After back-to-back games filled with dances and demonstrations, the Chargers defenders had their revelry silenced in their 41-38 last-play loss to Detroit at SoFi Stadium.
“A lack of energy,” safety Derwin James Jr. said. "We didn’t get no celebrations off no plays, no turnovers.”
Ansley even formed a 10-player committee and directed them to choreograph the group’s moves in advance of each game.
But the Chargers failed to generate a takeaway against the Lions, Justin Herbert’s first-quarter interception the game’s only turnover.
Instead, the defense was routinely thrashed, James blaming a lack of “want to,” prompting a follow-up question about the Chargers’ defensive effort.
“I don’t want to blame it on nothing,” James said. “We didn’t come and play. We didn’t get it done today. We didn’t play right on defense.”
There also was this: On an afternoon when there were a combined 73 pass attempts, neither quarterback was sacked. The Chargers entered Sunday with 31 sacks, tied for the second most in the NFL.
“The way that they play, the ball is out [fast],” coach Brandon Staley said. “They throw a lot of screens, a lot of keepers, where it’s well-protected. We couldn’t get it into a third-down-and-long type of football game. ... They blocked us, they beat us today.”
Putting the 'Oh!' in offense
The Chargers scored touchdowns on all three of their red-zone trips. They were three for three on fourth down, scoring a touchdown each time. They had four consecutive drives that lasted at least 10 plays.
Herbert threw a hurried interception and missed tight end Gerald Everett once but matched his career high with four touchdown passes.
“It was a good enough offensive performance for us to win today, and Justin was at the front of it,” Staley said. “I thought that Keenan [Allen] was fantastic.”
Allen finished with 175 receiving yards, the third-best single-game total of his career. He also matched his career best with two touchdown catches.
The Chargers’ 38 points were their most in nearly two years.
Hurting and also hurt
The Chargers weren’t just beaten Sunday, they also departed SoFi Stadium beaten up.
Allen left the game for a time in the second half because of a shoulder injury before returning.
Everett suffered a back injury that ended his day early.
Linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. also came back after sitting out because of a hurt shoulder.
Cornerback Michael Davis was unable to stay on the field after trying to play through an illness.
Edge rusher Chris Rumph II left the locker room on crutches because of a foot injury that happened during pregame warmups.
Several Chargers defenders credited the Lions for their scheme and their overall talent after Detroit rushed for 200 yards in 31 carries.
Most of that damage — 177 yards — came in the first half but the effects lingered. Murray said motion “was a weapon for them,” noting that the various shifting by the Lions “just got us out of our fits.”
“We gotta be accountable for that,” Murray said, “and play better next week.”
Staley also praised Detroit but said the Chargers just weren’t good enough. Entering Week 10, Staley’s defense was tied for sixth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game.
“We didn't set enough edges,” Staley said. “We gave up some cutback runs where we lost leverage on the football. Then, there were missed tackles.”
Tumbling back to earth
The progress the Chargers seemed to make on defense over the two weeks entering this game disappeared quickly as Detroit scored on four of its five first-half possessions.
The one time the Lions didn’t score, they ran 12 plays to advance to the Chargers’ one-yard before turning the ball over on downs.
As good as their offense can play, the reality remains that the Chargers will go only as far as their defense will permit.
“You can never look at games like this as a step back,” safety Alohi Gilman said. “It’s always a step forward. It’s all learning. It’s all growth. It’s part of the process of playing in the NFL, playing sports in general.
“If you’re playing to win, you can always be left short. If you’re playing not to lose, you’re playing out of fear. We’re playing to get better. We’re playing to dominate. We’re playing to live up to the expectations we set for ourselves.”
In his own words
“If we don’t get better from this, then that’s our fault and that’s when you truly fail. As long as we learn from this experience. I think we’ll be all right.” — Murray on the Chargers moving forward from another tough defeat.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.