Sunday, June 16, 2024

Alexander: Maybe the Chargers are getting better when it matters most

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  • Linebacker Khalil Mack #52 of the Los Angeles Chargers sacks...

    Linebacker Khalil Mack #52 of the Los Angeles Chargers sacks quarterback Aidan O’Connell #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Linebacker Tuli Tuipulotu #45 of the Los Angeles Chargers tackles...

    Linebacker Tuli Tuipulotu #45 of the Los Angeles Chargers tackles running back Josh Jacobs #8 of the Las Vegas Raiders for a loss of yards in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Aidan O’Connell #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders dives...

    Quarterback Aidan O’Connell #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders dives for the touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers passes...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers passes against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers passes...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers passes against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Davante Adams #17 of the Las Vegas Raiders...

    Wide receiver Davante Adams #17 of the Las Vegas Raiders drops a pass in front of cornerback Michael Davis #43 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers drops...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers drops back against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Derius Davis #12 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Wide receiver Derius Davis #12 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches a pass for first down against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers reaches...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers reaches for the touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tight end Donald Parham Jr. #89 of the Los Angeles...

    Tight end Donald Parham Jr. #89 of the Los Angeles Chargers falls after missing a catching the end zone past linebacker Robert Spillane #41 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Running back Joshua Kelley #25 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Running back Joshua Kelley #25 of the Los Angeles Chargers runs for first own against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Joshua Palmer #5 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Wide receiver Joshua Palmer #5 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches pass over cornerback David Long Jr. #23 of the Las Vegas Raiders for first down in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers looks...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers looks on against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Linebacker Khalil Mack #52 of the Los Angeles Chargers sacks...

    Linebacker Khalil Mack #52 of the Los Angeles Chargers sacks quarterback Aidan O’Connell #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Running back Isaiah Spiller #28 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Running back Isaiah Spiller #28 of the Los Angeles Chargers dives for the first down over cornerback Amik Robertson #21 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers passes...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers passes over defensive end Maxx Crosby #98 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers scrambles...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers scrambles against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Derius Davis #12 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Wide receiver Derius Davis #12 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches pass for first down against safety Tre’von Moehrig #25 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers #16 of the Las Vegas Raiders...

    Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers #16 of the Las Vegas Raiders catches pass for yardage against linebacker Eric Kendricks #6 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coachBrandon Staley of the Los Angeles Chargers looks on...

    Head coachBrandon Staley of the Los Angeles Chargers looks on against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Derius Davis #12 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Wide receiver Derius Davis #12 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches pass for first down against safety Tre’von Moehrig #25 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers passes...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers passes against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders scuffle in the...

    Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders scuffle in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches pass for a first down against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers fans in the first half of a...

    Los Angeles Chargers fans in the first half of a NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Joshua Palmer #5 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Wide receiver Joshua Palmer #5 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches apes for first down against linebacker Robert Spillane #41 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Running back Joshua Kelley #25 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Running back Joshua Kelley #25 of the Los Angeles Chargers runs for first own against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Brandon Stanley of the Los Angeles Chargers high...

    Head coach Brandon Stanley of the Los Angeles Chargers high fives quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers after a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Aidan O’Connell #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders after...

    Quarterback Aidan O’Connell #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders after being sacked by linebacker Khalil Mack (not pictured) of the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Joshua Palmer #5 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Wide receiver Joshua Palmer #5 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches pass over cornerback David Long Jr. #23 of the Las Vegas Raiders for first down in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers fans in the first half of a...

    Los Angeles Chargers fans in the first half of a NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrates...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrates tight end Gerald Everett #7 of the Los Angeles Chargers after running for a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrates...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrates with offensive tackle Trey Pipkins III #79 of the Los Angeles Chargers after running for a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts after a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tight end Gerald Everett #7 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Tight end Gerald Everett #7 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches a pass for yardage against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers passes...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers passes over defensive end Maxx Crosby #98 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Safety Tre’von Moehrig #25 of the Las Vegas Raiders tips...

    Safety Tre’von Moehrig #25 of the Las Vegas Raiders tips a pass intended for tight end Donald Parham Jr. #89 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the end zone in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts after a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches a pass and runs for touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers runs...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers runs for touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Running back Josh Jacobs #8 of the Las Vegas Raiders...

    Running back Josh Jacobs #8 of the Las Vegas Raiders comes up short at the goal line as safety Dean Marlowe #20 of the Los Angeles Chargers makes the tackle in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Running back Isaiah Spiller #28 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Running back Isaiah Spiller #28 of the Los Angeles Chargers dives for the first down over cornerback Amik Robertson #21 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Josh McDaniels of the Las Vegas Raiders looks...

    Head coach Josh McDaniels of the Las Vegas Raiders looks on againts the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Davante Adams #17 of the Las Vegas Raiders...

    Wide receiver Davante Adams #17 of the Las Vegas Raiders drops a pass in front of cornerback Michael Davis #43 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers passes...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers passes against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mark Davis, right, controlling owner and managing general partner of...

    Mark Davis, right, controlling owner and managing general partner of the Las Vegas Raiders fist pumps place kicker Daniel Carlson #2 prior to a NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Young Los Angeles Chargers fans prior to a NFL football...

    Young Los Angeles Chargers fans prior to a NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • A Las Vegas Raiders fan is in good form prior...

    A Las Vegas Raiders fan is in good form prior to a NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Las Vegas Raiders fan prior to a NFL football game...

