INGLEWOOD — It wasn’t that long ago that the Chargers were viewed as one of the best defenses in the NFL because Derwin James, Drue Tranquill, Chris Harris Jr. and Joey Bosa are on the roster.
But none of them were on the field Sunday during the Chargers’ 31-26 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium. James, Tranquill and Harris haven’t played since Week 3, and Bosa was inactive because he’s in the concussion protocol.
Injuries certainly played a part in why the Chargers have been one of the worst defenses in the NFL in the past month, but James and Tranquill are likely not coming back this season. They’ll need to turn it around regardless of who’s on the field for the final eight games of the season.
The Chargers (2-6) allowed 29 points or more for the fifth consecutive game. The Raiders ran for 160 rushing yards and quarterback Derek Carr had multiple passes of 45 yards or more against the Chargers’ secondary.
“We gotta eliminate the explosive (plays),” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “The ball went over our heads too many times today.”
Lynn had short responses Sunday when asked about the defensive struggles. Last week, Lynn said he had no intentions of making coaching staff changes.
Lynn has displayed support for defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, but many fans on social media aren’t pleased with the two coaches and Sunday’s performance didn’t help their causes.
The Chargers’ defense, however, did have one positive note when they kept the Raiders out of the end zone after rookie wide receiver K.J. Hill muffed a punt on his own 31-yard line in the fourth quarter.
But not much has gone right for Bradley’s defense this season. The Chargers have allowed 30 points or more in back-to-back games for the second time this season. They never did that once during Bradley’s first three seasons as play caller.
The Chargers received a spark from running back Kalen Ballage, who was promoted from the practice squad this week. Ballage was involved early because Justin Jackson sustained a right knee injury on the opening play.
Ballage finished the Chargers’ first scoring drive with a 5-yard run on fourth-and-1 to tie the score 7-7 with 13:24 in the second quarter. Jackson returned to the game late in the second quarter.
Ballage finished with a team-high 69 rushing yards on 15 attempts. The Chargers rushed for a combined 128 yards.
“I don’t look at myself as a practice squad player,” Ballage said. “The ball just hasn’t rolled my way … but I prepare myself like I’m the No. 1 back on every team I get on and like I’m the No. 1 back in the league. … I’m just going to continue working and help this team win.”
Ballage joined the Chargers’ practice squad last month. The Arizona State product was a fourth-round pick of the Miami Dolphins. He was with the New York Jets to start the season.
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga sustained a back injury on the Chargers’ first drive and didn’t return to the game. Bulaga missed three games this season because of a back injury.
Wide receiver Mike Williams received medical attendance after falling hard on his failed reception in the end zone with six seconds left in regulation.
Lynn didn’t provide updates on Bulaga and Williams after the game.