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What we learned in the Chargers’ 20-17 overtime loss to Jacksonville

Here’s what we learned in the Chargers’ 20-17 overtime loss to the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday. (Wait they lost? I stopped watching after they intercepted their second pass in the final two minutes. All they had to do was… )

1. What are these Chargers?

More than halfway through the NFL season, the Chargers have been a tantalizingly confusing team to follow. They’ve completely flipped the script on how many thought they would play, becoming a defense-first team instead of the high-powered offense that people normally associate with Philip Rivers and the Bolts.

The switch in style has kept the Chargers in virtually every game they’ve played this season and, arguably, in good position to win the majority of those games. Yet, they’re 3-6, needing a miracle run to sniff the postseason in their first year back in Los Angeles.

Sunday’s loss was emblematic of the problems the team has faced in recent years — problems the Chargers thought they had cured in tight wins over the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders. When faced with a seemingly sure-thing victory, the Chargers balked and, eventually, collapsed.

Leading by three points at the two-minute warning, the Chargers intercepted Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles. After a gut-punch fumble on the very next play by rookie Austin Ekeler, the Chargers intercepted Bortles again.

Given another chance to win the game, they botched it, quickly were forced to punt and couldn’t stop Josh Lambo, a kicker they cut, make back-to-back field goals to win the game.

While this was all happening, I posed a question to my colleagues in the EverBank Field press box. Are the Chargers a bad good team or a good bad team?

We know they’re OK — a .500 season still seems attainable even after Sunday’s debacle, though they’ll need to play a lot better to get there. But are they closer to the top of the league or the bottom?

Sunday showed that the Chargers are closer to the bottom.

While no team is perfect, the mistakes the Chargers made Sunday — and quite frankly throughout most of the season — disqualify them from being considered a “good team.”

Good teams don’t repeatedly drop pick-six interceptions when gifted with the opportunity. Good teams don’t struggle to find ways to get the ball into the hands of their best players.

Good teams don’t repeatedly get flagged for wildly unnecessary special teams penalties like the Chargers continued to on Sunday when they were flagged for illegally touching a punt that was almost motionless on the ground and for blocking a player who was already out of bounds.

Good teams don’t rough the passer in the final minute. Good teams don’t commit delay of game penalties right after forcing turnovers. Good teams don’t celebrate interceptions instead of gaining needed yardage in the return.

Good teams don’t whiff on three straight punts in crunch time. Good teams don’t struggle to decide whether the kicker can even attempt field goals from 50 yards. Good teams make positive plays in the return game.

Good teams don’t get limited to a pair of touchdowns week in and out. Good teams don’t get stuffed on third-and-short in the biggest moments.

And the Chargers did all of those things Sunday.

The Chargers are too good to simply be labeled a bad team, too. The defense has been spectacular and completely answered the challenges presented by the Jacksonville Jaguars offense. They shut down running back Leonard Fournette. They forced the Jaguars offense to move the ball via the passing game and they turned them over twice on key drives late in the game.

But offensively, the Chargers haven’t been good enough often enough. On special teams, they haven’t been good enough often enough.

And that, coupled with all the mistakes, is why this is a good bad team. There’s too much evidence to suggest otherwise.

dan.woike@latimes.com

Twitter: @DanWoikeSports




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