Chargers must take a run at Titans by solving red-zone failures

There were two runs that yielded just a single yard, a sack, a false start penalty and a fumble snap.

Four red zone trips on Sunday each put the Chargers six points short for four different reasons.

That’s been an issue for this team throughout 2022, an offense that has Justin Herbert’s arm and intellect struggling to finish drives.

The Chargers have scored touchdowns on just 47.9% of their trips inside the opponent’s 20 yard line. That ranks 27th in the NFL. Last season, the Chargers finished fifth with 64%.

As they start their game against Tennessee on Sunday, the Chargers are trying to fix an issue that has been of particular concern of late.

They’ve only had two touchdowns in six red-zone trips against the Dolphins and are just two of nine in the past two weeks.

When asked Thursday what needs improvement, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said, “Overall, run better with the ball, call better plays and execute better.”

Running the ball has been a shortcoming for this offense all season. The Chargers rushed for 238 yards in Week 5 in Cleveland. They went as far as 115 yards on the ground in another game.

In their four failed red-zone trips Sunday, the Chargers ran with the ball four times. One of those plays picked up 12 yards. The other three won two, one and zero.

The ability to run the ball deep into the opponent’s end is crucial due to the condensed nature of the red zone operation. The closer the goal line, the less space there is to work.

“Fleeting the ball is different in terms of how people do it,” said coach Brandon Staley. “Some people join large groups. Some people distribute you. Being able to put the ball on your back I think that’s a great way to do that.

“I think it’s important to find that consistency for us in how we run football down there. We keep working hard on it and it needs to improve for our team.”

The Chargers’ red-zone numbers in 2022 were undoubtedly impacted by all of their injuries. Wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both missed longer stretches.

Herbert’s mobility was also noticeably restricted in the weeks following the fractured rib cartilage he sustained in mid-September. With no chance for the quarterback, an offense loses a significant red zone threat.

Williams was returning from a sprained ankle on Sunday and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Herbert early in the second quarter for one of the Chargers’ two successful red zone trips.

Team No. 2 Donald Parham Jr. will return against the Titans after being limited to 37 snaps all season due to a concussion and hamstring problems. At 6ft 8, he can be a red zone weapon.

“With the guys we have, we should definitely do better than before,” said Lombardi. “It’s certainly something we’re working on and it wouldn’t shock me if we go on a run and suddenly we’re going really well in the red zone. We have to do it.”

As the Chargers look to play their way into the postseason over the next four weeks, scoring touchdowns instead of field goals could be the difference in advancing deeper into January.

“I deserve as much criticism as anyone,” Staley said. “We have to hit the ball better down there. Last year we were a top 5 unit in the red and I was jacked about that. It’s something that’s very close to my heart how we play in the red zone.”

Etc.

Pro Bowl safety Derwin James Jr. is out with a quadriceps injury. He hasn’t trained this week and probably won’t play on Sunday. … Right tackle Trey Pipkins III (knee), defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day (knee) and cornerback Bryce Callahan (core muscle) were each limited in Thursday’s practice.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/chargers/story/2022-12-15/chargers-red-zone-failtures-titans-run-game Chargers must take a run at Titans by solving red-zone failures

Emma Bowman

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