Chargers-Falcons takeaways: Joshua Palmer receives spotlight

The Chargers improved to 5-3 on Sunday with a 20-17 win over Atlanta.

Observations from a slightly insane finish where both teams lost fumbles in the last 45 seconds:

BIG AGAIN DOWN: For the fourth straight season, the Chargers fell back by double digits in the first quarter. The Falcons scored with their first two possessions to make it 10:0 after 15 minutes.

The Chargers have been outplayed 51-3 in the last four first quarters.

“Yeah, we like to be 10-0,” linebacker Drue Tranquill said with a smile. “We like to do it the hard way.”

Atlanta produced the first nine first downs of the game and had a 145-16 lead in total yards after a quarter.

Tranquill said the slow starts have no common thread — penalties one week, run defense another week, etc. He dismissed the suggestion that the Chargers were unprepared.

“I don’t think you can pinpoint anything,” he said. “I definitely don’t think we’re not ready to play.”

After struggling early on, the Chargers only allowed the Falcons seven points on their last seven possessions. Four of those series ended in three-and-outs.

“I just love how we’ve made adjustments,” Tranquill said, “and kept ourselves in the game.”

BOTTOM BUT NOT OUT: Despite recent early deficits, the Chargers have come back to win three of those four games. They have also won three straight away games after exiting SoFi Stadium 4-4 in 2021.

They came back twice on Sunday and fell back again late in the third quarter, 17-14.

The Falcons’ second touchdown came on a bullish three-yard run from Cordarrelle Patterson, who reached the end zone after plowing over Tranquill, the NFL equivalent of a dunk in basketball.

“Gosh, he got me, man!” said calm. “He got me. He put his head down though, so he’ll get a nice fine [from the league] sits in his locker. But he got me, and everyone gets caught. I won’t live it out.”

The defense’s resurgence in the second quarter was highlighted by sacks from Tranquill and Durwin James Jr., plays that forced the Falcons to bet on two possessions.

“Our boys have just settled in,” said coach Brandon Staley. “I just felt like our guys really communicated, stayed connected and we did a good job afterwards and kept the ball in front of us.”

Falcons safety Richie Grant (27) grabs the shirt from Chargers receiver Joshua Palmer (5).

Falcons safety Richie Grant (27) grabs Joshua Palmer’s (5) shirt after the Chargers receiver made a catch.

(Butch Dill / Associated Press)

COMES THROUGH WHEN DONE: With Keenan Allen (hamstring) and Mike Williams (ankle) injured and out, Joshua Palmer played perhaps his best NFL game, catching eight passes for a career-high 106 yards.

“That was a real feature play for Josh,” Staley said. “I thought you saw what a recipient we think he is. He got his chances today and he really took them and ran with them.”

Palmer said he spent part of Friday speaking with Allen and Williams, the two veterans who are helping him mentally prepare for his expanded role.

“They just set the record straight,” Palmer said. “They said, ‘Yo, look, go and show everyone what you can do because we know what you can do. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t go out there and dominate.”

When asked what those words meant to him on Sunday, Palmer smiled and said: “You were right. You were right.”

BIG MACK ATTACK: Veteran edge rusher Khalil Mack provided one of the most memorable moments of the game when he stole the ball from Atlanta wide receiver Drake London midway through the third quarter.

The game stopped Atlanta in the red zone, Mack brought the fumbling back to midfield.

“That’s him,” Staley said. “He’s one of the best ball producers this league has seen… What your special players do is in games like this and moments like this, they make games for you.”

Chargers defensive tackle Austin Johnson (98) is helped off the field after suffering an injury against the Atlanta Falcons.

Chargers defensive tackle Austin Johnson (98) is helped off the field after suffering an injury against the Atlanta Falcons.

(Butch Dill / Associated Press)

INJURIES NOTICE: The Chargers lost right tackle Trey Pipkins III and defenseman Austin Johnson during the game.

Pipkins aggravated a left knee sprain, Staley said. Johnson also suffered a knee injury.

After the game, Staley said he didn’t have an immediate update on either player.

IN HIS OWN WORDS: Tranquill on Atlanta defenseman Ta’Quon Graham fumbling the ball back to the Chargers in the fourth quarter: “I don’t know what actually happened. It looked like the guy had never worn a football in his life.” Chargers-Falcons takeaways: Joshua Palmer receives spotlight

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