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5 Takeaways: Chargers Proud of Fight in Close Loss

5 Takes- W10

The Chargers are 5-4 after a 22-16 loss to the 49ers in primetime.

Here are five takeaways from Week 10:

1. Plenty of grit

The Chargers led Sunday night for nearly 55 minutes, all while undermanned an on the road against a good team.

No, the end result wasn't what the Bolts wanted, as a 22-16 loss dropped the Chargers to 5-4.

But Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley will take that effort every week of the season.

"We didn't come here to get a pat on the back for playing hard," Staley said. "That's not what this game is about. But that's what I like about our team — we came here to win tonight.

"Now, we didn't win. But the effort and the physicality and the toughness of our team tonight, that was good enough. That's what I expect," Staley added. "We went nose-to-nose with a good football team and our group didn't back down tonight. We were the aggressor, it just didn't go down in the second half."

The Chargers led 16-10 at the half but couldn't find a way to come through late.

The 49ers cut the lead to 16-13 in the third quarter before San Francisco took the lead for good with just under eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Bolts offense, which ran just 19 plays in the second half, was shut out after halftime.

Austin Ekeler relayed Staley's message in the postgame locker room.

"He was proud of how we played, which I agree," Ekeler said. "I agree we played hard, but that's the standard, that's the standard to me.

"Really it comes down to us as playmakers. We have to play hard but we also got to make plays. You can't just do the minimum," Ekeler added. "And today, we weren't even able to do that, especially in the second half. But he was saying we played hard."

The Bolts will now turn their attention to the division-rival Chiefs, as the Week 11 matchup is also on Sunday Night Football.

"We're together. We're all a team and we're going to get in there in 10 or 12 hours, whatever it is, and we're going to be lifting," said linebacker Dru Tranquill. "We're going to get onto Kansas City and we're going to learn from this loss.

"It's not going to define this season for us. Coach says it all the time, it's a tough rugged team, and I really believe that we have a lot of good leadership on the team," Tranquill added. "I'm excited for what's ahead."

Browse through live action photos of the Bolts Week 10 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers

2. Run defense holds up

Sebastian Joseph-Day wasn't in the mood to tout the Bolts run defense after the game.

"Well, it don't matter because we [bleeping] lost," he said. "So, it don't really matter."

While Joseph-Day's words were poignant, the Chargers run defense did hang in there against a vaunted 49ers rushing attack.

San Francisco finished with 157 rushing yards, a solid number until you realize the 49ers ran the ball 41 times. That's only 3.8 yards per carry, a figure the Bolts will likely take every time.

The 49ers longest run was 15 yards, and only four of their rushing attempts went over 10 yards.

That was an improvement for a Chargers defense that had given up plenty of big rushing plays through eight games, including multiple long touchdown runs.

And the performance came as more injuries piled up along the defensive line.

Rookie Otito Ogbonnia suffered a knee injury late in the fourth quarter and did not return. And fellow defensive tackle Christian Covington hurt his pec a few minutes into the fourth quarter and also did not return.

"I thought our team played with a lot of heart. There were a lot of things that happened with the D-Line," Staley said. "We finished with three D-lineman in the game.

"I thought that we were really tough in the run game. They're really good running the ball," Staley added. "I felt like our guys did a really good job. In the second half we had to play a lot of plays."

By the end of the game, the Bolts were down to Joseph-Day, Morgan Fox and Breiden Fehoko as the only healthy interior defensive linemen.

3. Offense can't get into full-game rhythm

As mentioned above, the Bolts offense couldn't get much going in the second half.

But Ekeler lamented missed chances in the first half, too, when they couldn't find the end zone on their lone red-zone trip.

"I think that was the story of the game for us," Ekeler said. "We can't expect to win games getting field goals, we have to get touchdowns.

"I had a couple opportunities and didn't take advantage. Couple of screens, didn't take advantage," Ekeler added. "Didn't make my plays I feel like down there. I feel like one of my main jobs is scoring in the redzone. Wasn't able to get that done today."

The Chargers struggled to run the ball all night, gaining just 51 total yards on 16 attempts.

Part of that was an inability to generate healthy yardage on first down. All in all, the Chargers gained just 57 yards on 22 first-down plays against the 49ers.

"We just didn't execute," said Justin Herbert.

The quarterback was sacked twice, but that's a commendable number considering the Chargers started three rookies — Jamaree Salyer, Zion Johnson and Foster Sarell — along the offensive line.

Sarell started in place of Trey Pipkins III, who was inactive with a knee injury.

4. Bolts defense hurt by 3rd and longs

Overall, the Chargers defense put forth a solid effort Sunday night.

But a handful of plays proved to be the difference, especially on third-and-longs in the second half.

"It's frustrating anytime, especially third down as a defense," said Derwin James, Jr. "I feel like that was the turning point in some of the game.

"Not getting off on some of those third and longs in the second half because we were getting off in the first half in stopping the run," James added. "We just got to make more plays."

Early in the fourth quarter, the 49ers gained 11 yards on a third-and-5 pass.

Three plays later — after a penalty backed San Francisco up to second-and-20 — the 49ers gained 10 yards through the air on third-and-8.

And on third-and-10, the Bolts defense allowed a 24-yard completion that set the 49ers up inside the 5-yard line.

San Francisco took their first lead one play later.

"There were a couple third downs in there that were tough," Staley said. "We were tight in coverage and they made a couple good throws and catches, so you give credit to them.

"But we were on them tonight," Staley added. "We were on them tonight and I thought our guys really fought this game and played this game the way it needed to be played."

5. Special teams comes through

The third phase of the Bolts continued to shine this season.

Cameron Dicker made all three of his field goal tries in his second game with the Bolts, hitting from 47, 25 and 40 yards in the opening half.

Dicker's second field goal was set up on a deflected punt by Chargers linebacker Nick Niemann.

"I was timing the snapper, and after the first one I got a good read on it," Niemann said. "I timed it well and got in there.

"We knew about it, but you don't really know until you get out there," Niemann added.

Niemann's blocked punt set the Bolts up at the San Francisco 46-yard line after a 13-yard punt early in the second quarter.

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