Chargers can’t afford more slow starts

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws a pass in the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at StubHub Center. The Ravens defeated the Chargers 22-10.Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Chargers are tied for the best record in the AFC. They still have a chance at the top seed.

All they need is a win against the Denver Broncos coupled with a Kansas City Chiefs loss in the season finale.

But it may not matter if the Chargers can’t get off to better starts than they did the last two weeks.

Quarterback Philip Rivers threw an interception on his first pass the last two weeks against the Chiefs (a win) and the Baltimore Ravens (a loss). Both picks led to scores, and overall, the Chargers have fallen behind early in four of their past five games.

They came back to win three but they couldn’t pull it out against the league-leading Ravens defense Saturday.

“We have to start better,” Chargers center Mike Pouncey said. “Especially this time of year, we have to go out there and play our best in the first half and come out and finish the game in the second half — we haven’t done that yet.”

Over the past five games, the Chargers have been outscored 43-14 in the opening quarter. And the Ravens held them to 72 total yards in the first half, their lowest yardage at halftime since Week 15 of 2012 (66 yards vs. Carolina).

Los Angeles had four possessions after Rivers’ opening interception. The first three ended in punts and the last resulted in a field goal before halftime.

Still, the Chargers’ offensive woes Saturday continued all afternoon as the Ravens stifled Rivers and company the way no other defense had all season. The Chargers offense was held to 198 total yards and under 20 points for the first time this year.

Rivers, in fact, failed to throw a touchdown pass, ending his 26-game streak with at least a one, and he wound up completing 23 of 37 passes for just 181 yards with two interceptions.

“We got outcoached today, and we got outplayed,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. “We couldn’t get them off the field on defense, and we couldn’t stay on the field on offense. I thought special teams played pretty solid this evening. Our offense and defense — we got outplayed, and we got outcoached. It’s just that simple. It’s a good football team. They came in here, and they beat us.”

–QB Philip Rivers was 23-of-37 for 181 yards and two interceptions Saturday. He did not throw a touchdown, ending a 26-game streak with at least a one scoring pass. He did hit the 4,000-yard passing mark for the 10th time in his career, third most in NFL history.

–RB Melvin Gordon had 41 rushing yards on 12 carries and a touchdown after missing the last three games. His third-quarter touchdown was the 28th of his career, tying Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott for the second-most in the NFL since the start of 2016.

–RB Justin Jackson produced career highs in receptions (7) and receiving yards (47).

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