Jun 7, 2021; Costa Mesa, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers special teams coordinator Derius Swinton III during organized team activities at the Hoag Performance Center.  Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers fire ST coach Derius Swinton II

Derius Swinton II was fired as special teams coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers.

Swinton was informed of the move Thursday night by head coach Brandon Staley, who was hired one year ago and pinpointed special teams as an area to address.

At his season-ending media session on Monday, Staley said measured progress was made by the Chargers’ special teams units, but more improvement is needed.

“I think that there was progress made,” Staley said. “I think there’s a lot of work to do in terms of being a consistent team and being the type of team that we expect to be. I think, like you said, a lot of it is teaching and development, getting people in the right roles, establishing the depth that you need on teams in order to be successful. I think that it’s a work in progress. I think that we definitely made improvements in trying to create a culture there, but there is a lot of work to do.”

Swinton, 36, has 12 years experience coaching special teams in the NFL.

Dustin Hopkins took over as kicker for Tristan Vizcaino and the Chargers released Michael Badgley after a rough training camp. He latched on with the Colts and could remain with Indianapolis long-term.

Hopkins made all 17 field goal attempts inside of 50 yards. Ty Long averaged 45.5 yards per punt.

Wide receiver Andre Roberts had a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos and averaged 32.8 yards on 19 attempts.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson (2) celebrates with punter A.J. Cole (6) and tight end Foster Moreau (87) after kicking a game-winning field goal in overtime against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Raiders beat Chargers on OT field goal to clinch playoff spot

Derek Carr threw a pair of touchdown passes to Hunter Renfrow and Daniel Carlson kicked the last of his five field goals as time expired in overtime as the Las Vegas Raiders clinched a spot in the NFL playoff field by holding on for a 35-32 victory Sunday night over the visiting Los Angeles Chargers.

Carr went 20-of-36 passing for 186 yards as Las Vegas (10-7) won its last four games to earn a trip to Cincinnati for a wild-card game Saturday.

Adding to the drama was that a tie game would have put both teams in the playoffs. Instead, the Raiders’ victory eliminated the Chargers and allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to make the playoff field.

Carlson kicked a 40-yard field goal on the first possession of OT to give the Raiders a 32-29 lead, with the Chargers tying the game 32-all on a 41-yard kick from Dustin Hopkins with 4:30 remaining in the extra period. Carlson won it on a 47-yarder on the final play of OT as the Raiders advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert completed 34 of 64 passes for 383 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Austin Ekeler had a rushing and receiving TD for the Chargers (9-8), while Mike Williams had nine catches for 119 yards.

The Raiders appeared to be in control when they took a 29-14 lead with 8:23 remaining after a 52-yard field goal by Carlson, which followed a 2-yard TD catch from Renfrow in the opening minute of the final quarter.

But the Chargers forced overtime after a 23-yard TD catch from Joshua Palmer on fourth down with 4:28 remaining, plus a 2-point conversion, and a TD catch from Mike Williams on the final play of regulation to cap a 19-play, 83-yard drive.

The Raiders burst out to a 10-0 lead less than 12 minutes into the game on a Carlson field goal and a 12-yard touchdown reception by Renfrow.

The Chargers’ answer came in the form of two second-quarter TDs from Ekeler, the first on a 14-yard run and the second on a 14-yard reception from Herbert to take a 14-10 lead 1:52 before halftime.

The Raiders got a Josh Jacobs 1-yard TD run with 37 seconds remaining before the break to take a 17-14 advantage.

–Field Level Media

Oct 4, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) prepares to take the snap against the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium. The Chargers defeated the Raiders 28-14. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Raiders, Chargers serve Week 18 nightcap playoff play-in style

Only one game remains Sunday when the afternoon slate of games is complete. The league can unofficially welcome the start of the playoffs, when the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders put the cap on the 2021 regular season in the nighttime finale.

A meeting of 9-7 AFC West rivals in the final game of the league’s first 17-game regular season includes this kicker: the winner earns a spot in the NFL playoffs.

“We know what’s at stake,” Chargers defensive lineman Justin Jones said.

Los Angeles arrives feeling fortunate to still be kicking on the heels of a humbling 41-29 defeat at lowly Houston in Week 16. The Chargers bounced back last week with a convincing 34-13 victory over the Denver Broncos.

Drama has met the Raiders at multiple turns this season and they, too, appeared to be left for dead following a 48-9 thrashing by the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 12. The Raiders were 6-7 with a schedule dominated by likely playoff teams. But they closed with three consecutive victories, including a 23-20 nail-biter last week at favored Indianapolis.

