Second straight slow start dooms Chargers in loss to Steelers

CARSON, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Chargers laid an egg against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a nationally televised game, falling 24-17 Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Complex in a loss that wasn't as close as the score indicated.

Amid a sea of black-and-gold-clad Steelers fans and with a full moon hovering over the stadium, Philip Rivers and the Chargers' offense struggled once again in the opening half, failing to score points for a second straight game.

It's the first time since 1975 the Chargers have been held scoreless in the first half in back-to-back home games.

And once again the Chargers struggled in the kicking game, with Chase McLaughlin bouncing his 43-yard field goal attempt off the left upright and back into the field of play at the end of the first half.

How bad was it for the Chargers? Quarterback Tyrod Taylor warmed up in the second half, a sign that perhaps head coach Anthony Lynn was ready to pull the trigger and sit Rivers, the Bolts' longtime starting quarterback.

However, Rivers did appear to have his back evaluated by trainers on the sideline after taking a big hit from Bud Dupree on the opening drive.

Troubling trend: After struggling in the second half of their first three games, the Chargers have dug a hole for themselves with slow starts in the past two. Over those two games, the Chargers have been outscored 38-0 in the first half. Rivers had two turnovers in the first half against the Steelers. They included a dump off to Melvin Gordon on a swing route that was behind him and ruled a backward pass that Steelers rookie linebacker Devin Bush returned 9 yards for a score on the second drive of the game. Bush also corralled a pass tipped by defensive lineman Tyson Alualu at the line of scrimmage for an interception. James Conner turned that into points seven plays later on a 12-yard touchdown run. Rivers has turned it over seven times through six games. Rivers had only 13 turnovers last season.

QB Breakdown: Rivers finished 26-of-44 for 320 passing yards, with two touchdown passes to tight end Hunter Henry, two interceptions and one fumble. Rivers was sacked once, finishing with a 77.8 passer rating. Henry played well in his first game back from a knee injury, totaling eight catches for 100 receiving yards on nine targets. However, Rivers never looked comfortable in the pocket and faced constant pressure most of the night. He also struggled with questionable decision-making for a second straight game. Along with the two turnovers, Rivers also was called for intentional grounding for a second straight game.

Silver lining: At 2-4, the Chargers are only two games behind the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs (4-2), who have also lost two straight. However, the Bolts have back-to-back road games against the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears before returning home to host the Green Bay Packers. They could be out of playoff contention by then.