It was time to take a chance — at least, Philip Rivers thought so.
The Chargers quarterback convulsed in frustration on the field before screaming his way off of it in the third quarter of a 26-24 loss to the Eagles.
The offense faced fourth down and wanted to stay on the field. And Rivers, the sometimes calm, often fiery veteran, didn’t like what he was hearing.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, who decided to punt, was the target of Rivers’ ire. Rivers ripped his helmet off and screamed into it.
“We’re 0-3. Shoot. Heck with it,” Rivers said he yelled into the helmet.
That it was early in the second half, that the Chargers were at the Eagles’ 45-yard line, that Rivers needed seven yards to keep the drive alive — none of that mattered.
“We were going to punt the football there,” Lynn said definitively.
Losing, it turns out, can make people desperate and irrational.
After the game, Rivers smiled thinking about the outburst, ultimately glad that Lynn’s decision prevailed.
“I think 100% it was probably the correct thing to do — to punt it,” Rivers said. “It just had a feel of ‘0-3, at midfield — heck with it.’ You know? That’s why you have all of us and the head coach and not just go off your emotions right there. Without a doubt, it was the correct move.”
After the team’s first 0-4 start since 2003, the frustration spilled into the locker room, where many players examined the reasons for their shortcomings.
Running back Melvin Gordon expressed frustration with his lack of production, a decrease in opportunities and the team’s losing all in a matter of sentences.
“It all falls into the same thing. Not getting the touches and not getting the win … the win is the biggest thing,” Gordon said. “It’s tough when you feel like you can’t even help. You’re kind of sitting back and it sucks, because I just feel like I’m helpless out there. I hate feeling like that, like I can’t help my teammates out there. It hurts.”
After rushing for 997 yards last season, Gordon has seen his production dip. With the exception of a strong first half against Kansas City in Week 3, he’s been a non-factor on the ground. Sunday, he carried 10 times for 22 yards and only four times for two yards in the second half.
Gordon, limited against the Chiefs by a bone bruise in his left knee, insisted the lighter workload wasn’t health-related.
Touch and go
An afternoon most Chargers would like to forget was one that third-string running back Austin Ekeler, an undrafted free agent from Division II Western State in Colorado, will always remember.
Ekeler took a handoff from Rivers, bolted through a gaping hole up the middle, got a good block from tight end Hunter Henry and raced almost untouched to the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown run that pulled the Chargers to within 19-17 early in the fourth quarter.
On his first NFL carry.
“I kind of lost it at first — I was screaming and flexing as hard as I could, I was so excited,” Ekeler said. “It’s a moment I’ll never forget, my first NFL touchdown. I’m glad it happened. I’m just bummed we came up short.”
Ekeler’s only carry on Sunday was the Chargers’ longest run of the season. He also caught two passes for 23 yards in a performance that could gain him more playing time in coming weeks.
“I think they know what I can do,” Ekeler said. “We have a good group of running backs. We all have our different specialties, so when our number is called, we have to make the play.”
The Chargers’ offensive-line depth got tested again, as right tackle Joe Barksdale and left guard Matt Slauson were injured. Barksdale, who didn’t play last week because of a foot injury, left for a drive when he appeared to aggravate the injury. He was able to return. Slauson didn’t return from a triceps injury, allowing rookie Dan Feeney to play with the starting line for the first time this season. …Defensive end Chris McCain left late in the first quarter because of a left elbow injury but returned in the second quarter and finished with his elbow braced. …Linebacker Jatavis Brown, the team’s leading tackler, left the locker room with his right foot in a protective boot. … Lynn won his first challenge of the season: getting an incomplete pass overturned on Henry’s one-handed catch in the back of the end zone in the fourth. Lynn had lost his previous two challenges.