Aside from playoff implications, the quarterback showdown has its own intrigue. The Chargers’ Justin Herbert got the best of the more experienced Derek Carr of the Raiders in Week 4.

Herbert threw three first-half touchdowns against the Raiders but the Chargers had to scramble late to secure a 28-14 victory. Carr had two TD passes in the third quarter to make it interesting.

Yet all signs point to the Chargers running the ball Sunday. Austin Ekeler had a career-high 117 yards in the victory over the Raiders and the Los Angeles rushing attack has been improved of late with an average of 134.3 yards over the last four games.

“I feel like we’ve been able to establish some continuity here in the second half of the season,” Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said. “I think you’ve seen that in how we’ve run the football the last three, four games. That has been a strength of ours. It makes us a much more difficult offense to defend.”

Ekeler has rushed for at least 50 yards in 12 games this season. The Chargers are 9-3 in those contests.

In a tumultuous season, the Raiders have shown staying power. The last-second 33-yard field goal last week to give the Raiders a 23-20 victory over the Colts was Daniel Carlson’s fifth game-ending kick for a victory this season.

Through it all, the Raiders have overcome the resignation of head coach Jon Gruden, the tragedy of a deadly car crash involving former wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and the release of cornerback Damon Arnette following a video that included death threats. Cornerback Nate Hobbs was arrested on a misdemeanor DUI charge.

And last week, former Raiders head coaching legend John Madden passed away.

All eyes will be focused toward Carr on Sunday to see if he can get the Raiders through a win-or-go-home challenge.

After the Chargers’ victory over the Raiders earlier this season, star Los Angeles defensive end Joey Bosa said of the Raiders’ QB: “Great dude, great player … but we know once you get pressure on him, he kind of shuts down.”

Carr’s chance at a retort has arrived. He is just 72 passing yards away from breaking Rich Gannon’s single-season franchise record of 4,689 set in 2002.

“To be completely honest, I feel like that’s kind of been the feeling around our team and around my heart the last month,” Carr said about the do-or-die scenario. “… It’s exciting, it’s against a division team but nothing changes. I always say, if you have to change something in your preparation, you’re not playing the right way.”

Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (ribs) and tight end Darren Waller were limited in practice Wednesday, while defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins did not participate. Waller, defensive end Carl Nassib and guard Jordan Simmons were activated off the reserve/COVID list.

Chargers defensive lineman Joe Gaziano (ankle) and center Corey Linsley (back) did not participate, while linebacker Drue Tranquill (ankle) was limited.

–Field Level Media

Sep 27, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA;  Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) celebrates a touchdown  during the fourth quarter as Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Milton Williams (93) looks on at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

NFL reveals Week 18 schedule for Saturday, SNF games

The NFL updated the Week 18 schedule Monday with the final pairings of the regular season.

The Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) visit the Denver Broncos (7-9) on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN/ABC, followed by the Dallas Cowboys (11-5) at the Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN/ABC.

The final “Sunday Night Football” contest of the year will see the Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) visit the AFC West rival Las Vegas Raiders (9-7) at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.

The specific network assignments for all Week 18 games will be announced later on Monday.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA;  Denver Broncos tight end Andrew Beck (83) is taken down at the 3-yard line by Los Angeles Chargers free safety Derwin James (33) in the first half the game at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers beat Broncos, stay in playoff chase

Justin Herbert was 22-of-31 for 237 yards passing and two touchdowns, Austin Ekeler ran for a score, and the host Los Angeles Chargers beat the Denver Broncos 34-13 on Sunday.

Mike Williams and Keenan Allen had touchdown receptions to help Herbert set a franchise record for TD passes in a season with 35.

Drew Lock was 18-of-25 for 245 yards passing and a score, and Noah Fant had six catches for 92 yards and a touchdown for the Broncos (7-9), who were eliminated from postseason contention.

Ekeler got the Chargers — who remain in the playoff hunt at 9-7 — on the board with a 3-yard touchdown run just 3:11 into the game, making it 7-0.

Dustin Hopkins’ first field goal of the day, from 19 yards, made the score 10-0 early in the second quarter, and Los Angeles added to the lead with Herbert’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Allen with 14 seconds left in the first half.

The Broncos were able to cut into the lead later in the half. Lock hit Melvin Gordon for 24 yards on the first play to get to midfield, and then hit Kendall Hinton for another 8 yards at the Chargers’ 43-yard line.

Brandon McManus kicked a 61-yard field goal as time expired to make the score 17-3 at intermission.

On its first possession of the second half, Los Angeles drove to the Denver 5 but had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from Hopkins.

