Chargers not 'turning our back on each other' after 0-2 start, defensive woes

LOS ANGELES -- After the Chargers gave quarterback Justin Herbert a record-breaking contract in the offseason and returned a roster laden with Pro Bowlers, the team was expected to contend for a championship.

But the Chargers have underperformed, starting the year 0-2, with the same defensive struggles and late-game mishaps that have been a staple of coach Brandon Staley's tenure. But Herbert said the team still believes in their third-year head coach.

"Panicking is never gonna fix anything," Herbert said. "And so, you know, it's up to us to be able to fix that as an offense and score more points. And you know, we believe in the defense, and sometimes we're gonna score a bunch of points. Sometimes, we're not, but it's up to us as a team to play together."

In both of their losses, which came within three points, the Chargers lost primarily because of their inability to stop explosive plays. In their last game, a 27-24 overtime loss to the Titans, quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed two passes of at least 45 air yards in a game for the first time since 2013, including a 70-yard pass to wide receiver Treylon Burks.

In Week 1, a 36-34 loss to the Dolphins, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns, seemingly finding receivers open deep whenever he chose. Tagovailoa was 5-for-8 on throws over 20 yards, including a 47-yard completion to receiver Tyreek Hill that came on a third down late in the fourth quarter.

The Chargers hired Staley in January of 2021 primarily because of his success as the Rams defensive coordinator during 2020, when the defense led the league in both yards and points allowed per game. But through his three seasons, the Chargers defense has been the team's Achilles heel.

In last year's playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, they allowed 24 second-half points, as the Jaguars completed a historic comeback victory. Through the first two weeks this season, the defense has struggled to get stops on third down, and receivers have beaten the secondary regularly for explosive plays. The Chargers have allowed the most passing yards in the NFL (666).

"Definitely been frustrating," safety Derwin James said. "We haven't gotten the results that we wanted, but we will keep working hard. We're not panicking. We're not quitting, you know, turning our back on each other."

The Chargers will play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, who are also winless. According to Elias Sports Bureau, there have been five coaches since 2010 who have started 0-3 in their third season with a team. Only two of those five finished the season as head coach.