving time’ against the Cardinals (The Athletic)
A week ago, the Arizona Cardinals looked like a slightly less beat-up, considerably less chaos-embroiled version of the Oakland Raiders, who prevented the Cardinals from bottoming everyone’s power rankings. Then, last Sunday, Arizona lost 23-21 to Oakland on a 35-yard Daniel Carlson field goal with two seconds remaining. …
This week, head coach Anthony Lynn refused to let his team overlook the Cardinals partly because, of course, what happened last Sunday in the Chargers’ own 23-22 collapse to the Denver Broncos. Lynn praised Arizona’s offensive line (for creating holes for running back David Johnson) and the Cardinals pass rush (fourth in the NFL in sacks), but he focused on his own squad’s need to improve.
• Chargers’ kryptonite: Second-half scoring (Sports Drones)
The Chargers average 16.0 points (tied for fourth in the league) in the first half and 10.2 (26th) in the final 30 minutes of contests, per Team Rankings. Los Angeles still has the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chiefs left on the schedule. Currently sitting in a wild-card spot, there’s no room for toning down the offensive intensity levels unless the coaching staff pulls the starters off the field.
Thursday, November 22
• Chargers staying focused on next game and not disheartening loss (Los Angeles Times)
Losing was bad enough. Losing to a touchdown underdog, at home, amid a deluge of blunders, their six-game winning streak shattered, was also forgettable.
Then the Chargers watched as their L.A. neighbors, just a day later, on national television, produced a game some experts are calling the NFL’s most memorable.
• Chargers’ Anthony Lynn gives update on Forrest Lamp (ChargersWire.com)
Forrest Lamp was drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft but an ACL tear hampered the highly touted pick.
The Chargers head coach is skeptical that the youngster can return from such an injury without going through OTA’s and training camp now that they have reached Week 12 of the regular season.
If an opportunity presents itself, we’re going to get him in there,” Lynn said, per ESPN’s Eric D. Williams.
• Chargers’ Austin Ekeler: Returns to full practice (CBSSports.com)
Back-up running back Austin Ekeler returned to practice on Thanksgiving day while starter Melvin Gordon was a limited participant.
Although Ekeler is listed as a back-up, his numbers this season suggest he is a key member of the Chargers’ offense.
Ekeler has 660 yards from scrimmage, which ranks third on the team behind only Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen.
Wednesday, November 21
• Former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen aims to take out Cardinals’ frustrations on Chargers (Los Angeles Times)
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, the former UCLA standout was asked about the toughest part of this 2-8 season with the Arizona Cardinals. In answering, he referenced his two Cardinals predecessors in a rather hard-facts manner.
“Just trying to stay positive through the whole thing,” Rosen said. “I mean, it’s frustrating … But $20 million of your salary cap is going to a quarterback that’s not playing and you got your OC [offensive coordinator] fired. It’s just trying to stay positive and keep all the guys going in the right direction.”
• Chargers’ Gordon making his case as a top NFL running back (Yahoo! Sports)
The Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is tied for first in the NFL in 20-yard runs, third in rushing yards per game and tied for fourth in rushing TD’s.
Gordon is in his fourth season with the Chargers with 3,484 career rushing yards, 25 touchdowns and averages 4.0 yards per carry through his career.
He also gets it done as a receiver with 42 receptions on the season for 448 yards and four touchdowns.
Tuesday, November 20
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said the team would be making changes to its punt return team this week after allowing a successful fake for a second consecutive week.
“We left the defense out there some yesterday,” Lynn said. “We ran punt safe some yesterday. The one time we didn’t we got faked on, so yeah, there’s some things we’re going to do differently there.”
Right tackle Sam Tevi also struggled against Von Miller and the Broncos’ defensive line. With Chandler Jones (10 1/2 sacks) as this week’s matchup, the Chargers could return Joe Barksdale to the starting right tackle role.
• Chargers fall one spot in USA Today power rankings (ChargersWire.com)
USA Today believes the Chargers are still the sixth-best team in the NFL despite the loss to the Broncos.
Here’s what USA Today had to say about the Chargers, with a not-so-subtle jab at the Cardinals: “If Keenan Allen has determined the Broncos “suck,” can’t wait to get his assessment of the Bolts’ upcoming opponent — the 2-8 Cardinals.”
Chargers star defensive lineman Joey Bosa said he was sore after making his season debut on Sunday, but said his left foot — the one that sidelined him the first 10 weeks of the season — was “all right.”
Bosa played 31 snaps against the Broncos, which was about twice as many as expected.
Bosa had just one tackle and a quarterback hit in the loss.
With a struggling Cardinals’ offensive line upcoming, Bosa could break out this week.
“I think this week will be great for preparation,” he said. “It will be much more about getting ready to play football than worrying about if my foot can withstand it.”
• Chargers’ poor run defense has returned and won’t leave (Fansided/BoltBeat)
The Chargers finished with the second-worst rush defense in the NFL last season. They could be trending in that direction again, especially after a strong performance from Denver’s Phillip Lindsay.
Lindsay rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries.
Injuries are starting to pile up for the Chargers’ defense. Linebacker Denzel Perryman and defensive tackle Corey Liuget have suffered season-ending knee injuries the past two weeks.
Cardinals running back David Johnson, meanwhile, recorded his first 100-yard rushing game of the season against the Raiders, finishing with 137 yards.