Chargers’ third-quarter touchdown drought an area of concern

COSTA MESA — Whether they have led, trailed or been tied at halftime, there’s been one constant for the Chargers over the past nine games. They haven’t scored a touchdown in the third quarter of any of those nine games, a streak of futility that dates to their victory Oct. 9 over the Cleveland Browns.

Remarkably enough, the Chargers have managed to go 5-4 during their third-quarter touchdown drought, establishing themselves as a likely AFC wild-card participant with an 8-6 overall record with three games to play. The Chargers face the Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1) on Monday night.

The Chargers have defeated the Miami Dolphins and the Tennessee Titans in consecutive weeks despite getting only a 31-yard-field goal by Cameron Dicker in the third quarter against the Dolphins two weeks ago. They were blanked in the third quarter by the Titans last week.

Naturally, it’s an area of significant concern for the Chargers going into their final three regular-season games. After their game Monday against the Colts in Indianapolis, the Chargers complete the season with games against the Rams next Sunday and against the Broncos in Denver on Jan. 7 or 8.

“It’s a combination of things,” Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “I think that we have to come out with, hopefully, a little more energy. Then just get a better script together that maybe gets us in a rhythm earlier. Last week, we were driving, and we had that unfortunate interception.”

Lombardi referred to the second of Justin Herbert’s season-high two interceptions, which derailed a promising drive at the Titans’ 27-yard line with 5:23 left in the third quarter. The Chargers led 14-7 at the time en route to a 17-14 victory on Dicker’s last-second 43-yard field goal.

“Overall, as I look back at all those games, I need to help get the team in a better rhythm with some of the play calls,” Lombardi said. “At times, you’re looking for a big play – and maybe being too aggressive at times and maybe not aggressive at other times. So, it’s … definitely something that we’re looking to fix.”

Typically, Lombardi said the Chargers’ offensive players will meet during halftime to go over what worked in the first half and what kinds of weaknesses they hope to exploit in the opposition’s defense in the second half. They’ll look over photographs to see where those vulnerable areas were and might be again.

Halftime adjustments haven’t paid off in third-quarter touchdowns, not since Joshua Kelley’s five-yard touchdown run and Austin Ekeler’s 12-yard reception from Herbert during a 14-point outburst during a 30-28 victory over the Browns. The Chargers were shut out in six of the next nine third quarters.

“It’s tough to script (plays) for the second half,” Herbert said. “When you get a different game plan than the defense is playing, you have to kind of change what you’re scripting. It’s kind of based on what the defense is playing. I think the defenses have kind of changed over the past couple of weeks with what they’ve been showing versus what they’ve played against us.

“Joe has done such a great job of getting us into the (right) positions. We just have to go out there and execute it. If he’s able to do that, it’s always a great idea. I think they’re kind of crunched for time (at halftime), especially with how many position groups that he has to get around to.”

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Snow and temperatures in the mid-20s are forecast for Monday in Indianapolis, which could prove problematic if the Chargers-Colts game were played outdoors. But the Colts play indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium, and the weather forecast was only of mild curiosity for Herbert on Saturday.

“I heard it’s awfully cold over there,” he said. “I really can’t imagine that, especially being where we are right now (in sunny, 70-degree weather in Costa Mesa). We’re getting ready for whatever conditions we play in. … Whatever the weather was like, we’d be ready to get after it. It happens to be in a dome this week, but we’ll be ready with whatever happens.”


Cornerback Kemon Hall was ruled out of Monday’s game because of a hamstring injury. … Cornerback Bryce Callahan (groin), safety Derwin James Jr. (quadriceps), defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day (back/knee), right tackle Trey Pipkins III (knee), linebacker Chris Rumph II (quadriceps) and left tackle Jamaree Sayler (knee) are expected to play against the Colts.

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