COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Anthony Lynn was still seething a day after the Los Angeles Chargers played the worst game of his three-year tenure to fall back under .500.
The Chargers' 20-13 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday resembled a bad flashback to the Mike McCoy era of 2013-16, when giving up big plays on defense, turnovers and an offense that couldn't find the end zone were the norm.
For a team that had Super Bowl aspirations at the beginning of the season, Los Angeles did not expect to be 2-3 and in third place in the AFC West after five weeks.
"A lot of us had one of those games. We did not play at our best," Lynn said on Monday. "To go out, have a divisional game at your place and not win is frustrating. We have what it takes. It is a matter of being on the right track and getting consistent."
The one area they need to fix immediately is eliminating turnovers in the red zone. The Chargers have five this season, including two against the Broncos. Austin Ekeler was stopped at the 1 and fumbled out of the end zone on the final play of the first half and Philip Rivers threw an interception in the end zone after Kyzir White intercepted Joe Flacco and returned it to the Denver 5.
Rivers had been more careful with the football in 2017 and '18, but he has regressed back to the final years of the McCoy era where he is making riskier throws. Sunday ended a 55-game streak where Rivers directed a touchdown drive and was only the ninth time in 224 regular and postseason starts that the offense did not reach the end zone.
The only saving grace from Sunday is that Kansas City also lost, which keeps the Chargers two games behind in the AFC West instead of three.
"We have been in this boat a lot. We obviously don't want to be, but we have been," Rivers said. "We never want to look at the big picture too much, but division games are important as the year goes. With our expectations that we're going to bounce back and get on a roll at some point, you look back and these are the ones that can hurt you."
Special teams continue to provide big plays. On Sunday it was the punt return unit when Desmond King had a 68-yard return for a touchdown during the third quarter to put the Chargers on the scoreboard. The third-year cornerback is the eighth player in franchise history to run multiple punts for scores during his career.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The run defense allowed their second 100-yard rusher this season as Denver's Phillip Lindsay carved up the Chargers for 114 yards on 15 carries. The Chargers had allowed only 3.2 yards per carry over the past three games before Denver had 191 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry.
Ekeler continues to be one of Rivers most reliable targets. His 15 receptions set a franchise record for catches by a running back and are tied for the second most in the league since 1948. Ekeler leads the AFC with 39 receptions, marking the first time a running back has led the conference in catches through five weeks since Indianapolis' Anthony Johnson in 1991. It is also the most running back catches through five games since San Francisco's Paul Hofer had 41 in 1980.
Safety Rayshawn Jenkins continues to be a liability because of his struggles in tackling. He had two missed tackles against the Broncos, including one where Courtland Sutton slipped out of his grasp after a 25-yard reception and went 45 yards up the left sideline to give Denver a 14-0 lead.
Center Mike Pouncey is the latest to join the injured list after he suffered a neck injury during the first half and did not return. If Pouncey is out, that is another huge blow to an offensive line that is already struggling without Russell Okung. The veteran left tackle is on the non-football injury list because of blood clots.
32 — Snaps played by running back Melvin Gordon out of the 70 plays the offense ran. Gordon, who had a 64-day holdout due to a contract dispute, had 38 scrimmage years (31 rushing, 7 receiving).
"We have to get him involved. He's our starting running back," Lynn said on Monday. "He's lost a lot of time. He is going to get his game reps now. It won't take him long."
Los Angeles is 1-2 at home but has a chance to bounce back this week against Pittsburgh (1-4). The Sunday night game could have Devlin Hodges quarterbacking the Steelers after Mason Rudolph was knocked out with a concussion during an overtime loss to Baltimore.