Seven weeks into the NFL season, only two AFC teams — New England and Denver — have worse records than the Chargers, who sit at 2-4.
“Nobody would have predicted that,” safety Derwin James Jr. said of the rough start for a group expected to be a playoff contender.
“These last six games, we just gotta flush them,” James continued. “We got 11 more to go. We got a long season. Right now, it looks bad. But we gotta keep playing hard.”
The Chargers were smoked by Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce despite the presence of James, who played after entering Sunday as questionable because of an ankle injury.
Mahomes (424 yards) joined Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa (466) as quarterbacks who have reached 400 yards passing against the Chargers this season.
Kelce (179 yards) joined Miami’s Tyreek Hill (215), Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson (149) and Dallas’ CeeDee Lamb (117) as pass-catches who have topped 100 yards against the Chargers.
Now, the team returns home and to prime time with a game at 5:20 p.m. Sunday against Chicago at SoFi Stadium.
The Bears are 2-5 but have won two of their last three, including a 30-12 Week 7 victory over Las Vegas behind rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent.
“I can’t tell you why the season is starting this way, but it is,” coach Brandon Staley said. “It’s no one’s responsibility but mine. We’ve got a good football team. We need to reset as a football team.”
Two turnovers equal zero
The Chargers generated two takeaways but failed to turn either into points.
Asante Samuel Jr. intercepted a pass thrown by Mahomes in the second quarter, the cornerback’s second of the season and sixth of his career. But the Chargers’ offense then gained only one first down before punting.
In the third quarter, linebacker Eric Kendricks forced Chiefs tight end Blake Bell to fumble, with James recovering. The offense moved to the Kansas City eight-yard line before Justin Herbert had a pass intercepted.
“We didn’t impact the game enough,” Staley said. “Those takeaways, if we score there, obviously that would have been a different story.”
Herbert’s rough day
Herbert was sacked five times, matching his single-game career high. One of the sacks belonged to former Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill, who was allowed to depart in the offseason through free agency.
Herbert was hit eight times and Kansas City was credited with seven passes knocked away, according to the NFL’s official statistics.
“It’s football,” Herbert said. “When they bring pressure, you have to be able to answer. You have to find completions. We have to get the ball out quick. I took some sacks I’d love to have back.”
At one point in the second quarter Herbert had the splint ripped off his fractured left middle finger. He had it repaired on the sidelines and didn’t miss a play.
Afterward, however, Herbert used his right hand strictly for making handoffs.
Keeping the faith
Despite their record and consecutive losses, the Chargers insist their belief isn’t waning.
“We have no choice, right?” running back Austin Ekeler said. “Yeah we have faith. This is our team. This is what we’re riding with. All the way to the end. Good or bad [or] ugly. All the way to the end.”
The Chargers opened the season with back-to-back defeats to Miami and Tennessee before winning two straight against Minnesota and Las Vegas. They’ve now lost to Dallas and Kansas City.
“We’re still believing in each other,” James said. “We lost two tough games to two good-ass teams that’s going to be in the playoffs.”
Some long highlights
Running back Joshua Kelley had a career-long rush of 49 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter. He finished with 75 yards on seven carries.
Wide receiver Joshua Palmer also set a career-best with a 60-yard reception from Herbert in the second quarter, setting up the Chargers’ second touchdown.
Rookie wide receiver Quentin Johnston had only one catch, but it went for 20 yards, his longest yet. He had six receptions for 44 yards entering Sunday.
Kicker Cameron Dicker had a career-long 55-yard field goal for the Chargers’ first points.
In his own words
“Can’t escape it. The NFL … it’s been ups and downs over my seven years. But guess what? You gotta ride the waves. You gotta find a wave where you can get on the front side of it.” — Ekeler on persevering.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.