    Las Vegas Raiders fan prior to a NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Defensive tackle Austin Johnson #98 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Defensive tackle Austin Johnson #98 of the Los Angeles Chargers covers a fumble by quarterback Aidan O’Connell #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Defensive tackle Austin Johnson #98 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Defensive tackle Austin Johnson #98 of the Los Angeles Chargers covers a fumble by quarterback Aidan O’Connell #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Brandon Stanley of the Los Angeles Chargers after...

    Head coach Brandon Stanley of the Los Angeles Chargers after a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers reaches...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers reaches for the touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers reaches...

    Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers reaches for the touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers warms up prior to a NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers warms up prior to a NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Young Los Angeles Chargers fans prior to a NFL football...

    Young Los Angeles Chargers fans prior to a NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers...

    Wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers warms up prior to a NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

INGLEWOOD – The easy – and I guess cynical – way to describe the Chargers’ 2-2 start is this: They’ve run into two teams worse than they are in late-game situations, the Minnesota Vikings last week and the Raiders this week.

And the way the outside world looks at the Chargers – as a team that looks prosperity in the eye and then looks away, a team that has inspired a verb in the Urban Dictionary to describe losing in the worst possible way at the worst possible time – isn’t the way the players and coaches in the building look at themselves. It can’t be. Otherwise they couldn’t function.

So yes, there was this feeling of impending doom in the stands Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium, at least among those wearing blue. Meanwhile, members of the Southern California chapter of Raider Nation were likely rubbing their hands together in glee when Las Vegas pulled within 24-17 with 3:59 left in the game on Josh Jacobs’ 1-yard touchdown run at the end of a 12-play, 60-yard drive, then got the ball after the Chargers couldn’t convert fourth-and-1 at their own 34 and then had their own first-and-goal from the 3 with 2:39 left.

But this is the NFL, America’s preeminent reality programming. And this time the home team had a few surprises in store: Asante Samuel Jr.’s interception on that aforementioned first-and-goal with 2:33 left in the game denied the Raiders, and Justin Herbert’s 51-yard strike to Joshua Palmer on third-and-11 after the two-minute warning got the Chargers to the Raiders 38, allowed Herbert to run out the clock on a 24-17 victory and provided some breathing room going into the bye week.

“I trust (Palmer) in those situations,” Herbert said. “Third and long, we wanted to take a shot, and he did a great job coming up with it.”

Asked if he were surprised at that call, Palmer said: “Not at all. You know, as a receiver I’m biased. I think we should always throw the ball on third and fourth down.”

Careful, Joshua. Brandon Staley gets second-guessed often enough as is, and those fateful moments at the end prevented a 1-3 start and kept already hot seat from becoming outright hellish.

This was an escape in a lot of ways on an afternoon when both sides were missing key components. The Chargers are without Mike Williams the rest of the way. Austin Ekeler was out again with an ankle issue, while veteran center Corey Linsley is out with what the club called a non-emergent heart ailment. Joey Bosa was sidelined, as were safeties Alohi Gilman and JT Woods. And while cornerback J.C. Jackson wasn’t on the injury report and there don’t seem to be any specific reasons why he can’t play, he mysteriously stayed on the sideline all day, obviously a coach’s decision.

Even so, the Chargers came up with a superior defensive effort. Khalil Mack had a franchise-record six sacks of rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell, who was playing because Jimmy Garoppolo couldn’t, and Mack also forced two fumbles. Samuel had the huge late interception and the Chargers defensive front held the Raiders to 76 rushing yards in 23 tries.

“So many people played their part in it,” said Sebastian Joseph-Day. “You know, those are real tough guys. Real, real tough rugged guys in this room. Resilient guys.”

Or, as Mack put it: “You got a bunch of dawgs on our side of the field. There’s always a belief that the offense is gonna (succeed). But when they don’t, we gotta ride. We gotta ride whether it’s good or bad.

“I feel like we playing solid football. Situationally, we have to get better, especially penalty-wise, I feel like we were having a lot of penalties, especially on the back end. We’ve got to get better at that. But all in all, it’s coming together. It’s coming together. When we piece it together, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to look a lot better.”

Meanwhile, Herbert played the last three series wearing a splint, and while he only completed two passes in those last three series the last one was huge. Palmer has a greater role now that Williams is done for the year, and he had two catches for 26 yards before the 51-yarder at the end. The offense was smooth in the first half and especially the second quarter, but choppy in the second half.

Choppy at the end has been the story of the Chargers’ season so far, losing to Miami and Tennessee by a total of five points and using big defensive plays at the end of the last two games to hold off the Vikings and Raiders.

“Our team is comfortable in those situations,” Staley said. “I think, through four weeks, 70 percent of the games are (decided by) less than a touchdown, and that’s the NFL. So you’ve got to be good when you’ve got to have it, and you’ve got to be comfortable in those spaces. Our guys have thrived in that the last couple of weeks.”

And yes, as you might expect, Staley said “we could easily be 4-0 … We’ve gotten better and that’s where my focus is as a head coach.”

So the calls from the faithful – or the cynical, your choice – for a coaching change will quiet for the next couple of weeks. Staley can be polarizing to those on the outside, both for his willingness to roll the bones in situations where others wouldn’t and for his insistence that things are rosy, or at least fine, even when they don’t appear to be.

Then again, he knows his personnel better than we do. If he says they’re improving, and the scoreboard at the end of the day verifies it, that’s the only evidence that matters from week to week in the NFL.

jalexander@scng.com 

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