Chargers review: Injuries to key players proves difficult to overcome

Here’s what we learned, what we heard  and what comes next after the hits kept coming for the Chargers during a 22-16 loss Sunday night to the San Francisco 49ers, a game in which they were already shorthanded and then lost several other key players to potentially serious injuries:


Some day, the Chargers will regain their health and the team that was meticulously assembled to challenge for the Super Bowl during an aggressive offseason will reveal itself again. When that day will be is anybody’s guess. More and more, it looks like it might not be until next season.

The Chargers were on the verge of running out of healthy bodies during their loss to the 49ers. They started the game with patchwork offensive and defensive lines because of injuries. They ended it with only three healthy defensive linemen, with no spares to plug into the lineup.

Christian Covington and Otito Obgonnia were on the field only because Austin Johnson suffered a season-ending knee injury during a victory Nov. 6 over the Atlanta Falcons and Jerry Tillery was waived last Thursday after clashes with coaches and teammates over playing time.

Covington (pectoral) and Obgonnia (knee) then went down and out during Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, a bruising game that also saw quarterback Justin Herbert and linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. take shots to the head that forced them to the sidelines briefly while they were checked out.

“It (expletive) sucks,” defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day said of the injury to Obgonnia specifically. “Obviously, he’s a young player and he’s been playing well. You hate to see him get hurt, you know? You’ve got to try to block it out after it happened and pray for him.”

Chargers coach Brandon Staley said he was comfortable with the way the hits to the heads of Herbert and Murray were assessed medically. Concussions and their diagnosis and treatment in all sports, but especially football, have been a major concern for all involved.

“I didn’t like the fact that (Herbert) had to go out (of the game for three snaps) because he was OK,” Staley said. “But with Kenneth and Justin, I thought you saw a good process in play with those guys having to go in and make sure they were OK. So, hopefully, the world was able to see a good process.

“Both of those guys are OK.”


Tight end Gerald Everett injured his groin in the first half Sunday against the 49ers, after assuming the starter’s role from Donald Parham Jr, who has had two significant hamstring injuries since the start of training camp. Tre’ McKitty stepped in for Everett in the second half Sunday.

Cameron Dicker kicked three field goals and an extra point Sunday against San Francisco, his second game since replacing an injured Taylor Bertolet, who was replacing an injured Dustin Hopkins. If that doesn’t provide a tidy summary on the state of the bruised Chargers, then nothing will.

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The Chargers scored all 16 of their points in the first half Sunday against the 49ers, and they were shut out in a half for the first time in nine games this season. In addition, they gained 186 of their 238 total yards in the first half and they had nine of their 12 first downs in the first half.

It was unacceptable, according to running back Austin Ekeler.

“We need more,” Ekeler said. “We need more playmaking. We didn’t have that in the second half. We can’t just go out there and play hard. That doesn’t win in the NFL. We’ve got to go out there and create. We’re out here getting paid to make plays. We’ve got to make plays.”


Now it gets tougher, now the second-place Chargers (5-4) play host to the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs (7-2) in a second consecutive game on Sunday Night Football. The Chiefs won the first game between the team 27-24 on Sept. 15 in Kansas City’s raucous Arrowhead Stadium.

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