Chargers know they have to avoid slow start against 49ers

For starters, the Chargers have been much better finishers lately.

Four games in a row produced double-digit deficits after the opening quarter.

Still, the team has come through that stretch 3-1, recovering from a two-point difference against Cleveland, Denver and Atlanta.

“Coming back into the NFL is tough,” said safety Derwin James Jr. “Coming back from two possession losses means we have to do something right.”

True, but the Chargers also get it wrong by repeatedly putting themselves in positions to even need to collect themselves.

They have been outplayed 51-3 in the last four first quarters, a trend that would most likely see them fail on Sunday night against a San Francisco team expected to present a strong improvement in opposition.

The 49ers lead the NFL in total defense and have an offense that includes Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. They are also rested and healthier after taking the week off last week.

San Francisco is a modest 4-4 and has become a popular pick for the Super Bowl, having traded for McCaffrey last month and then throttled the reigning NFL champion Rams on Oct. 30.

The Chargers locker room is littered with former Rams, including defensemen Sebastian Joseph-Day and Morgan Fox, and linebacker Troy Reeder, who the 49ers previously knew as NFC West rivals.

Joseph-Day said he and Fox recently shared with teammates “how fast and how physical it’s going to be. Troy was just saying, “You can’t get caught unless your studs are in the ground. They’ll hit you in the mouth.”

San Francisco appears to be holding its own against the Chargers, who need to find a way to avoid another slow start.

Only twice this season have they gone into the second quarter with a lead: 3-0 against Kansas City in Week 2 and 7-0 in Houston in Week 4.

That game against the Texans — on Oct. 2 — was the last time the Chargers led at any point in an opening quarter.

In an attempt to find a kickstart, trainer Brandon Staley explained that he changed training this week. He structured the sessions so the Chargers got into team periods earlier.

“I want to make sure our players know we’re going to focus on that,” Staley said. “Hopefully we can start faster. … I think our guys know this: ‘Hey, we gave ourselves a hard time and why did that happen?’

“It’s all about execution early in the game and being aggressive, being aggressive and bringing that attitude with you. … We will practice on it. We will work on it. Hopefully it will be translated.”

The sluggish starts were extensive, with the Chargers lagging on both sides of the scrimmage line.

Here’s what her eight first-quarter possessions in the last four games have yielded: a field goal, three punts, two failed fourth downs, and two turnovers.

Here’s what her opponent’s 11 possessions yielded in the first quarter: six touchdowns, three field goals, a punt and an interception.

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said there was no “magic formula” to solve the Chargers’ early struggles. Linebacker Drue Tranquill noted there is no common thread and said it was something different each week.

Lombardi suggested the issue could simply defy explanation.

“One of my favorite books is ‘Fooled by Randomness,'” he said. Football is “17 games. It’s unlike baseball, where there are 400 at-bats or however many. Sometimes the coin will come up heads four times in a row.”

The Sunday before the game will prove interesting, a faster start for the Chargers depends on either Justin Herbert moving the ball or the defense stopping Jimmy Garoppolo from doing the same.

Staley said things weren’t at a point where he would consider getting the opening jab rather than deferring it — the more traditional decision — if the Chargers won the toss.
Whether first on offense or defense, Staley’s team will feature nationally as the Chargers play a second straight game Sunday night.

“I don’t think the lights or the cameras contribute anything,” Joseph-Day said. “You play this game [always] Want to bring your best product to market. It’s just prime time. It’s cool and it’s a blessing. People will be able to watch our team, see who the Chargers are.”

And, most importantly, watch the chargers begin. Chargers know they have to avoid slow start against 49ers

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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