Below are three takeaways from Friday's press conference with head coach Brandon Staley.
Competing at a 'championship level'
With time to digest and review the Bolts' overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football, head coach Brandon Staley talked about his biggest takeaway from the primetime battle.
"I felt like our team competed at a championship level last night," Staley said. "I felt like that was a championship environment. I saw a team lay it on the line. I felt that our team emptied the tank. I felt like they left everything out on that field against a team that is a champion. They've been to two-straight Super Bowls. Everyone knows the record that they have achieved and earned over the last three or four seasons."
Despite the loss, Staley explained how crucial the next 10 days of rest and preparation are for their final push of the regular season.
As for the team's performance as a whole, Staley talked about what it meant to see his players 'lay it on the line' against a championship-caliber team.
"As a coach, that's what you're looking for," he said. "You're looking for, 'Hey, did your team go for it? Did your team play fearless? Were you guys connected.' I felt like all those things are true. Then, now what we have to do is we have to focus on the details, the specifics of why we lost, because those two things can happen at the same time. That's what we're going to get to work on, on Monday. But, I'm so proud of our guys. It was a great ball game last night, a great game for the NFL."
Staley was also able to give updates on the status of tight end Donald Parham Jr. who was taken to UCLA Harbor Medical Center after a head injury in the first quarter. A statement put out by the Chargers said that he will likely be released from the hospital later in the day on Friday and Staley explained that Parham Jr. is with members of his family.
Continuing to go for it on fourth down
A mentality that Staley has put into action since Week 1 of the 2021 season has been the Bolts' ability to go for it and convert on fourth downs. The Bolts converted two of five fourth down attempts on Thursday, two of which were on 4th-and-goal.
On Friday, Staley reiterated the mindset that he has when it comes to being aggressive and how that has become a part of the Bolts' identity this season.
"I think, hopefully, our fans, the die-hard Powder Blues — as they're getting to know me more and more, hopefully, and they're getting to know our team more and more, hopefully, getting to see our quarterback more and more, hopefully, I think they'll fall in love with who we are. I know they will. I know the city of Los Angeles will. I know that we're going to continue to improve."
Staley explained his thought process, specifically, on the decision to go for it on 4th-and-goal right before halftime. Staley's mindset was a touchdown would give the Bolts a chance to go up 21-10 at halftime and give them a chance to 'separate' from Kansas City.
For Staley, he doesn't see the fourth down attempts as 'gambles' but rather a moment to seize the game.
"I'm never going gamble, as a coach," he said. "These players mean too much to me. Our team means too much to me. I'm not gambling at all. I'm definitely not going to be reckless, ever. I felt like those were advantaged situations for us. I didn't think any one of those opportunities decreased our chances of winning. I felt like doing that made our chances of winning increase in a big way."
Season high in rushing yards as a team & OL performance
The Chargers' rushing attack has been on full display in the last two games. Against the Giants in Week 14, the Bolts rushed for 152 yards as a team. Thursday night, they rushed for a season-high 192 yards against the Chiefs.
Staley talked about what he attributes the recent spike in rushing yards the last two weeks to.
"I just really feel like what we've done is we've really settled into who we are as a football team," Staley said. "I really like the design in terms of featuring our line and tight ends, and featuring our runners — and tying that into our play-pass game and our keeper game. I think that what you've seen is that we've been able to get into rhythm."
Running back Justin Jackson, who took the most snaps amongst the running backs with Austin Ekeler nursing an ankle injury, rushed for 86 yards on the night. Jackson was just four yards shy of setting a new career high in rushing yards.
Staley discussed what he saw from the Bolts' running backs and offensive line.
"I'm excited about those guys. J.J. [RB Justin Jackson], really, last night, had a big game," he said. "I thought [RB] Austin [Ekeler] had a gutsy, gutsy performance as well. I'm just really proud of our O-line. With [T] Trey [Pipkins III] being in the lineup last night for the first time. [C] Corey [Linsley] running the show and [G] Matt [Feiler] running the show, helping him. It was a big strength of ours last night."
The Bolts offensive line created protection for Herbert as well, allowing zero sacks for the second time this season. Trey Pipkins III started in place of rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater due to him being on the Res./COVID-19 list.
After the game, Staley reflected on Pipkins' performance.
"I feel like Trey Pipkins is one of these guys that held his own in an NFL game," Staley said on Thursday. "I'm really proud of him because his teammates lifted him up. I thought we had a really good gameplan to get him into a comfort zone. I felt like the run game did that for him."
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