How teams like the Los Angeles Chargers and Atlanta Falcons continuously blow leads

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn watches from the sideline during his team's loss to the Raiders
Photo of Andrew Ortenberg

Andrew Ortenberg

NFL· 11 months ago

Show Bio

I'm an editor here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up.

There’s nothing more frustrating than being a fan of an NFL team that blows a massive lead. Unfortunately, it seems like it’s the same small group of teams that have those issues on a yearly basis. Most notably, the Chargers and Falcons always seem to be 50/50 propositions when they’re up 20+ points.

The Falcons have already had a couple of the most improbable losses in NFL history just this season, while the Chargers have somehow blown four leads of 16 points or greater. It’s uncanny to see it happen over and over again, and it would be nearly impossible for such a thing to happen by chance. That means there must be something these teams are continuously doing to find themselves in these situations, and I’ve thought of a couple reasons.

Getting conservative

This one applies to the Chargers more than anyone else. Head coach Anthony Lynn is an old-school coach, and whenever his team gets up big they immediately go into turtle mode. That was apparent a couple of weeks ago on Monday Night Football, when Los Angeles got out to a huge lead over the Saints thanks to Justin Herbert’s arm. Instead of letting Herbert continue to sling it, Lynn and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen immediately went conservative, running the ball into a stout Saints defensive front on first and second down multiple times in a row, causing three and outs on consecutive possessions.

If you play not to lose, you usually end up losing. I often find myself muttering some variation of that to myself when watching teams in the NFL collapse, and it’s truly mind-boggling how often you see the same things repeated. You can’t simply run out the clock when you’re still midway through the third quarter, but NFL head coaches don’t seem to grasp that.

This conservative streak doesn’t extend only to the offenses. Both the Falcons and Chargers, and many other teams, have seen their leads evaporate due to playing soft defenses that attempt to limit big plays. In reality, they just end up letting opposing offenses slice up a soft zone and march right down the field.

Take this past week for example, when the Falcons nearly melted down and blew a game that was 34-13 late in the fourth quarter to the Broncos. Their defense stifled Drew Lock for the entire game, but then they went soft late to ‘protect’ their big lead and ended up giving up 21 points in the fourth.

Losing mentality

Beyond a conservative approach, some teams just seem to get in a habit of losing. It takes a mental toll, and causes teams to believe they’re going to lose when games get close. It essentially becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as everyone watching, including the players themselves, start to feel like “here we go again.”

It shows up in mental errors that often lead to the most heartbreaking losses. Whether it was the Chargers committing pass interference in the endzone with no time on the clock against the Broncos, or the Falcons failing to pick up an onside kick against the Cowboys. Players on these types of team always seem to get tight late in the game, and make crucial miscues as a result of the defeatist mindset.

The bottom line

Getting conservative simply doesn’t work in the NFL, not in 2020. Teams that start off aggressive and then try to simply hold on for dear life will watch their leads slip away time and time again. Often times what a team that routinely finds itself choking games away needs is a fresh start. Let all the bad energy go right out the door with the old head coach, whether fair or not, and try to start anew. It’s not a coincidence that the Falcons have looked much sharper since letting Dan Quinn go, and the Chargers should probably think about doing the same with Anthony Lynn sooner rather than later.

Pickswise is the home of free NFL picks. Check out the latest NFL props and NFL parlays as well as expert underdog predictions and computer picks.

See All
DraftKings

$200

Bet $1 on the NFL, NBA or NHL & Get $100!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account

Place a $1+ bet on any NFL, MLB, or NHL game

If either team registers a point (NFL), hit (MLB), or goal (NHL) you will receive a BONUS $100!

Must be 21+ located in AZ, CO, CT, IA, IL, IN, MI, NJ, PA, TN, VA, WY or WV to play. Offer valid only for new customers. Full terms available at DraftKings Sportsbook.

BetMGM

$200

Bet $10, Get $200 If Your Team Scores A Touchdown!

Register for a new BetMGM account & deposit $20+

Bet $10 on your team to win Money Line

Win $200 in free bets if your team scores a touchdown

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

PointsBet

$200

Bet $20, Get $200 If Your Team Scores A Touchdown!

Register for a new PointsBet account & deposit $20+

Bet $20 on your team to win Money Line (NFL or NCAAF)

Win $200 in free bets if your team scores a touchdown

Caesars Sportsbook

$5,000

Get a $5,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new Caesars Sportsbook account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $5,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose - up to $5,000!

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

BetRivers

$250

Get a $250 Deposit Bonus!

Sign up for a new BetRivers account using promo code PICKSWISE

Make a deposit & get it doubled up to $250 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $100

Must be 21+. Play in IA Only. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-BETS OFF

BetMGM

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new BetMGM & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

FanDuel Sportsbook

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new FanDuel Sportsbook account & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

DraftKings

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Deposit Bonus!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account & deposit

DraftKings will match 20% of your deposit up to $1,000 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $500

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

Unibet

$500

Get a $500 Risk-Free Bet!

Register for a new Unibet account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $500 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $500

New players only. Terms & conditions apply. 21+. VA only.

Monkey Knife Fight

$100

Claim 100% Instant Deposit Match up to $100!

Register for a Monkey Knife Fight account & deposit using promo code PICKSWISE100

Monkey Knife Fight will match your first deposit up to $100

Deposit $100 and you'll get $100 bonus + a free $5 game

18+. Terms and conditions apply. You must live in one of the states where real money DFS is legal.

TVG

$300

Get a $300 Risk-Free Bet with TVG Racebook!

Register for a new TVG account and make a deposit

Place your first single horse win-type bet up to $300

If your horse doesn't win you'll get a refund up to $300

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

BetAmerica Racing

$200

$200 Sign Up Bonus!

Fast, reliable and fast payouts - you'll have your money in 72 hours, if not sooner!

Proud history of providing safe, secure, and fun betting to American patrons

BetAmerica is owned by the iconic Churchill Downs Incorporated, home of 150 years of wagering history and the world-famous Kentucky Derby

Players who sign up using ‘BET200’ code will get a $200 sign up bonus. Offer valid for 7 days after registering on BetAmerica Racing product only. 21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

TwinSpires

$200

Get a $200 Sign Up Bonus with TwinSpires Racebook!

Register for a new Twinspires account using offer code BET200

Make a deposit and start wagering on horse racing

Earn $100 in bonus cash for every $400 wagered!

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.