The Broncos went on a 12-play drive and went for it on fourth down from the Chargers’ 1, but Gordon’s touchdown run was nullified by a penalty. They settled for a 23-yard field goal from McManus to make it 20-6 just seconds into the fourth quarter.

Los Angeles broke it open when Roberts returned the ensuing kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown and a 27-6 lead.

Denver turned the ball over on downs on its next drive, and Herbert hit Williams with a 45-yard touchdown pass to make it 34-6 with 10:18 left.

The Broncos answered with Lock’s 5-yard scoring strike to Fant with 6:31 left, but the Chargers closed out the victory.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (97) celebrates the victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Trying to claw back to playoff position, Chargers host Denver

Two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Chargers were on the verge of taking control of the NFC West, leading the Kansas City Chiefs on a Thursday night.

Los Angeles couldn’t hold two fourth-quarter leads and 10 days later stumbled in an eminently winnable road game against the Houston Texans. Now the Chargers (8-7) face an uphill battle just to make the playoffs, with Sunday’s game in Los Angeles against the Denver Broncos now an imperative.

Both teams are dealing with COVID-19 issues, with Los Angeles missing some significant players during the week. However, with the NFL reducing the isolation of players from 10 to five days, several of those players could be active for Sunday.

The team got some good news on Wednesday, with edge rusher Joey Bosa, center Corey Linsley, wide receiver Jalen Guyton, and defensive back Trey Marshall coming off the list.

Added, however, were linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. and tackle Storm Norton. They joined on the list tackle Trey Pipkins, safety Alohi Gilman, long snapper Matt Overton, kicker Dustin Hopkins, and cornerbacks Davontae Harris and Michael Davis.

Also, wide receiver Mike Williams, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and safety Nasir Adderley had been ruled out early in the week but could become available if they meet symptom or test specifications.

“Everybody in the NFL is going through a really, really challenging circumstance,” coach Brandon Staley said. “We’re trying to figure it out the best we can.”

Los Angeles has to win out and hope for some help to reach the playoffs, and it starts against a Denver team all but eliminated from the postseason. The Broncos (7-8) have dropped two straight and finish up at home against Kansas City after facing the Chargers.

Denver also got a key player back to the roster Wednesday as center Lloyd Cushenberry III – who missed last week’s game — was activated from the COVID-19 list, and coach Vic Fangio said nose tackle Mike Purcell, who was added to the list Monday, is expected back for the game against the Chargers.

At the same time, the Broncos added three players to the list, most significantly wide receiver Tim Patrick, who has been the most reliable wideout on the team this season, and tackle Calvin Anderson and safety Caden Sterns.

The Broncos might be without safety Kareem Jackson, who didn’t practice Wednesday due to a back/shoulder injury, and linebacker Kenny Young sat out with a concussion.

Quarterback Drew Lock is likely to start his second straight game in place of Teddy Bridgewater, who left the loss to Cincinnati two weeks ago with a concussion. Lock threw for just 153 yards and no touchdowns in the 17-13 loss at Las Vegas last week and he knows he needs to do more if the Broncos are going to beat Los Angeles.

“Being your first start, there’s sometimes a little nerves. Sometimes a little rustiness, sometimes a little this, a little that,” Lock said.

“There’s just a lot that goes into starting a game as an NFL quarterback, and I didn’t think I felt any of that when I went out there. I felt like I’ve been playing all year. When you get to feel like that as a quarterback, that brings comfortableness. You get a lot of positive thoughts in the head, so to say.

“It felt good to be out there. There were zero nerves, zero anxiety, zero anything. So (I’m) looking forward to being able to go back out there feeling that way. Feeling confident, knowing the game plan extremely well, trying to get these guys the balls around me and just making plays when I’m out there.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA;  Houston Texans running back Rex Burkhead (28) runs for a touchdown against Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Trey Marshall (36) in the first quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Rex Burkhead leads Texans to upset of Chargers

Rex Burkhead ran for a career-high 149 yards and two touchdowns Sunday as the short-handed Houston Texans damaged the Los Angeles Chargers’ AFC playoff hopes with a 41-29 upset in Houston.

Rookie quarterback Davis Mills hit 21 of 27 passes for 254 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 13-yard strike on a slant to Nico Collins with 2:32 remaining for an 11-point lead.

The Texans (4-11) clinched the victory 46 seconds later when Tavierre Thomas picked off Justin Herbert’s pass and returned it 48 yards for a score.

Houston scored its season high despite missing four starters in the offensive line due to COVID-19, as well as leading receiver Brandin Cooks.

Herbert completed 27 of 35 passes for 336 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions as Los Angeles (8-7) tumbled outside the playoff field with two weeks remaining.

