Kicker Josh Lambo latest fall guy in Chargers' season-long swoon

CLEVELAND -- It’s hard to believe that at one point this season the San Diego Chargers led the Kansas City Chiefs by 21 points on the road in the second half.

But that was the reality in Week 1, as San Diego appeared headed to a season-defining win in the team’s opener.

Of course, fate had other plans. The Chargers’ No. 1 receiver, Keenan Allen, was lost for the year after suffering an ACL injury at the end of the first half, and they gave up the first of six fourth-quarter leads in squandering an important AFC West road win.

The Chiefs used the momentum to start the season 7-2 and are headed to the postseason, while the Chargers will be making vacation plans in January for a third straight season.

Sixteen weeks later, the two teams meet again next Sunday.

“This current group has eight days left together,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “No team stays the same from year to year. We’ll have Christmas and we still have a lot to be thankful for with our families. And then we’ll regroup, practice hard and play hard like we always do against Kansas City.

“And I hope that they have everything riding on it, just so it makes it that kind of game.”

In a season filled with scapegoats and folks to blame, kicker Josh Lambo was the latest San Diego player to come up empty in a critical moment.

With his team down 20-17 and needing a field goal to tie Saturday's game, the second-year pro had his 32-yard kick blocked by Cleveland defensive lineman Jamie Meder, who blew through San Diego’s interior offensive line.

San Diego’s defense managed to force Cleveland to punt, allowing Rivers to get the ball back and get the Chargers back in field goal position again.

With time expiring and no timeouts, San Diego’s field goal unit rushed onto the field to kick a 45-yard field goal. Lambo pushed it wide right, giving the lowly Browns their first win of the season.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, since 1970 only three times in NFL history has a kicker missed two field goals with his team down three points or fewer in the final four minutes of regulation.

Graham Gano of the Carolina Panthers was the last kicker to do it, two years ago in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Welcome, Lambo, to the not-so-elite club. Lambo said he hit the ball clean, but just missed the kick.

“It’s a difficult thing,” Lambo said. “You rely on your steps. I didn’t have time to properly do that, but I still need to make that kick.

“I let down my teammates. I let down my organization and let down our fans, and that weight is going to be heavy on me. But I’m going to do what I know to do this week and get back to work. And I’ll do everything I can to fix that.”

Lambo was given an opportunity to throw his teammates under the bus but didn’t take the bait -- a good sign for what the future holds for this talented and still evolving Texas A&M product.

“Give credit to the Browns for getting through and making that block,” Lambo said. “I just go through every kick expecting our guys to protect because they’re great at it, and those guys have done a good job all year.

“I’m certainly appreciative of our line protecting me and keeping me safe. They’re putting their bodies on the line for me, and I appreciate them for doing that.”

Just one more game before San Diego’s season mercifully comes to a close. And then it’s on to an offseason of potential relocation and a possible head-coaching search.

“We’ve got one week left,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “And we said it way back when in Kansas City a long time ago that we didn’t sign up for one week. We signed up for a 17-week season, including the bye in there. We’ve got a division opponent coming into our place, so we’ve got to have a great week of practice.”