The Chargers’ inability to hold leads already had reached historic proportions before they extended their epic and utter futility farther Sunday.
This time, they squandered a 21-point edge — a season-high — in losing on the final play of the game at Denver 31-30.
The defeat marked the fourth consecutive game in which the Chargers have blown a lead of at least 16 points.
No NFL team had done that three times in a row until the Chargers pulled it off before rebounding to beat Jacksonville a week ago.
Against the Broncos, coming from ahead again to lose left a befuddled team more flustered.
“I wish I knew the answers,” wide receiver Keenan Allen said. “I thought we played well, first three quarters probably. … I don’t know how we get the ‘dub.’ I don’t know.”
The Chargers fell to 2-5 and have lost eight AFC West games in a row, their most recent victory in the division coming 22 months ago.
Starting with Week 2 of last season, they have dropped 14 of their last 16 one-score games.
All this logically muddles job security from the top of the front office to the bottom of the practice squad.
Asked if he was concerned about his future, coach Anthony Lynn acknowledged the reality of working in the NFL.
“When you’re not winning, I mean, you should be,” he said. “But I don’t let that consume me. I’m never going to turn this around or do what I need to do here if that’s all I’m thinking about.”
Lynn, in the fourth season of his first full-time head coaching job, signed an extension through the 2021 season in February. He led the Chargers to an AFC wild-card playoff victory following the 2018 season but his teams are 7-17 since.
In October of last season, Lynn fired Ken Whisenhunt from the offensive coordinator position with the team sitting at 3-5. He has been asked in recent weeks about defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, whose unit can not find consistency and again wilted Sunday.
“It’s not time to make those changes,” Lynn said. “This is what we have. This is our staff. These are our players. Right now, what we have to do as a group is figure this out.”
Pressed on possible changes, he added: “What do you want to do? Go hire new players? Go hire new coaches right in the middle of a season? You can’t do that. This is what we have. We got to figure this [stuff] out right now.”
The frustration among the Chargers was glaring at times. After one failed play late, Allen was seen waving his arms toward the sideline in disgust. He explained later that he had hoped for a play call that had a better chance of success.
Shortly after the loss, a post on the verified Twitter account of injured linebacker Drue Tranquill apologized to the team’s fans and added that surrendering “leads like this is absolutely unacceptable.”
The post began by referencing a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
The Chargers lost 17-point leads in consecutive losses at Tampa Bay and New Orleans last month and an 11-point lead at home in a Week 2 loss to Kansas City.
They blew a 16-point advantage but eventually came back twice in the second half to beat Jacksonville at SoFi Stadium last week.
Against the Broncos, the Chargers built a 24-3 edge midway through the third quarter behind Justin Herbert’s three touchdown passes and a defense so dominating that Denver had two first downs and 61 total yards in the first half.
But the game pivoted violently when Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay busted loose for a 55-yard touchdown run with 6:05 left in the third quarter.
The Chargers could manage only two Michael Badgley field goals the rest of the way and the defense crumbled in allowing Denver to score four touchdowns on its final five possessions.
“That game today, we had it completely under control,” Lynn said. “The way we lost the game … is unacceptable. And I take full responsibility for that.”
Denver won by going 81 yards in 14 plays in the final 2½ minutes against a defense that was reeling and missing Joey Bosa, who was being evaluated for a concussion. Cornerback Casey Hayward also was in and out of the lineup in the fourth quarter because of a lower body issue.
A pass interference penalty in the end zone on Brandon Facyson converted a fourth down and gave Denver its final chance at the Chargers’ one-yard line with one second to play.
Drew Lock passed to KJ Hamler for the touchdown, Brandon McManus added the winning extra point and the Chargers had made history. Again.
“I thought we had the game under control,” Lynn said. “To not make the plays in the fourth quarter to finish the game is very disappointing, very frustrating.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.