The Chargers keep finding painful ways to lose. Their problems won't get any better when an angry Broncos team visits San Diego for a Thursday Night Football matchup.
Denver dropped its first game of the season last week when its struggling offense failed to match the firepower of the red-hot Falcons. The Broncos held Julio Jones to just 29 receiving yards one week after he hit an even 300 against the Carolina Panthers, but had no answer for Atlanta's tailbacks. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 286 total yards and a pair of touchdowns to help build a 23-6 fourth-quarter lead from which Denver could not recover.
Rookie Paxton Lynch had his ups and downs in his first NFL start. The young quarterback led the Broncos to 13 fourth-quarter points by completing 15 of his final 19 passes (excluding a clock-stopping spike) for 119 yards and a touchdown. However, most of those completions were short, conservative passes that helped cover up Lynch's inability to avoid the Atlanta pass rush. He was sacked six times on Sunday.
Lynch may get the call again on Thursday if returning starter Trevor Siemian isn't fully healed. The second-year Bronco helped guide his team to a 4-0 record before being knocked out of a Week 4 showdown with the Buccaneers with a shoulder injury. He was limited in practice this week but is expected to play against Denver's AFC West rivals.
San Diego has Denver topped in terms of quarterback stability this season, but that's about it. The Chargers have fallen to 1-4 with their lone win coming over the lowly Jaguars back in Week 2. Even worse, they've led in the second half of each game they've lost, including disappearing acts from 17- and 13-point fourth-quarter advantages against Kansas City and New Orleans, respectively.
Last week's loss may have been the Bolts' most creative. San Diego trailed Oakland 34-31 when Josh Lambo lined up for a 36-yard field goal as the clock approached the final two-minute warning. The snap hit holder Drew Kaser perfectly, but the rookie punter couldn't handle it and spiked it into the ground, erasing any chance the Chargers had of tying this game. Philip Rivers got the ball back with 11 seconds to play and zero timeouts. His hook-and-lateral-and-lateral-and-lateral last-ditch play failed to gain the 79 yards needed to pull off a miracle.
Now, beating Denver may be the only way for head coach Mike McCoy to keep his job. McCoy has only been to the playoffs once since taking over in 2013. He's topped out at nine wins twice and is just 5-16 since 2015. While Rivers has continued his late-career renaissance -- his current numbers project out to a 4,700-yard, 35-touchdown, 10-interception season -- San Diego seems intent on wasting it.
Only 12 teams have rebounded from a 1-4 start to make it to the NFL playoffs since 1990. The good news is the Chargers have done it before. Now McCoy and Rivers have to hope that 1992 San Diego team can inspire this 2016 one, starting with a home win over the AFC West favorites.
How to watch Broncos vs. Chargers on Thursday
Time: 8:25 p.m. ET
Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
TV: NFL Network, CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Online Streaming: Sunday Ticket, Twitter