Blown leads, QB questions have Chargers’ Lynn on defensive

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anthony Lynn already has enough on his plate with the Los Angeles Chargers continuing to pile up injuries. The fourth-year coach now has to deal with finding a way to finish games and showing he supports rookie quarterback Justin Herbert.

Los Angeles fell to 1-3 with Sunday’s 38-31 loss at Tampa Bay after blowing a 17-point, first-half lead. It is the second time in the past three games the Bolts have led by double digits and lost. The previous time the Chargers squandered multiple leads of 10 points or more was 2016, Mike McCoy’s last season as coach.

It also was the most recent time the Chargers started a season 1-3.

“I mean it’s tough. We have to talk with each other and figure it out. Obviously there is a reason it is happening for no reason at all,” defensive end Joey Bosa said on Monday.

Lynn said his team has to develop a better killer instinct and keep opponents down, but another part of it is not giving teams momentum.

The Chargers were leading Kansas City 17-9 late in the third quarter when Herbert threw an interception the Chiefs converted into a touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie. Kansas City wound up winning 23-20 in overtime.

On Sunday, LA could have gone into halftime with a 24-7 advantage, but Herbert and Joshua Kelley had issues with the handoff, leading to a fumble, the Bucs taking over at the Chargers 6. Three plays later, Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass to Mike Evans to bring Tampa Bay within 24-14.

“That play right before the half scared me a lot because I knew going in the Tampa has some momentum. We came back, we had a chances and we just didn’t get it done,” Lynn said.

Lynn also finds himself in a quarterback controversy of his own doing. When Tyrod Taylor was sidelined by chest and rib injuries, Lynn said Taylor would return as the starter when he was 100% healthy. With Taylor on the mend but Herbert throwing for at least 290 yards in his first three games, Lynn has found himself on the defensive about what he thinks of Herbert.

“I feel like we have two quarterbacks that we can potentially win with,” Lynn said. “Justin has stepped up. Somehow the narrative is that I don’t like my quarterback, for whatever reason, we drafted this young man at No. 6 in the draft, I’m tied to this young man. I love Justin and Justin knows that. And that’s really all that matters, you know, but I feel like I got to protect him, too.”

Whatever Lynn feels, he needs to get it sorted out quickly.

WHAT’S WORKING

Herbert was 1 of 8 on passes in the air 20 yards or more in his first starts but completed 2 of 3 for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Tampa Bay. Herbert’s 54-yard strike to Tyron Johnson was perfectly placed while his 72-yard TD to Jalen Guyton came under pressure and when he was slightly off-balance.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

There are many negatives already said about the defense from Sunday, but a constant over the first four weeks is that the linebackers struggle to cover running backs or tight ends. LB Kyzir White was targeted 11 times and allowed 10 receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown.

STOCK UP

Tyron Johnson and Donald Parham are the third pair of teammates in the last 40 seasons to score touchdowns on their first career catch in the same game. Johnson, elevated to the active roster with Mike Williams out because of a hamstring injury, split defensive backs Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead on a go route for a 54-yard touchdown. Parham is one of four tight ends on the roster but was split out left and had plenty of size to outmuscle Sean Murphy-Bunting for a 19-yard score during the second quarter.

STOCK DOWN

Cornerback Casey Hayward needs to improve his technique because there were a few plays during the second half when he had poor coverage. The most egregious came in the third quarter when Hayward was caught peeking into the backfield, played the ball instead of the receiver and allowed a 44-yard reception to Scott Miller.

INJURED

Austin Ekeler is getting a second opinion on his hamstring but is likely to miss at least the next three to four games. That would make Justin Jackson and Kelley the main running backs.

KEY NUMBER

11 — Times the Chargers have started 1-3. Only once in the previous 10 occasions have they made the playoffs.

NEXT STEPS

The Chargers face another quarterback with a quick release and talented weapons next Monday night when they travel to New Orleans to play Drew Brees and the Saints.

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