Turnover-Plagued Chargers Lose to Panthers

Carolina Panthers v Los Angeles Chargers

INGLEWOOD (CNS) - The Los Angeles Chargers committed four turnovers which the Carolina Panthers converted into 12 points in a 21-16 loss at SoFi Stadium Sunday.

The Chargers were limited to Austin Ekeler's 12-yard touchdown run on the second play of the second quarter on their first seven possessions, committing three turnovers and punting three times on the other six.

After trailing 18-7 at halftime, the Chargers scored on a 41-yard field goal from Michael Badgley with one minute, 18 seconds left in the third quarter and rookie quarterback Justin Herbert's 14-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen with 4:39 remaining on their next two possessions, cutting the deficit to 21-16.

Herbert's pass intended for Allen on a two-point conversion attempt was incomplete.

The Chargers (1-2) got the ball back one final time, on their own 1-yard line with 1:46 to play and no time outs remaining after long snapper J.J. Jansen downed Joseph Charlton's 39-yard punt.

The punt was originally ruled a touchback, but the replay official reviewed the play and reversed the ruling on the field, determining Jansen had control of the ball and two feet down in the field of play, stopping the play, according to Al Riveron, the NFL's senior vice president of officiating.

Five consecutive completions by Herbert and a roughing-the-passer penalty against Carolina defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos advanced the ball to the Panthers' 44-yard line.

Herbert completed a 21-yard pass to Allen on the next play, then spiked the ball, giving the Chargers a second-and-10 from the Panthers' 23-yard line with 12 seconds left.

A five-yard false start penalty against offensive tackle Trey Pipkins backed the ball to Carolina's 28-yard line. Herbert's long second-down pass intended for Allen went incomplete.

Herbert completed a pass to Allen at the Panthers' 14-yard line with two seconds left. Allen attempted a lateral to Ekeler, who was unable to catch the ball. Carolina defensive end Efe Obada recovered with no time left on the clock.

“You practice that play every week just in case it comes up, and it came up,'' Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “I'm not sure how well the toss was but we did not execute the play. I thought it was there. I thought if (Ekeler) had caught the ball, he might have scored.''

Herbert completed 35 of 49 passes for 330 yards and one touchdown, one interception and a fumble lost when he was sacked during his second start for the Chargers.

Tyrod Taylor missed his second consecutive game following a pregame injection which inadvertently punctured a lung last Sunday intended to numb fractured ribs sustained in the Sept. 13 opener.

Carolina Panthers v Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers outgained the Panthers, 436-302, led 26-14 in first downs and 31:12-28:48 in time of possession.

“I thought we moved the ball up and down the field, rushed the ball well,'' said Lynn, whose team ran for 117 yards on 23 carries.

“I thought our quarterback completed enough passes, but you cannot win in this league when you turn the ball over three times and that's on me,'' said Lynn, ignoring the turnover on the final play.

“I have got to do better job of teaching this team how to win because in this league, you give yourself about a 10% chance of winning when you turn it over three times and you don't take any of them away.''

Teddy Bridgewater completed 22 of 28 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown for the Panthers (1-2), who ended a 10-game losing streak dating back to last season, despite the absence of running back Christian McCaffrey, who led the NFL in scrimmage yards and tied for the league-lead in touchdowns in 2019.

The former Stanford standout was placed on the reserve/injured list Wednesday because of a high ankle sprain suffered in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's 31-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- the Chargers next opponent.

The losing streak was the second-longest in the history of the team, which began play in 1995. Only a 15-game losing streak following a victory in the 2001 season opener was longer.

Carolina took the lead for good on the third of Joey Slye's five field goals, a 30-yarder 8:11 before halftime. The field goal culminated a 10-play, 59-yard drive which began with Mike Davis running 25 yards to the Chargers' 46-yard line.

The Panthers scored their only touchdown on their next possession, on a 13-yard pass from Bridgewater to Davis with 3:06 left in the second quarter, eight plays after Chargers rookie running back Joshua Kelley fumbled at the end of a 16-yard gain, with Carolina linebacker Shaq Thompson recovering on the Panthers' 43-yard line.

The Chargers had forced the Panthers to attempt another field goal on the drive, with Slye kicking a 36-yard field goal. However, the Chargers were penalized for an illegal formation on the attempt, with the yardage enough to give Carolina a first down.

Bridgewater threw the touchdown pass on the next play.

“They said we were lined up over the center,'' Lynn said. “We know and we practice it every day that we cannot line up any part of our shoulder pad or shoulders over the center and they called (defensive tackle Jerry Tillery) for it.

“Usually, you get a warning. The official will go up in there and warn you, `Hey you're a little tight.' This time, they didn't. They just threw the flag for whatever reason, but it was unfortunate.''

Defensive lineman Isaac Rochell blocked Slye's conversion attempt, the second consecutive game the Chargers blocked a conversion attempt, making them the first team to block multiple extra points over the first three games of a season since the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks both accomplished the feat in 1985.

Slye kicked a 22-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, two plays after Herbert's short pass intended for Allen was intercepted by cornerback Donte Jackson at the Panthers' 26-yard line and returned 66 yards to the Chargers' 8.

Slye's 31-yard field goal with 10:58 to play accounted for Carolina's only points of the second half. Bridgewater completed a 38-yass to D.J. Moore on the second play of the eight-play, 62-yard drive, the game's longest play.

The Panthers opened the scoring on their second possession on Slye's 29-yard field goal. Bridgewater began the drive by completing 12- and 18-yard passes to Seth Roberts and Robby Anderson, advancing the ball to the Chargers' 18-yard line.

Slye kicked a 24-yard field goal with 4:28 left in the first quarter, seven plays after Herbert fumbled when he was sacked by defensive end Brian Burns for an 8-yard loss at the Chargers' 36-yard line.

The ball rolled 19 yards to Carolina's 45-yard line where linebacker Tahir Whitehead recovered and returned the ball 20 yards.

Bridgewater completed a 24-yard pass to Curtis Samuel four plays before the field goal.

Slye's five field goals were one short of John Kasay's team record set in 2004.

This is the sixth consecutive season the Chargers have lost at least two of their first three games. They have only qualified for the playoffs once during that span.

The loss was the Chargers sixth in seven games against Carolina.

Photo: Getty Images

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