The Los Angeles Chargers are coming off back-to-back wins, with a 30-13 victory over the Chicago Bears in Week 8 and a 27-6 triumph over the New York Jets in Week 9. The team as a whole improved, but head coach Brandon Staley says specific areas of the team are to thank for the recent success.
He credited the defense for its contribution and noted the unit's improvement. The defense gave up just 19 points in two games after a rough start to the season.
"We've done the things that winning defenses do, starting with the run game, and how you rush the quarterback, how you defend in the passing game, keeping the ball in front of you," Staley said (via the team's official transcript). "Then, we've turned the football over. We've been able to get the takeaways consistently, really, throughout the season, but the last two weeks. Then, situationally, I think that we've been sharp. I think we've been on it. We're just at the beginning. This group continues to improve. Just one week at a time for this group, but we've made improvement."
The Chargers made the playoffs in 2022 and lost in the first round to the Jacksonville Jaguars. This season, it was looking like the playoffs would be a stretch and while they are still out of reach, the improvement over the last two weeks gives the team hope for the rest of the year.
"I think that it's getting closer. Probably, for us, we've been healthy and we have the right combination of people out there," Staley said. "That helps you, I think, play to your level. What I've seen, the last two weeks specifically, is just us playing with the right energy from the first whistle to the last one. I just think that in all three levels of the defense, we've played consistent football."
"I think any defensive coach will tell you, if you have good pass rushers, the more opportunities you can get for them to rush, the more that they're going to capitalize on those opportunities," Staley said. "Then, I think in the secondary, in the back seven, we've just been really sound. Our guys have played together. That's a formula that we have to keep moving forward, just making sure that we're connected in the back seven."
The defense is tied for sixth best in rushing defense in rushing yards allowed (718). The defense is tied for allowing the fourth least in yards per carry (3.7).
The offense is was far from the highlight of the night, as quarterback Justin Herbert had a career-low 136 passing yards. Despite the offensive struggles, the team was able to win by double-digits thanks to a solid defense and takeaways that set Herbert's group up with a short field. The defense forced three fumbles.
Special teams also played its part, with an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown.
The Chargers have the Detroit Lions next, followed by the Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots. Two of those games are very winnable and if the Chargers can pull off a win against the Lions and/or Ravens, they will be in a significantly better position down the stretch than once imagined.