The Yellow Tang raced across my father’s aquarium to inspect a sudden movement from my direction, probably expecting a morsel of food. I ritually settled down on the sofa in the living room of my family home, unaware of the emotions soon to slam and drag me across the floor like a fully-laden lorry.
The time was 6PM in Twickenham, west London. The weather presented itself a hazy, grey sunless affair. There was an uneasy absence of wind all day. A restlessness lingered in the air throughout the week, making every Chargers fan fully aware of this game’s implications. The faint disquiet amplified daily leading up to kickoff.
As the Los Angeles Chargers took the field versus the Houston Texans on my television, a crack of lightning outside my window led a steadily heavy rainfall to beat a rhythmic pounding on the glass.
Long before today, a deluge of problems emerged which prevented us from securing an expected and essential victory. My phone buzzed over and over this week, naming players navigating a rapid path to the COVID list. The tension mounting with each positive test: a rally of apprehension like Djokovic and Nadal battling to hold onto the final set at Wimbledon.
A DPI called on Asante Samuel Jr for an uncatchable ball. Another batted ball against our normally adept Quarterback Justin Herbert. An abortive EDGE “experiment” with Linebacker Kenneth Murray. These were just the appetizers to this dinner of disappointment. The main course: a porous defense, made leaky by its lack of depth—brought to boil well before this game ever started.
Mimi, the Twickenham Charger cat took a seat in front of the TV. Her curiosity aroused: she must have picked up the trail of expletives I let slip as the Chargers defense escorted RB Rex Burkhead to first place in the Derrick Henry Look-A-Like competition.
The 41-29 loss was embarrassing.
How did this happen?
While fingers can be effortlessly pointed at Head Coach Brandon Staley and the players for this result, it wouldn’t be a fair trial if the GM Tom Telesco is let off. A neglect of depth at key positions such as Cornerback, Safety and Interior Defensive Line has created a boundless chasm of talent drop-off from starter to backup which immobilized this team like ripping the wings off a fly, unable to reach its objective without them.
With Cornerback Mike Davis a last-minute ‘inactive’ due to a positive COVID test, Burkhead ran through our exhausted secondary with as much agility as Mimi after catching a whiff of cooked chicken.
Despite the Chargers’ disappointing day, some strengths peeked through the downpour:
RB Justin Jackson stepped up to log two touchdowns.
Dustin Hopkins continued to cement himself as the Chargers’ first reliable Kicker in what feels like a lifetime.
DE Breiden Fehoko displayed admirable aggression and energy worthy of praise.
Many old vices still linger from a bitter Anthony Lynn era we all still taste. This young team has not been coached well enough to handle big games. Many questions need answering before we take the next step and present ourselves as serious, dangerous and consistent contenders: “Why do players come out with uninspiring performances? Why do we play down to teams with worse records? Why do we habitually underestimate these pivotal games?”
In spite of a loss which has left most Chargers fans reeling in a seismic tremor of emotions, this team’s playoff hopes are not yet dashed. The new, aggressive mentality Staley has brought to this team is developing. He is a first year Head Coach. Many teams undergo several years of rebuilding before producing an intimidating roster. Rome was not built in a day.
There will soon come a day when a consuming flame will be lit under this team and opponents will be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire with whichever game plan they choose to sacrifice.
Our emotions hurt because we love this team. We recognize the Chargers potential and we come back each week because we know what they can--what they will be.
But as often with things we love, we must accept reproach is necessary.
To quote Emily Dickinson: “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers”.