The Chargers allowed 437 total yards and 26 first downs to a team that entered the game 31st in scoring, 32nd in total yards and 32nd in rushing.

Los Angeles initiated scoring on Dustin Hopkins’ 50-yard field goal four minutes into the game, but Houston answered with Burkhead’s 25-yard touchdown run at the 6:25 mark of the first quarter to take its first lead.

The Chargers rallied behind a 46-yard field goal from Hopkins late in the first quarter, then gained the advantage when Jackson ripped off a 17-yard scoring run with 11:15 left in the first half.

But the Texans responded. Dominik Eberle boomed a 51-yard field goal to pull them within two points. Mills then found Chris Conley for a 41-yard touchdown strike 27 seconds before halftime to give Houston a 17-12 lead at the break.

Houston led midway through the fourth quarter, 27-15, after a Burkhead 1-yard TD run and Eberle’s 25-yard field goal.

Los Angeles pulled within 27-23 on Justin Jackson’s 9-yard scoring jaunt with 5:52 remaining in the game, followed by a 2-point conversion pass from Herbert to Jared Cook. But its defense, which played without Joey Bosa (COVID-19), couldn’t stop Houston.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) runs the ball against the New York Giants during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers put WR Mike Williams on COVID list

The Los Angeles Chargers put wide receiver Mike Williams on the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday night.

Williams will miss at least Sunday’s contest against the host Houston Texans.

The Chargers now have 13 players on the active roster who will miss Sunday’s game: Joey Bosa, Austin Ekeler, Corey Linsley, Justin Jones, Jalen Guyton, Chase Daniel, Tevaughn Campbell, Chris Rumph, Kemon Hall, Andre Roberts, Joe Gaziano, Trey Marshall and Williams.

Williams is the Chargers’ second-leading receiver and tied for first on the team with seven receiving touchdowns. He has 64 catches for 964 yards.

The Chargers (8-6) are currently inside the playoff picture, seeded No. 6 heading into Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Dec 16, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) celebrates after a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers RB Austin Ekeler (COVID-19) out vs. Texans

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler said Saturday that he again tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss Sunday’s game against the host Houston Texans.

Ekeler made his announcement on his Instagram account.

“Today was basically my last day to test negative if I was going to be able to travel but I tested positive so I won’t be playing this week,” Ekeler said. “So there it is. I’m sorry. Be back next week though.”

Ekeler was placed on the COVID-19 list earlier this week. He leads the Chargers with 789 rushing yards and 17 total touchdown (10 rushing, seven receiving) and also has 62 receptions for 558 yards.

The Chargers have 12 players on the COVID-19 list, including star pass rusher Joey Bosa and center Corey Linsley.

Houston has 24 players on the COVID-19 list, including standout receiver Brandin Cooks.

–Field Level Media

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (83) catches a pass in a joint practice with the Jacksonville Jaguars during NFL football training camp at Florida Blue Field in Jacksonville, Fla., Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. [Gary Lloyd McCullough/For the Florida Times-Union]

Nfl Jaguars Training Camp

Medical examiner: Vincent Jackson died of chronic alcohol use

The February death of former NFL wide receiver Vincent Jackson was due to chronic alcohol use, the Hillsborough County (Fla.) Medical Examiner announced Wednesday.

The medical examiner ruled the death “natural.” Jackson, who was 38, was found dead in a hotel room in Brandon, Fla.

Earlier this week, the Concussion Legacy Foundation announced that Jackson was diagnosed with Stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the progressive brain disease that has affected many football players.

Jackson played 12 NFL seasons with the then-San Diego Chargers (2005-11) and Tampa Buccaneers (2012-16). He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection who caught 540 passes for 9,080 yards and 57 touchdowns.

In the months prior to his death, Jackson reportedly dealt with depression, progressive memory loss, mood swings, paranoia and extreme social isolation — all considered symptoms of CTE.

According to the autopsy, Jackson suffered from alcoholic cardiomyopathy, hepatic steatosis and fibrosis, esophageal varices, ascites, jaundice, remote pancreatitis, renal failure and hyponatremia dehydration, cardiovascular disease and intoxication by ethyl alcohol.

During his tenure with the Chargers, Jackson was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in both 2006 and 2009. He served a three-game suspension in 2010.

Jackson was found in his room by hotel workers on Feb. 15. It was the third time straight day that Jackson was slouched on the coach in a similar manner when a worker entered the room.

Jackson had been staying at the hotel since Jan. 11. His family filed a missing-persons report Feb. 11, and deputies located him at the hotel Feb. 12 and spoke with him. The missing-persons case was canceled, and deputies deemed Jackson fit to stay at the hotel.

–Field Level Media