Chargers review: Has there actually been a shift in the culture this season?

Here’s what we learned, what we heard and what comes next after the Chargers rallied for a 20-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, an unevenly-played game that just as easily could have resulted in a loss after a fourth consecutive double-digit deficit in the first quarter:


The Chargers have won four of their past five games going into Sunday’s prime-time matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Recent results should have their fan base feeling good about the direction of the season despite the many injuries to key players, some significant.

However, there is an omnipresent sense of dread among fans that dates back many, many years. Mostly, it seems like a defense mechanism, a way to cope when things inevitably go haywire. “Chargering” is the word for what happens when things turn sour for the Chargers.

Coach Brandon Staley wasn’t buying it Sunday.

Not. One. Word. Of. It.

“I think there’s far too much focus on the past with this club and there’s not enough focus on the present,” he said. “I think, by outside people. I think there’s a focus on what’s happened before. With us, this is just part of the NFL. This is not exclusive to every team. It’s hard every week in the NFL.

“We’re learning that as a club. Since I’ve been the coach, we’ve played in a bunch of close ones. We’re comfortable in this space. When you have as many people going down (with injuries) as we have throughout the season as we have and you go on the road, it’s not going to be poetic.

“Maybe it could be if you were at full strength and you had your full army out there. Maybe it could be that way. Maybe like in the first game for us. Or part of the second game. But, for us, we’ve got to be able to fight the fight, based on who we have and based on what’s happening.”

Staley said he likes the fight the Chargers have shown despite playing most of their first eight games without the likes of wide receiver Keenan Allen, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, edge rusher Joey Bosa (a four-time selection) and cornerback J.C. Jackson (a first-time selection last season) because of injuries.

Jim Trotter, an reporter who covered the Chargers for many years for the San Diego Union-Tribune, was skeptical. He wondered if all the rah-rah talk might have amounted to a lot of nothing if the Chargers hadn’t rallied from deficits of 10-0 and 17-14 to beat the Falcons.

“After seven games, you get a real accurate picture of the fight in your football team,” Staley said. “You experience all these things that most people experience in a full season, well, we did it in seven games. We had to experience a really tough loss where a bunch of guys went down against Jacksonville. Then we won three straight games, two on the road.”

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Staley referred to injuries suffered by Bosa (groin tear), wide receiver Jalen Guyton (season-ending ACL sprain) and left tackle Rashawn Slater (season-ending ruptured biceps) during a 38-10 loss to Jacksonville in a Week 3 game at SoFi Stadium that gave the Chargers a 1-2 record.

“Whether we had won or lost, we got that (standout) type of level of play,” Staley said of Sunday’s victory. “That’s what we have to fall back on, not whether we win or lose but how we play, how we compete. That’s what our focus is on, on us, on the Chargers and how we compete, how we play.”


Defensive lineman Austin Johnson suffered a fracture to his left knee and an MCL sprain in Sunday’s game and will be sidelined for the rest of the season, Staley said Monday. Johnson’s replacement will be determined over the next 36 hours, as the Chargers prepare to face the 49ers on Sunday.

Also on Sunday, right tackle Trey Pipkins III aggravated an MCL sprain sustained earlier in the season. Staley said Pipkins’ status was day-to-day, but he might play against San Francisco. Storm Norton replaced Pipkins after Pipkins was injured late in the fourth quarter.

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