Chargers have to fix poor starts before postseason

CARSON, Calif. — The Los Angeles Chargers have authored some miraculous, come-from-behind victories this season that seemed to mask a weak link.

Too often, the Chargers start out slowly on offense and have to play from behind, and that trend caught up to them in a 22-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, according to center Mike Pouncey.

“We’ve been coming back in the second half of games and winning games, and it’s been awesome for our football team,” Pouncey said. “But that’s not the winning formula in this time of year, especially when you’re playing playoff football teams.

“You have to come out and start fast, and then you have to finish the game the right way. We turned the ball over in some critical times of the game. We didn’t pass block very well. It was just one of those weird games where we didn’t have the ball much in the first half. They kind of dominated the time of possession and in the second half, we tried to fight from behind but it just wasn’t good enough.”

Over the past five games, the Chargers have been outscored 43-14 in the opening quarter.

Despite those poor starts, the Chargers managed to earn impressive comeback victories on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

However, with L.A. hitting the road again for the final game of the season against the Denver Broncos and likely again once the playoffs begin, the Chargers (11-4) have to figure out how to get going on offense earlier in the game.

“We just have to focus on the execution early and often, so we can get the lead and play from the lead,” head coach Anthony Lynn said. “I like it when we play from the lead. If we do get behind, we always feel like we can come back, and I think that’s a good thing, but you don’t want to do that too often because at some point it’s going to bite you in the butt. We’ve got to play from the lead, and we’ve got to execute early and often.”

As Lynn said, the Chargers finally paid the price against the Ravens for constantly falling behind in games, although quarterback Philip Rivers acknowledged that wasn’t the only reason they lost the game.

“I don’t know. It was 6-3,” Rivers said of the Chargers’ halftime deficit. “I expected it to be this kind of game, honestly. I didn’t think it was going to be a high-scoring game, out of respect to that defense.

“I thought we could have a lot more success than we did and I thought it could be us back and forth — a December, January type of game against a physical, tough opponent. It was. We had opportunities there, a handful there at 16-10, and we didn’t get it done.”

The Chargers turned the ball over three times. Rivers was sacked four times and under siege most of the game. They finished with a season low in total yards (198) and points (10).

The Chargers allowed Baltimore to roll up 159 yards on the ground.

Those kinds of numbers will get teams beaten in the postseason, and the Chargers have to figure out how to turn things around — which means faster starts so they can play from ahead, particularly in hostile environments on the road.

“Our defense played awesome,” Pouncey said. “The offensive side of the ball did not play well. When our defense plays that good, we have to go out there and make plays.

“They had so many stops for us and we had too many three-and-outs. Philip got hit way too much. We’ll look at the film and make our corrections and we’ll be ready to play next week.”

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