Chargers' season reminds Linval Joseph of Super Bowl-winning 2011 Giants

Jeff Miller
·5 min read
Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Linval Joseph (95) walks off the field at the end of the first half.
Chargers defensive tackle Linval Joseph (95) and cornerback Casey Hayward walk off the field at halftime against the Saints on Oct 12. The Chargers' struggles remind Joseph of the New York Giants' Super Bowl-winning 2011 season. (Brett Duke / Associated Press)

Several points can be made about the Chargers today as they return from their off week.

A four-game losing streak.

Consecutive blown 17-point leads.

A defense that has been exploited in back-to-back games.

And a reason for hope? Yes, a reason for hope, supplied by veteran defensive tackle Linval Joseph.

“The last time I had this feeling ... I won a Super Bowl,” Joseph said. “I’m just telling guys to believe, believe in themselves, believe in the scheme and it’s going to come together.”

The Chargers signed Joseph in March to provide a push along their defensive front. He has done that, and now he’s providing a push in the locker room, as well.

Shortly after the Chargers reconvened last week at their Costa Mesa training facility, Joseph spoke to the group about his experience with the 2011 New York Giants.

That team also had a four-game losing streak — starting in mid-November — but rebounded to win three of its final four regular-season games, advance to the playoffs and beat New England in Super Bowl XLVI.

Joseph said the 2011 Giants, much like the 2020 Chargers, were beset by injury. After their fourth straight loss, those Giants began to get healthier.

He said he can sense a similar feeling with the Chargers, citing fellow defensive linemen Melvin Ingram and Justin Jones returning from injured reserve as both were activated Saturday.

“Once everybody got healthy, we started winning games,” Joseph recalled of his old Giants team. “We just kept winning games. That’s how we got that ring.”

Victory in the next Super Bowl might seem farfetched for a Chargers team that first has to experience victory at SoFi Stadium.

The Chargers have yet to win in their new home and haven’t won at all since surviving Cincinnati in their opener when the Bengals missed a 31-yard field goal in the final seconds.

As rough as last season was for the Chargers — and no one expected a group coming off a playoff berth to finish 5-11 — that team never lost more than three consecutive games.

So, in dropping four in a row (by only a combined 18 points), these Chargers have lived what must feel like a season’s worth of frustration even before Halloween.

Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa walks off the field after a loss to the Saints on Oct. 12.
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa walks off the field after a loss to the Saints on Oct. 12. (Brett Duke / Associated Press)

“It’s not will,” defensive end Joey Bosa said. “It’s not want-to. Everybody is giving great effort. Everybody wants to win. But we’re not making the plays. We’re not executing the way we have to to win at the end of the game. I think it might just be as simple as that.”

The Chargers lost to Kansas City and New Orleans in overtime after leading both in the fourth quarter.

They lost to Carolina when Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler failed to complete a lateral on the final play.

They lost to Tampa Bay when Justin Herbert threw an interception in the final three minutes.

“Right now, we’re not playing bad ball,” Joseph said. “We’re just not finishing. We just got to get a win and make it a thing.”

Similar to Herbert, the Chargers’ first-round pick who has emerged as a potential long-term solution at quarterback, coach Anthony Lynn began his tenure with the team with four consecutive defeats.

The 2017 Chargers bounced back to finish 9-7 and narrowly miss claiming a postseason spot that three months earlier would have seemed like folly.

Of those nine victories, seven came against teams that would end the season with losing records.

The 2020 Chargers are entering a portion of their schedule that appears to be similarly favorable. Of their next five opponents, only one had a winning record going into Sunday.

The Chargers’ only three remaining opponents that have winning records today are Las Vegas, Buffalo and Kansas City.

“I think this team has similar character to that team,” Lynn said, recalling the 2017 Chargers. “I fully expect this team to bounce back. It’s just unfortunate we’re in this situation again.”

Bosa also was on that Chargers team four seasons ago, the franchise’s first year back in Los Angeles. After digging a significant hole, the group had winning streaks of four, three and two games over the final three months.

“Our first goal should be just trying to get back to .500,” Bosa said. “Get to 4-4, halfway through the season …. It’s not time to panic. I think once we do [win] and once we prove it to ourselves and to each other that we can, games will start stacking up on each other.”

Buoyed by the words of their Super Bowl-winning nose tackle, the Chargers resume their season against 1-5 Jacksonville.

There’s still time. But, in a sport that unfolds week to week, the days already are counting down for a group racing the clock.

“We get paid to win football games,” Lynn said. “That’s what we need to start doing.”

Etc.

The Chargers downgraded right tackle Bryan Bulaga (back) to doubtful for Sunday and activated running back Troymaine Pope from the practice squad.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.