For once, the Chargers didn't get zoned out on defense. Can it continue?
Mon, Oct 30, 2023
NFL News (AP)
Brandon Staley has faced plenty of criticism for his defensive approach during the Los Angeles Chargers' disappointing start to the season.
On Sunday night, his unit put together its best performance of the season and ended a two-game slide with a 30-13 victory over the Chicago Bears.
The question for the Chargers is whether they can put together a bunch more games like that.
"The NFL is about getting rhythm and getting that feeling. It's a great feeling to show what we can do when we play a complete game," safety Derwin James.
The biggest improvement came from the secondary. After allowing two 400-yard passing games in its first six contests, including 424 to Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes a week earlier, the Chargers were stingier against Taylor Bagent and Chicago's receiving corps.
Los Angeles (3-4) allowed only completion over 20 yards while cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Michael Davis had their best games of the season.
Samuel nearly came up with two picks, and he bounced back after allowing a 41-yard catch by Darnell Mooney on the first play. It is only the third time since Staley took over the Chargers in 2021 that they have allowed one or zero plays of 20 yards or more.
Samuel was targeted 10 times and allowed six catches for 91 yards. Davis, who came into the game as the second most targeted-cornerback in the league, allowed only 16 yards on three catches while having five passes thrown his way.
The Chargers found success while playing zone coverage 34 of the 38 times Bagent dropped back to pass. The Bolts came in as one of the worst teams playing zone, but this was their highest rate in a game in nearly two years.
Ja'Sir Taylor and Derwin James had interceptions with the Chargers in zone coverage.
"We really need our corners to come through for us in order to play at the level that we're capable of playing," Staley said. "We had the one play, the first play of the game, and then after that, we kept the football in front of us."
Staley added another wrinkle to his game plan by playing linebackers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack on the same side of the field four times. That alignment resulted in a third-down sack for Bosa on the opening series, which forced the Bears to punt.
Whether the Chargers can replicate this over the next couple weeks remains to be seen. They have another prime-time game next Monday night against Zach Wilson and the New York Jets before returning home to face Jared Goff and NFC North-leading Detroit on Nov. 12.
The Bears were ranked 27th in passing coming into the game. The Jets are ranked 31st and the Lions sixth.
"We're looking forward to stacking wins. We understood what we needed to do," Mack said.
Justin Herbert against the blitz. He is tied for first in touchdowns (10), second in passer rating (122.8) and tied for second in completion rate (71.9%) when facing five or more pass rushers. Herbert was blitzed on 14 dropbacks against the Bears and completed eight passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The offense in the second half. The Chargers have the lowest scoring efficiency after halftime in the last four games at 19% with only one touchdown and three field goals in 21 possessions. They have also gone three-and-out a league-high seven times.
WR Quentin Johnston. The first-round pick had his best game of the season with five receptions for 50 yards.
"With the first few games I had, I did OK, but honestly it wasn't what I was used to. I had to learn to be patient. Still keep that confidence, in game, out of game, in film, in practice and all that type of stuff," Johnston said after the game. "I keep going back to consistency, so that's something I'm gonna stay on and stay level-headed with."
TE Tre McKitty. The third-year pro saw only 15 snaps Sunday night despite Gerald Everett being inactive with a hip injury.
WR Jalen Guyton and DL Otito Ogbonnia are both making progress in coming back from knee injuries and could come off the physically unable to perform list this week.
13 - Sacks on third down by the Chargers, which is tied for second in the league.
The Chargers' matchup with the Jets will be their second Monday night game this season. The franchise is playing multiple Monday night games in consecutive season for the first time since 2013.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFLJOE REEDY Sports writer based in Los Angeles. twitter mailto "