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Chargers’ defense laments lack of pass rush in loss to Rams

September 24, 2018
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Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods scores in front of Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Kyzir White during the second half in an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers have been short-handed the first three weeks of the season without their top two pass rushers. On Sunday, that lack of a pass rush was one of the biggest reasons why they lost to their cross-town rivals.

The Chargers were only able to get one sack against Jared Goff in a 35-23 loss to the Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. A non-existent pass rush allowed Goff to pick the Chargers apart, throwing for 354 yards and three touchdowns.

“We couldn’t get off the field. I think the first half, he completed 90 percent of his passes,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “We have to figure out how to get pressure on the quarterback.”

The Chargers (1-2) will get defensive tackle Corey Liuget back after next Sunday’s game against San Francisco when his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances ends. But Joey Bosa’s return date is less certain. Lynn sounded after Sunday’s game that the third-year defensive end won’t be returning anytime soon.

“We’re feeling it (the losses of Liuget and Bosa) but we have to do something to get the quarterback on the ground. That is up to me and everyone up front,” nose tackle Damion Square said.

The Chargers got pressure on Goff only three of the 37 times he dropped back to pass. The 8.1 percent is the fourth worst pressure rate on a quarterback in this week’s games according to Sportradar. He had an average time of 2.90 seconds to throw, which is more than this week’s league average of 2.72 seconds.

The lack of pressure is why Goff was able to complete 29 of 36 passes. The 80.6 completion rate ties for the second highest against the Chargers since 2010. Goff completed 13 of his first 14 throws and was 21 of 25 for 216 yards in the first half.

Even when the Chargers were able to force a third down, they were rarely able to get a stop. The Rams — who punted only once in 10 possessions — converted eight of 11 third downs, including three where there were 6 or more yards to go.

“It was on us on defense. We couldn’t get a stop. We made them punt one time,” safety Derwin James said. “The offense put up enough points.”

Even when the Chargers were able to make a play on defense, they had something else happen. James picked off Goff on a pass intended for Gerald Everett in the end zone, but instead of a touchback, the momentum carried him out of the end zone and the Chargers took over their own 1.

With the pick, James joined Dallas’ Bill Bates as the only rookie defensive backs in a non-strike year to have two sacks and an INT in their first three games.

One solution for the Chargers to dial up more pressure might be playing James closer to the line of scrimmage. They did that the first two weeks, but he played deeper and was more of a natural free safety because of the Rams’ deep threats.

“Sometimes when I blitz, I get in my rhythm,” James said. “At the end of the day, we have to execute as a defense. We have to mix it up and the guys that have 1-on-1 matchups have to win.”

One of the few saving graces for the Chargers is that they already faced two of the league’s most potent offenses the first three weeks of the season in the Chiefs and Rams. In Week 1, Kansas City beat the Chargers 38-28 as Patrick Mahomes threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns . But much like against the Rams, the Chargers only sacked Mahomes once in that game, too.

Things figure to get slightly easier the next two weeks with home games against San Francisco, who may have lost Jimmy Garoppolo for the year to a knee injury, and Oakland.

“It was a similar game from Week 1, for sure. They’ve got good talent at receiver, great running back, good quarterback. They kind of have a similar playbook, you see (play) actions, you see boots (bootlegs), you see motions,” cornerback Desmond King said. “We’re going to bounce back, for sure. We can’t let this loss affect us.”

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Follow Joe Reedy at www.twitter.com/joereedy

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