The Los Angeles Chargers will face the Tennessee Titans Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee in a matchup of 2-4 teams that have lost four of five games since winning their openers and seeking increased offensive production.
The Chargers enter Sunday’s play tied for 21st in the 32-team league in scoring, averaging 20 points per game, boosted by scoring 30 points in both their victories. They have not exceeded 20 points in their other four games and have been held under 20 three times.
“We have to find a way to get in the end zone more,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “To me, that’s the biggest issue right now that we’re having, offensively. The offense’s job is to score one more point than the other team and we’re not doing that.”
The Chargers offense scored two touchdowns — both in the fourth quarter — in last Sunday’s 24-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a week after being held to none in a 20-13 loss to the Denver Broncos. They have been shut out in the first half of both their past two games, trailing the Steelers, 21-0, six minutes, 34 seconds before halftime and the Broncos, 17-0, with 5:17 left in the first half.
“We just have to execute better early in the game and not put ourselves in the hole like that because that takes (away) the rhythm of our offense,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “You want to run the ball more, but you can’t run the ball more when you’re down 21 to nothing. We have to do a better job of starting fast and just executing.”
The early first-half deficits have meant a near-total disappearance of the Chargers’ rushing game. They are averaging 80.2 yards per game, 27th in the league, including 32 yards on 14 carries against Pittsburgh and 35 yards on 16 carries against Denver.
The Titans have more offensive woes than the Chargers. They are averaging 16.3 points per game, 27th in the league, and have scored seven or fewer points three of the past four games.
Trailing Denver 13-0 with 4:56 left in the third quarter last Sunday and ending the previous possession with quarterback Marcus Mariota throwing his second interception, coach Mike Vrabel replaced Mariota with Ryan Tannehill.
Tannehill’s four possessions ended with two punts, Tennessee turning the ball over on downs and an interception in his first appearance , but he will get the start Sunday because Vrabel thought the team needed a “spark.”
This will be Tannehill’s first start for Tennessee since it acquired him in March from the Miami Dolphins with a 2019 sixth-round draft choice in exchange for a 2019 seventh-round choice and a 2020 fourth-round choice.
“To get a starting role back at this point is really exciting for me, and I definitely want to take advantage of it,” said Tannehill, the Dolphins starter from 2012-18. “I am not trying to prove anything other than I can lead this team to wins.”
To Evan Washburn, who will be the sideline reporter on CBS’ telecast of the game, “whatever line decides to play well in this game, that team’s probably going to be most successful.”
“Tennessee’s line has not done any favors for whoever’s under center,” Washburn said. “That’s basically just flat-out protection, the number of hits those guys are taking through first six weeks of the season is concerning.”
The Titans have allowed a league-high 29 quarterback sacks.
The Chargers “have to find a way to be able to have some success running the ball to allow them to do things in the passing game,” Washburn said.
Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram will probably miss his third consecutive game because of a hamstring injury. The two-time Pro Bowl selection is listed as doubtful. A player listed as doubtful means it is unlikely he will play.
The teams have two common opponents — the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos. The Chargers defeated the Colts, 30-24, in overtime Sept. 8 and lost to the Broncos, 20-13, Oct. 6. Tennessee lost to Indianapolis, 19-17, Sept. 15, and Denver, 16-0, last Sunday.
The Chargers have won 11 of the last 12 regular-season and playoff games between the two teams, dating back to 1993, when the Chargers played in San Diego and the Titans were the Houston Oilers. The Chargers were 20-19 winners last season in London when Mariota’s pass on a two-point conversion with 31 seconds left was tipped by safety Adrian Phillips and fell incomplete.
The Chargers have made one addition to their roster since last Sunday, signing defensive tackle T.Y. McGill, who has played 34 games with four NFL teams over four seasons, including four with the Chargers in 2018.
McGill replaces receiver Travis Benjamin on the 53-player roster. Benjamin was placed on reserve/injured Wednesday because of a hip injury.
The Chargers have not lost five of six games since they lost the final five games of the 2016 season, resulting in the firing of coach Mike McCoy after four seasons.
The Titans roster includes two USC alumni — defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson — and two UCLA alumni — linebacker Jayon Brown and defensive end Matt Dickerson.
Brown and Casey are both graduates of Long Beach Poly High School. They are among four Tennessee players who played at high schools in Los Angeles or Orange counties, along with guard Jamil Douglas (Cypress High School) and tight end Delanie Walker (Pomona High School).