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Armando Salguero’s OutKick Monday NFL Perspectives: Chargers Overcome Homefield Disadvantage; Big Ben Describes His COVID; Justin Fields Takes Step Back; Plus This and That

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The Los Angeles Chargers are an interesting, fun team to watch. But, let’s face it. Los Angeles doesn’t want to watch that interesting, fun team.

Los Angeles apparently sees the Chargers as someone else’s team and merely a renter at SoFi Stadium, and that’s exactly how it felt to the Chargers, who beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 41-37 on Sunday evening.

The home crowd, reported at 70,240, was easily 45-50 percent Steelers fans.

And that made it hard on the “homestanding” Chargers.

“That environment was really, really challenging for us,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “We stayed together that fourth quarter. We stayed together the whole game. We played with tremendous energy tonight.

“I felt the Powder Blues the whole game in all three phases. That’s why we won the game, because when it was tight and the crowd was going crazy against us, our guys were ready for a fight today.”

The Steelers are an NFL legacy team — much like the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and others — whose fans travel well to away games. But Sunday evening in L.A. was ridiculous.

The Chargers played with a home field disadvantage this game.

“We were prepared for it,” Staley said. “We deal in reality here. We knew that this crowd was going to show up. Our players were ready for that environment and they thrived in it.

“You can tell by the way we play because our offense and defense came ready to play tonight. We played a real NFL team today and that was a real NFL win. I just can’t say enough about the toughness and the resilience of our group. That’s what we’re trying to build here. Today was a good step in the right direction.”

It was a good step in the right direction for the team. There’s no doubt about that.

But it was an embarrassment for the franchise.

The Chargers are San Diego’s team, folks.

That’s where they belong.

Except San Diego didn’t want to help finance a new stadium and the Spanos family, which owns the team, didn’t want to finance a new stadium. So they paid a $650 million relocation fee and moved in 2017. 

And now the NFL has one of its most interesting teams with one of its most exciting young players, quarterback Justin Herbert, playing in a city that doesn’t fully embrace them.

Big Ben chimes in on COVID situation

Ben Roethlisberger returned to the Steelers lineup after missing his team’s tie against Detroit the previous week while on the COVID-19 reserve list. Roethlisberger got a lot of national media love for self-reporting his symptoms the night before the Lions game, but that wasn’t exactly how it played out.

“I really just called our trainer, John Norwig, and told him I wasn’t feeling well and that I didn’t think I should head into the team hotel because I didn’t want to get anyone sick,” Roethlisberger said. “I just assumed I had a little bug. He said, ‘Ben, we’ve got to test you because if you have any kind of symptoms and you don’t get tested, it’s trouble,’

“So, I drove down and got tested, and still thought it was going to be nothing. I found out when I got home that I was positive for COVID. That night was the worst night. Fever, not feeling well. By Sunday, I started to feel better. Then by Monday, I knew I felt fine physically, but just because you feel fine, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to pass the test. Credit to the doctors and staff for helping get me out here.”

So how was it during the week?

“It’s a crazy process — testing every day, lot of vitamins and minerals,” Roethlisberger said. “Have to give a lot of credit to [Steelers Head Athletic Trainer] John Norwig and the rest of the staff. You literally just take a test every day and hope it’s negative. That’s kind of what it is. It’s a very interesting process.

“I think the MVP of the week is my wife because it was not easy for all the kids to be home, for me to be home, a grumpy husband that probably wants to be at football. I just had to be the backup substitute teacher. It was a lot of interesting time, me wearing a mask at home and trying to help with homework and still try to spend time on meetings and looking at the iPad and going over plays.”

Roethlisberger played well his first game back against San Diego (fine, Los Angeles). He completed 28 of 44 passes for 273 yards and 3 TDs.

Things that make you go Hmmmm

Three quarterbacks played in Sunday’s game between the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens — Justin Fields and Andy Dalton for the Bears and Tyler Huntley for the Ravens. And of those, Fields was the least productive.

The Bears didn’t score on six possessions while Fields was in the game, but after he left with a ribs and possible spleen injury, Andy Dalton led the Chicago offense to two touchdowns in the team’s final six offensive possessions.

Huntley, meanwhile, completed 72 percent of his passes (26 of 36) for 219 yards and rushed for another 40 yards. All this while Fields languished at 4 of 11 for 79 yards.

The Bears remain hopeful Fields is the future, but his performance against a Baltimore defense that is the second-worst in the NFL against the pass — allowing an average of 281 passing yards per game — did not suggest improvement.

This and that

— The Cardinals have forged the NFL’s best record so far at 9-2 and much of that great work has come on the road where they are 6-0. The Cardinals are playing nine road games this year and have three of those — against Chicago, Detroit and Dallas — remaining.

— The newly minted AFC East-leading New England Patriots face a tough game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, and Coach Bill Belichick doesn’t see Tennessee’s loss to the Houston Texans, one of the worst teams in the league, as a source of solace.

“They turned the ball over against the Texans, so that’s hard to count on,” Belichick said Monday. “That’s not what they do. I don’t think we’ll get that.”

— Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw four interceptions Sunday against the Texans. He’s thrown 12 interceptions this year in 11 games after throwing 7 in 16 games last season. Tannehill this season has seen his interception percentage more than double while his touchdown percentage has declined by half. Tannehill is on pace to throw the most interceptions he has since 2013 when he was with the Miami Dolphins. That was his second NFL season.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

4 Comments

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  1. I live just south of Los Angeles, and yes, the Chargers aren’t treated like a home team here. The people who really love them are about 100 miles south — in San Diego, where they really should be.

    And by the way, LA is famous for being the city that convinced the men’s National Soccer Team to play only in American stadiums where they could guarantee a home crowd. In the last game the National Team played at the Coliseum vs. Mexico, the U.S. team was pelted with garbage and had beer and other unknown liquids thrown on them by a stadium that was jammed with people waving Mexican flags.

    No American national team should EVER have to put up with that when they play on American soil. And the Chargers shouldn’t have to put up with it in their own home stadium …

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