Below are three takeaways from Monday's press conferences with Brandon Staley and Justin Jones:
Perspective is key in a tight AFC
With time to analyze the film against the Denver Broncos, on Monday, head coach Brandon Staley talked about the importance of making sure the Bolts have the 'proper perspective' heading into Week 13 of the NFL season.
Despite the loss, the Chargers sit at 6-5 and in the third wild card spot in the AFC that was added last year in the expanded playoff format.
With the 7-4 Cincinnati Bengals up next on the Chargers' schedule, Staley explained why having a balanced view is key to being successful against future opponents.
"You have to be able to balance [your perspective on the season] and make sure that your focus is never too narrow where you get off balance," Staley said. "You need to put your perspective on the reality of the film and let that be the guide for you and not let the emotion of that loss affect the truth of the improvement moving forward in what you need to do in order to learn the lessons from Denver that can apply to Cincinnati.
"We have to let the emotion go from Denver. We have to let that go. But, we need to make sure that the lessons that we learned from that game, that we apply them to the next game. That's what I mean by treating each week like it has a life of its own, not being too high or too low, just trying to be as steady as you can."
With six more games left on the schedule, including three more AFC West matchups, Staley knows how important it is to stay together in the 'fight' that is the NFL season, especially now with it being 17 games long.
"We just want to be together," Staley said. "We want to know exactly what happened so that we can keep our head on straight, keep our composure and be better moving forward, because we're in a fight. It's been that type of season for us. It didn't matter if we started out 4-1 or not, we had to fight to be 4-1. That was a fight … What we have to do, as a team, is we have to keep figuring it out together. If your head is not on straight, you won't figure it out. We're going to try and stay connected and move on to Cincinnati the best that we can."
Staying connected as a team
Another focus Staley had after he watched the Broncos film was the Chargers' ability to make 'winning plays' when the team needs them most.
That connectedness to make plays is key, as Staley talked about being accountable together as a team in order to move on to the next opponent.
"We all love it so much," Staley said when talking about the game of football. "It means so much to us. Yeah, when you lose a tough one like yesterday, you're going to leave the stadium and you're going to get on the plane and it's going to eat at you and it's going to crush you, in a way. But, that's why competition is great. Then, as a competitor, you have to be able to separate that feeling from then the reality of today, which is that we have to move on. We have to move on and we have to move on together.
"Then, the accountability, that word, in terms of how we played yesterday, has nothing to do with blaming someone for what is going on, or being ultra-critical of someone's performance. It's just taking responsibility for what happened, taking ownership of what happened. Then, being able to move forward together, better than you left the stadium. That's what we try to do here; take full responsibility for what happened, but be a better team moving forward. That's not easy. It's not easy because it's the NFL and everybody wants to win."
With that ability to compartmentalize and move forward in mind, Staley discussed the emphasis for the Bolts to play their best as the season now enters a crucial stretch of games in the month of December.
"Hopefully, we are building this thing to be our best at the end," he said. "That is our plan. I feel like so much of that is your mindset and that trust and belief in one another. We are kind of at the beginning of that here, because this is our first year…I think that we know that we have what it takes. We have a really great challenge this week to see where we are at."
Assessing the run defense against the Broncos
The Chargers defensive line has had to tough it out this season with starters missing time due to being injured or on the Reserve/COVID list . The Bolts were able to get defensive linemen Jerry Tillery and Christian Covington back against Denver but have been without veteran leader Linval Joseph for the last two games due to injury and testing positive for COVID.
Staley, who expressed his excitement to potentially get Joseph back this week, gave his assessment on the run defense against the Broncos.
"I think that we could have executed it hair better," he said. "But our guys are playing tough in there. Like I've been saying, we're getting more confident in how we're playing in that phase. I think that if we had finished a couple of more plays yesterday that were there for us, from a tackle for a loss standpoint, I think that that could have been an even better day. But, there were also some runs on there that we need to improve on. I think that those backs are good measuring sticks because they're both quality backs. I feel like we're improving every time out there."
Fellow defensive lineman Justin Jones, who has been a staple of the Chargers defense since returning from injury after the Chargers' bye week, discussed how he thought the run defense was able to bounce back after the first quarter in Denver.
"The defense, as a whole, had to settle in," Jones said. "The defense had to figure out what our identity was going to be for that game. We just had to get our groove and get into our rhythm. The next three quarters after that, the rushing yards really weren't affecting us."
Check out the best shots from the Chargers Week 12 divisional matchup with the Broncos.
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